RugbyWA Competition update

Thu, Feb 16, 2023, 3:20 AM
Rugby WA Media
by Rugby WA Media

RugbyWA is set to go through one of the biggest competition shake-up's as the game celebrates 130 years in the State.

It will see one FMG Premier Grade club drop to the second-tier competition at the completion of the 2023 regular season, with promotion and relegation expected to be introduced at the end of the following year.

When the competition was split into a two-tier competition in the 90's, promotion and relegation was decided on a "weighted" play-off  between the bottom Premier Grade and top District Competition clubs.

When that was abandoned clubs had to apply for admission to the senior competition.

The RugbyWA Board and management decided the recent competition had become cumbersome and did not open the door to clubs with top-level aspirations.

At the end of the 2022 season Rockingham and ARKS went from the FMG Premier Grade leaving 11 clubs, each with three teams.

At the end of this season, the bottom-placed FMG Premier Grade club on the Club Championship ladder based on points from their three senior sides, will be relegated.

The total will not include fourth grade or colts points.

The relegated club will join the 2024 second-tier competition with two grades, Championship and Community that will also include Premier club fourth grades.

RugbyWA Operations Manager Jason Marrable said the decision was taken by the RugbyWA Board after "a holistic consultation process".

"We reached a decision, that to increase senior competition, we need to make a second-tier competition that is sustainable and viable," Marrable said.

"At the end of this year the 11th placed team across all three premier grades that finishes bottom of the Club Championship ladder will be moved to the second-tier.

"This will be a transitional year and is going to be super competitive.

"We are going to have a belter of a season with every game across the grades having a significance.

"Every club is taking this year really seriously.

"Nobody is letting their foot off the gas because they know what's at stake.

"It will be a shame to see someone go down but the idea is also to increase numbers in the second-tier competition.

"Eleven teams is still rather a large competition.

"If we have a two-tier competition, and that second tier is competitive, sustainable and viable for clubs, that then promotes growth  in those smaller clubs to have an aspiration to become a Premier Grade club.

"Our goal is to make a super-charged first-tier competition and super charged second-tier team competition.

"We are keen not to be continually changing the competition structure.

"We want to be set on this structure and hopefully it will stand the test of time.

"Long term is a model for promotion and relegation and three teams in tier two."

Marrable said future promotion would be based on a number of requirements including sustainability, facilities, juniors, colts and  women's sides but the final criteria had yet to be decided.

RugbyWA Chairman John Edwards said the changes would further push WA as the only state to deliver growth in the game.

"The recently communicated Competition Structure for 2023 is the result of significant research and analysis by the team at RugbyWA with comprehensive input from Clubs," Edwards said.

"Western Australia was the only State nationwide that delivered participation growth in all forms of the game of Rugby Union in 2022.

"We are planning for this trend to continue and at higher growth rates than we have seen.

"To accommodate development plans of current clubs and for aspiring new clubs to find an avenue to enter our competitions we have focused significant efforts on ensuring we have a vibrant and competitive Championship competition in 2023 and beyond.

"This competition will be our future expansion framework as we grow our game in WA.

FMG Premier grade has been honed into 11 teams from 13 in 2022 and we believe competition will be fierce through all clubs and in all grades to qualify for finals.

"We expect some excellent match ups through the season.

"Rugby Union in all its formats is alive and well in WA and we look forward to significant community support across all competitions.

"Check the draw and get on down to your local club for their season opener."

The season kicks off on March 18 to avoid any clash with the World Cup in France, with 22 rounds, 20 games and two byes per club before the finals series.