Junior league war erupts

GRACEMERE'S Ben Faulkner loves playing footy for his club and school, but next year he must decide on either one or the other.

Like hundreds of rugby league players in Rockhampton, Faulkner will be forced to make the toughest decision of his promising career after the Rockhampton Junior Rugby League's (RJRL) controversial decision to go head-to-head with the Rockhampton District Secondary Schools Junior Rugby League (RDSSRL) competition in 2006.

For the past two seasons the international club (under-13 to under-17) and schoolboys competitions have been a huge success, with players turning out for their club from February to May before representing their school from May to August.

Next season, both competitions will be run on Friday nights and Saturdays in direct opposition.

Faulkner, who started playing for Gracemere when he was six, enters year 11 at The Cathedral College next year and is keen to represent his school at the annual Confraternity Shield.

However, if the talented second-rower chooses to play schoolboys ahead of his club side he will be ineligible for selection in Rockhampton, Central Queensland Capras and even Queensland sides at club representative level.

"I'd rather play both,'' Faulkner said. "It's just stupid.''

RDSSRL president Steve Parle this week sent a letter to parents of secondary school rugby league players.

"The secondary school committee has always recognised that the junior club competition has every right to exist,'' he said.

"The young men of Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Mount Morgan are given the opportunity to play club football and then represent their school or college ? the best of both worlds.''

RJRL president Paul Jensen said the RJRL board had tried to reach an agreement with the schoolboys to alternate the months of competition before making the decision to run a competition alongside the schoolboys.

"It's bitterly disappointing it's got to get to this, we've tried to compromise. We were prepared to have the second part of the year.''

One passionate rugby league enthusiast frustrated with the split is Gracemere junior club coach Ben Lorraway.

Lorraway has coached the same group of players since under-13s and they enter their final season in the international grades next year. He is shattered some players will not be available due to schoolboy commitments.

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