"We won't be playing in it."
Wellington Cowboys president Darren Ah See has made his club's view on a proposed western-wide competition for 2022 crystal clear.
Speaking ahead of Sunday's Group 11 annual general meeting, Ah See said there's a huge amount of unanswered questions about the competition and he wants to see the Cowboys completely removed from the proposed Peter McDonald Premiership schedule released earlier this month.
"We want our club taken out of the draw because we've advocated very clearly our priority is Group 11 and the way it is now," he said.
"We made it very clear at the general meeting a couple of weeks ago Wellington is not interested in the Premier League so we won't be playing in it."
Ah See plans to make his thoughts known at Sunday's AGM while he isn't the only one not sold on the new competition.
Nyngan president Glenn Neill has previously said he doesn't have one committee member or sponsor keen on the idea.
Both clubs, along with Narromine, voiced their opposition to the planned competition at the most recent Group 11 meeting late last month.
The proposed schedule for 2022 was released by NSWRL less than a week later, to the surprise of a number of clubs.
While wanting to see his club removed from the draw, Ah See admitted he was unsure what the Cowboys' future would be if the Peter McDonald Premiership was a definite for next year.
"I can't see how NSW Rugby League can force clubs to do things they don't want. Whatever it means, we won't be playing in the Premier League (Peter McDonald Premiership)," he said.
"Whatever decision NSWRL makes, we'll just have to revisit it from a club perspective then but we won't be forced into a Premier League no matter the situation.
"2022 is probably too soon given all the grey area but NSWRL is keen to start next year. We won't be playing in the Premier League in 2022."
He also raised issue with NSWRL releasing its proposed schedule when his club, and others, hadn't yet committed to the competition.
"The way it is now, they're coming out saying it's the draw and everyone seems to be supportive of it, which they're not," Ah See said.
"I think that's a bit rude and putting the cart before the horse. To me, it's been a bit of a negative process in trying to blindside people."
If they say the change will benefit rugby league, I totally disagree.Darren Ah See
When contacted for comment on the matter, a NSWRL spokesperson said there has been "a lengthy consultation process with all clubs from Group 10 and Group 11, as well as the Executive Committees of Group 10 and Group 11" since the formation of the Western Premiership steering committee in November 2020.
"From that process, there has been overwhelming support for the Peter McDonald Premiership in the face of recent challenges faced by the Groups," the spokesperson said.
"We are grateful to all of the clubs and the Groups for focussing on the long term sustainability of competitions in supporting the concept, rather than any other considerations which might not contribute to that goal."
Among the key issues raised by Ah See and a number of other people in Group 11 are travel involved in a competition with Group 10 sides, the financial impact of playing more matches per season as businesses and sponsors continue to recover from the COVID pandemic, the lack of standalone Group 11 and Group 10 grand final days, and the impact the competition could have on smaller clubs and towns.
With clubs from larger centres Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst featuring in the competition there is the fear from some more money will be injected into the game and the smaller clubs won't be able to afford the calibre of player needed.
"If you make change, it benefits everyone," Ah See said.
"In this instance it's not benefiting everyone. Change needs to be a win-win situation. There's no point saying it would benefit 90 per cent of communities and clubs.
"Wellington will always support the smaller clubs and the history of Group 11. I've played in Group 11 and won comps, I know the history and what it feels like and to have that history for Wellington and the club. All that history is taken away.
"I'm a person who would support change, but change needs to be positive and beneficial for everyone involved. It would not have any negative and detrimental impacts, and I think this will have a negative impact on smaller towns and negative impacts on juniors coming up.
"If they say the change will benefit rugby league, I totally disagree."
Ah See said there were benefits to a regional competition that showcased the best of rugby league in the west, but his preference would be to see one run outside of the regular Group 11 and Group 10 competitions.
A pre or post-season competition has been proposed in the past but timing and the length of the season has often been the biggest hurdle.
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