OBERON Tigers secretary Neil O'Grady has said financial restraints will likely keep the historic rugby league club out of playing in Group 10 for the foreseeable future.
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The 11-time first grade premiership-winning club withdrew from Group 10 at the end of the 2019 season, with the club citing the lack of numbers as the main reason to do so.
The Tigers' first grade and league tag squads spent 2020 and 2021 in the Mid West Cup, before transferring to the Woodbridge Cup in 2022, with the first grade squad making the grand final in its first season in the competition, suffering a 34-16 loss to Manildra Rhinos.
While O'Grady said he would love to see Oberon back in the big time, he admitted the money required to field a competitive first grade team is too much.
"We're happy playing in Woodbridge but every team would of course love to be a Group 10 team," he said.
"The reality is, it's big money now. It's beyond the population of a town like Oberon's standing. It's beyond the potential budget and sponsorship.
"To attract a competitive team to compete in Group 10, I wouldn't want to imagine the matchday salary bill."
In 2017, Oberon were runners-up in the Group 10 first grade grand final 23-22 to Orange CYMS, the club's first top grade decider since 1975.
It was an heart-breaking defeat for the Tigers, who led the decider 22-8 with just 20 minutes left on the clock, with CYMS rallying from behind to take the lead with three minutes left thanks to a field goal from Mick Sullivan.
That Oberon team that made the grand final feature some quality players including the likes of Blake Fitzpatrick, Abel Lefaoseu, Jackson Brien, Luke Braninghan, Tui Oloapu and Trent Rose, just to name a few.
While O'Grady said first grade Oberon players were paid when playing Group 10, the reserves and under 18s weren't.
"It required a fair bit of money to field a competitive side and remain so," he said.
"Being a town like Oberon, other clubs would also notice our talent and they would quickly get poached to other towns with better paying jobs.
"It's one thing getting them and affording them, but the other thing is keeping them. Oberon just couldn't compete against the bigger clubs, with bugger pursues and wallets."
O'Grady isn't complaining about the situation, he's just open about the reality a small town like Oberon would have to face if it was return to Group 10.
"I'm not complaining. It is what it is," he said.
"While our population could grow, but probably not at the rate of Bathurst or Orange, you've still got the challenge of keeping the kids in the education system in a small town.
"If families come out here from say Sydney, parents want their kids to go to bloody good schools, so they'll send them into Bathurst. Once they're in that school system, they have to play sport for the school and that means weekends."
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