Questions and answers: Magpies' future forum leaves food for thought

The balance between local and outsourced players was one of the key issues addressed at last Wednesday's meeting. Photo: Ciara Bastow
The balance between local and outsourced players was one of the key issues addressed at last Wednesday's meeting. Photo: Ciara Bastow

Cowra Magpies president Marc McLeish used last Wednesday's "Swooping to the Future" forum to issue a clear ultimatum to local supporters, stating that he requires defined committee roles to be filled so he can continue as president next year.

McLeish, who admitted that in the early part of the year he struggled to balance the demands of his role with other community and personal commitments, said that with a potential career change on the horizon, the change was crucial so he could continue to best serve the club in areas such as its publicity and community presence.

"There's so much that we want to do that we can't get to because we're a skeleton committee," McLeish said, noting at another point in the meeting that in an ideal world the current team of six members would actually be a team of 15 or 20.

"This year at the AGM, there will be defined roles, and if there's not a name beside each one of them, I'm out.

"That's where it sits for me at the moment... I will continue in the role if I can have this list of tasks [sorted]... but I mean, my skills that I bring to the club is... the social media and the promotion and those sorts of things."

We really need a strong commitment from the community for the next five year period, not just a season-by-season.

Cowra Magpies President Marc McLeish

The forum, which was attended by about 30 people, including CRL's Western Regional Manager Peter Clarke, and lasted for just over an hour, addressed several areas of concern, with the people power required to administrate the club a recurrent theme of conversation throughout the evening.

As Clarke told the crowd, which McLeish noted was made up of the "same-old faces" that turn up at Magpies' meetings, the workload the Cowra president currently carries goes beyond the confines of your standard presidential duties.

"He's doing the registrar job; most clubs have someone doing that and a secretary as well," Clarke said, alluding to the fact that the Magpies' committee have operated without a secretary this year.

"Those sort of things can all wind up into, well, one role at the moment, which is probably four roles-in-one, and it wears you down pretty quickly."

McLeish added that one of the reasons the club was in a precarious position at the end of 2017 was tied to a lack of volunteers.

"We don't want to come down to like it was two years ago, with the third AGM and [the] club's in turmoil and things like that," he said.

"We really need a strong commitment from the community for the next five year period, not just a season-by-season."

Ronnie Lawrence was one of the players in attendance at the Wednesday night meeting. Photo: Matthew Chown

Ronnie Lawrence was one of the players in attendance at the Wednesday night meeting. Photo: Matthew Chown

The importance of being local

McLeish was at pains to clarify that the forum wasn't an "emergency meeting", and it certainly didn't play like one.

However, the discussion around contracting and the payment of outsourced players made clear that several in the local league community are uncomfortable with the ongoing costs of sustaining a competitive Cowra side in Group 10.

The president, who previously held the role in 2012 and 2013, estimated that the payment of the senior men's players and coach was "well-over the $50-60,000 mark at times."

"The outsourcing of players is an absolute necessity to stay competitive. I don't think anybody's going to argue with that, we don't have the player base to stay competitive as a first grade side in Group 10.

If we have to cop a flogging, we have to cop a flogging, but there's no use buying a Ferrari if you can't afford the thing

Cowra Junior Rugby League President Justin Gunn

"How long can we sustain that for? ... Because the costs of that are rising and rising and rising."

While several options were floated as alternatives, the widely-reported but mostly theoretical suggestion of moving to the Woodbridge Cup was widely frowned upon by those in attendance.

"You wouldn't want to bring your kids through juniors and send them to the Woodbridge Cup," Junior Magpies president Justin Gunn said, who was also scathing about the make-up of the playing lists of nearby Woodbridge teams Canowindra and Grenfell.

McLeish also admitted that when a well-credentialed team like this year's Magpies outfit under-performs, that also creates financial pressures supplementary to the players' contracts.

"Not having a home semi-final hurt," McLeish said.

"We probably built a team that should've absolutely been playing at least one home semi-final. However injuries, and the things that got in our way this year, makes it frustrating."

When McLeish compared the paid players to employees though, fault-lines in the discussion began to open up, with even McLeish admitting a personal dilemma.

"I've got moral issues with what we're paying... We've got cockies out there, [who] can't feed their stock, and we're spending that much money on a footy club," he said.

Gunn also made some pointed observations about where Cowra sits as member of the bush footy community.

"We need to wake up and realise we're not going to buy the players who live on Manly beaches, we need to just have a little reality check that we might win one [premiership] every 30 years... So what's the point of spending money?" he said.

"If we have to cop a flogging, we have to cop a flogging, but there's no use buying a Ferrari if you can't afford the thing."

By the end of the meeting, there was a general consensus towards investigating ways of managing and reducing the expenditure on outsourcing players ahead of next month's AGM.

But McLeish's final comments, about an obvious difficulty of implementing any potential future plan, were telling.

"If that means starting from scratch and building a team over a four year period to really get in the game on the fifth year, then that's what we'll do," he said.

"But we've just got to get those players to buy into that plan and that's not easy to do.

"Players want to win, there's no doubt about that. I'm not sure I want a bloke in my team that doesn't want to win."

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