Following in the steps of the junior teams merging, two senior rugby teams will now look to follow suit.
Moss Vale and Bowral rugby league clubs will be holding Special General Meetings at each respective club house on Monday, September 30 with the intent on following the recently announced Junior merger and kicking off the 2020 season in Group 6 as "Highlands Storm".
The juniors have led the way in this process, with an aim to provide a premium product for Junior Rugby League in the Highlands that will be capable of competing with the large Northern Clubs in Group 6.
The senior committees of Moss Vale and Bowral believe that the goal for the seniors should be the same, and all five senior clubs were invited to the discussions.
Moss Vale President Paul Maloney said, "We intended and hoped that all five Highlands senior clubs would take part to protect the future of our young players and the game of Rugby League in the Highlands.
"But Mittagong, Bundanoon and Robertson have all declined at this stage," he said.
"None of the clubs were totally against the concept, but at the moment Mittagong believe they have a model that is working.
"Robertson are happy playing down in Group 7 and Bundanoon have plans to enter a team into second division next season.
"We have advised them that the door is wide open if they change their minds"
Highlands Storm Juniors Spokesperson Chris Shea said Moss Vale and Bowral Seniors can get this started together.
"Both clubs have a good core of men's players from this year," Shea said.
"The Moss Vale Ladies team is very important to the game in the Highlands and to the Juniors coming through. The Highlands Juniors will have 180-200 kids this season and a Highlands Senior Club gives them a great avenue to follow"
One of the big problems facing Rugby League in the Highlands is the speed at which the Northern Clubs are growing.
Camden and Narellan have over 400 kids in each club and Camden had 13 sides in all different age divisions on Grand Final day.
The junior clubs of the Highlands had six teams in on Grand Final Day, and none in an A's competition.
Bowral Senior President Michael Galvin pointed to this as a long-term problem for the Seniors.
"The last Highlands Team to win a 1 st Grade Premiership was Moss Vale in 2010," Galvin said.
"Mittagong made it to the Grand Final in 2013/2014 and were defeated by Picton on both occasions. The Highlands produces very good footballers, but usually they are split across 4-5 clubs. The result is none of the clubs are consistently competitive."
"Bringing clubs together is never easy and it is even harder when the clubs involved all date back to over 100 years ago, Maloney said.
"The old town divides still exist so forming a club with a neutral or regional name, and no real remnants of the old kits, gives them a place to come with no old biases.
"From a senior perspective, Moss Vale could not field teams to compete with northern Group 6 clubs without spending over $150,000 on the first and reserve grade squads. Many sources have told us that the Northern Clubs spent a lot more than this to achieve success.
"When injuries hit mid-season a lack of depth in numbers forced us to withdraw from the first-grade competition. We had three or four incredibly brave under 18 players playing up every weekend, and that wasn't fair on them or their development."
Michael Galvin believes that a true Highlands club will have the depth in player numbers and sponsorship dollars to one day compete in First Grade, but will also provide a fun, social atmosphere that players in second division look for.
"The Bowral Blues have built the last two seasons around a really great bunch of guys that enjoy the social side of footy," Galvin said.
"The Moss Vale Dragons also have a young, talented Ladies team that made the finals this year. These are the guys that are the heart and soul of any club because they are there to have fun and hang out with their mates.
"Our intention will be to build the Highlands Storm around this culture, and if its 5 years or more before we put a first-grade team on the paddock it doesn't matter.
"Hopefully one day Mittagong, Robertson and Bundanoon will join as well and they will be treated as equal partners from day one.
"They will not be treated differently for deciding not to come on board now because they will be joining a club that has only one goal, and that is to safeguard and promote the future of rugby league in the Highlands"
Maloney backed this and believes the teams will grow as one towards the future.
"Moss Vale and Bowral will be much stronger together," Maloney said.
"We as a Highlands Club would be much stronger with the other three clubs joining.
"Stronger in player numbers, stronger financially and stronger in the numbers of helpers. It could only be a good thing and very importantly stronger in the numbers of helpers.
"A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in every club, and usually the bulk of this is done by only a few dedicated helpers. Combining resources allows this workload to be spread across more people. It could only be a good thing."
Hoping for a positive outcome at the Special General Meetings, the Highlands Storm Senior Club will look to be fielding an Under 18s, Second Division and an Open Age Women's' tackle squad in 2020.
For more information please contact the Bowral or Moss Vale Clubs directly.
- Bowral - email@example.com
- Moss Vale - firstname.lastname@example.org