Queensland Origin legend Wally Lewis has backed a QRL decision to revive the Brisbane Rugby League
THE greatest player to come out of the defunct Brisbane Ruby League (BRL), Origin legend Wally Lewis, has thrown his support behind a decision to revive the iconic competition in 2015.
With just six clubs participating in this year’s FOGS Cup — the Intrust Super Cup’s (ISC) reserve grade competition — the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) will pull the pin next season and go back to the future with a BRL-style format.
ISC clubs have been discouraged from entering a side, with the QRL instead encouraging them to form feeder relationships with two teams in the new league.
Clubs have been given until Friday to put forward expressions of interest for a spot in the reborn competition, which was at its peak in the 1980s and unearthed the likes of Lewis and Gene Miles.
The BRL was fully superseded by the Queensland Cup in 1998 but Lewis, who played for Valleys and Wynnum-Manly before signing with the Broncos, said its revival would rekindle a flame for Brisbane footy fans.
“I think everybody agreed it was a shame when (the BRL) disappeared. To have that come back, albeit not quite at the level it once was, will provide a wonderful opportunity for the players to become involved in a great competition,” Lewis said.
“The BRL was where so many good players were born. We grew up watching and taking part in it, doing our apprenticeship.
“It was probably the dream of all young footballers at the time to take part in it. I’m still a Valleys old boy and we still get together all the time.”
The competition restructure has opened the door for historic BRL clubs like Valleys, Brothers and Wests to return to elite football.
Brothers and Valleys have not been seen at stave level since their failed merger in 2004, while Wests’ last year in the Queensland Cup was in 2003.
Wests president Davis Groessler confirmed the club’s interest, but said its involvement would likely be limited to a junior affiliation in 2015.
He said the Panthers would “see how (the competition) pans out next year” but had plans to eventually field its own team.
Brothers and Valleys will both put forward expressions of interest, with Diehards president Danny Walker saying it would be “very exciting” to again see the club’s name up in lights.
“We have expressed an interest and we will now wait to find out more information about the concept and how the competition will work. It would be nice for Valleys to get back into that level of competition,” Walker said.
“Traditional supporters of Valleys would like to see that happen but there is a financial impact. We are a non-profit organisation and have juniors at our club so we will tread carefully.
“The figures that have been mentioned are between $50-70,000 each year to field a team. It would be very exciting to be back there but we need to be realistic too.
“We’ve had discussions with Norths (about a feeder relationship). We are already aligned to Norths through the Northern Broncos program and they supply us with players left over from their FOGS Cup team.”
Norths chief executive Mark Murray backed the QRL’s new competition structure, saying it would create a “vertical pathway from juniors to NRL”.
“I think it fits with the model that the clubs have been pushing for five or six years. (Feeder relationships have) been a big success across the ISC and NSW Cup and it’s now locked into the structure of the game. It’s just repeating that structure at the next level down,” Murray said.
QRL chairman Peter Betros said the rebirth of the competition would bolster the pathway from club to ISC and the NRL.
“It will allow more players an opportunity to play at higher level, create a pathway and raise the standard of the competition,” Betros said.
“One of the weaknesses of our current pathway is that guys get picked up young but some mature later and miss out.
“This will give those guys who didn’t make the 20s competition the chance to get noticed.”
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