The Murwillumbah Gentlemen are back on the field and need support

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THE GENTLEMEN of Murwillumbah Rugby Club also fondly known as “The Bananas” have reformed for the 2017 season with a callout for more players to take up the jersey and rebuild the club to its former glory.

Current club member Josh Harman-Cullen spoke to The Weekly on Tuesday to clarify a few points made in the media recently and to appeal to locals to back the club.

Previous reports had said The Bananas had folded which was incorrect when in fact the club had a hiatus for one year and is now back.

“The Bananas are appealing to all who have a passion for rugby or wish to learn the game, not just players, but people who genuinely want to be a part of our group,” he said.

“We have a small, but enthusiastic fan base of loyal supporters, who really get behind our team. We appreciate them very much.”

Mr Harman-Cullen, who has a passion for the club and loves his rugby, said The Bananas is not your “big shot” well-funded three-grade club, with a large sponsorship base and a multitude of players to choose from, or a junior side to guide through the ranks.

“Over the past few years we have fielded a second grade side, but despite lacking in numbers we have always made up for this in our club spirit,” he said.

“Unfortunately, Murwillumbah Rugby Club does not have the money behind it to use to entice players from the Gold Coast or Brisbane areas, to build a first grade side.

“The Club is run on raffles and a small sponsorship base of loyal fans and local businesses.

“As you would expect of any small country-town rugby club The Gentlemen rely on our “locals” pure and simple.

“If you love to stay fit, play rugby and have a beer with mates – it is the perfect club.

“The Gentlemen are a family – a group of mates who enjoy their rugby and social events (which includes BBQs and the odd amber ale).

“The Club reformed after a long hiatus, in 2010. The players that the small club has produced are notable. Two of its proudest assets have been the Arnold brothers. Rory Arnold, who now plays for ACT Brumbies and (of course) the Wallabies, and his brother, Richard Arnold.

“Richard was signed to Western Force last year and hopes to make his way in to the Super Rugby, in their top squad, this year.

“Our hope for 2017 is to enlist more players to join our ranks and to field a team or two in the Far North Coast Competition.”

Mr Harman-Cullen said the biggest hurdle as a small club is “basically everything”.

“Having players is always the number one difficulty,” he said.

“As players leave, get older or move away, it becomes hard to find new players keen to play rugby in a small town.

“Another hurdle is sponsorship. In a town like Murwillumbah everyone is behind the rugby league team. The Mustangs are such a successful well-established club, with a huge fan base in the local community. This makes it difficult to compete for sponsorship’s and players.

“The final hurdle is being a 2nd-grade or 3rd-grade side with no other grade to support you when you are low on numbers.

“When you play a larger, well-established club they can afford to drop their top-level players down to bolster their lower grades ranks during the season.

“This practice is not only unfair on those players in their own club, who play a grade and have to step aside for others, but it is also unfair on the smaller club who plays with their legitimate team, win or lose.

Mr Harman-Cullen also commented on the recent formation of the Casuarina Rugby Union Club and said that although the two clubs will not work together he sees a strong future for rugby across the Tweed.

“Murwillumbah, having only a senior side and always struggling to bring in younger/fresh players, thought it would make sense to approach Casuarina, who previously had only a junior side,” he said.

“We put forward that we should do some sort of a plan where we could be more involved with their club and show that we were an option to their juniors as they grew older, and were looking for a senior team.

“In good spirit, The Bananas even went over to train the Casuarina Juniors on one occasion.

“The Casuarina Club rejected this offer and decided to build a senior team of their own for 2017.

“On being given this news, The Bananas had thought that, logically, the best option to pursue was to form a merger between the two clubs and split everything 50/50, to avoid competing for the already very limited number of available players.

“This would have allowed a combined team to join the Far North Coast competition.

“Casuarina rejected this offer as well and elected to field their own sides in the Far North competition this year – which was somewhat disappointing news for The Bananas.

“However, we are rebuilding with many new, enthusiastic players joining our ranks and we are looking forward to an enjoyable season and I wish all the best to the new Casuarina Rugby Club.”

Training for The Bananas is at 6pm Tuesdays and Thursdays at Murwillumbah Brothers Leagues Club, Dorothy Street, Murwillumbah.

“I would encourage any keen players to come along, introduce yourselves and join in the fun,” Mr Harman-Cullen said.

To get in touch with Josh Harman-Cullen for more information phone: 0401 903 933.