The North Coast Bulldogs and Northern Rivers Titans will be back in action again this year in open age format.
The North Coast Bulldogs and Northern Rivers Titans will be back in action again this year in open age format.

NSWRL announce return of Country Championships

NSW Rugby League has announced the return of the men’s and women’s Country Championships Open Age competitions in 2021, with the Northern Rivers Titans and North Coast Bulldogs keen to light up the field.

NSWRL Head of Football Robert Lowrie said the tournaments were another chance for regional NSW to continue its proud tradition of supplying future rugby league stars.

“There have been plenty of champion players from regional NSW who have played Rugby League and I’m confident that trend will always be the case,” Lowrie said.

“The Men’s Country Championships and Women’s Country Championships are strong competitions which offer players another important pathway to their dream of pursuing Rugby League careers.

“We had a disrupted season in 2020 because of coronavirus so I’m really looking forward to the action this season and I can’t wait for kick-off next month.”

The Men’s Country Championships has been an Under 23s competition since 2017 but will revert to an Open Age competition in 2021 to provide additional opportunities for players after last season was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Women’s Country Championships started in 2019 and has boasted some of the biggest names in women’s Rugby League with Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin captain Kezie Apps, Jess Sergis and Keeley Davis all playing for the Illawarra South Coast Dragons in the inaugural season.

Both competitions will feature 10 teams including Northern Rivers Titans, North Coast Bulldogs, Northern Tigers, Western Rams, Newcastle and Maitland Region Knights, Central Coast Roosters, Macarthur Wests Tigers, Illawarra South Coast Dragons, Monaro Colts and Riverina Bulls.

The teams have been split into two pools of five with the opening round scheduled for Saturday 27 February. There will be two rounds of competition with the matches to mirror the final two rounds of the Laurie Daley Cup (Under 18s) and the Andrew Johns Cup (Under 16s).

The top four teams from either group (which will be based purely on competition points and for and against) will progress through to the Semi-Finals before the Grand Final on Sunday 28 March at a venue yet to be announced.

The announcement comes as Group 2 selectors put out the call for expressions of interest to join the North Coast Bulldogs squad.

All eligible players who are interested in trialling for the Open Men’s North Coast Bulldogs Representative team are required to contact the NSWRL/Country selector on 0419 032 921 before January 22 2021 to nominate their name. Players must be registered with a club for competition in 2021. The squad will commence training in January for the Country Championships which begin February 21 2021.