Lithgow’s under 18s battle not likely to end after this season

DROUGHT BREAKERS: Lithgow Workies celebrate last year's Group 10 under 18s title, the club's first in 30 years. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

DROUGHT BREAKERS: Lithgow Workies celebrate last year's Group 10 under 18s title, the club's first in 30 years. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

After the high of being crowned Group 10 under 18s champions in 2016 Lithgow Workies have not been able to field an 18s side this season.

They won’t either, for the entire winter.

Last year’s success broke a 30-year drought in the competition but the club simply could not scrape together enough numbers in 2017.

"We only had a maximum, at any stage, nine kids make a commitment," Workies president Corey Osborne explained.

"But generally at training we were only looking at three to four sort of every individual session and it was never the same three or four."

Osborne said around six players from last year’s premiership winning side were eligible to play under 18s this year but a few had moved out of the area or were starting apprenticeships.

It was also bare pickings from last year’s under 16s.

"The 16s that came up, they were a combination last year of 15s and16s so it wasn't seventeen kids that came up, I think it was only four or five," Osborne said.

"A few of them gave the sport away, others obviously want to concentrate on their HSC or chase apprenticeships."

The absence of an under 18s Workies side in 2017 marks the start of an uncertain period for the club.

"Once again we're probably going to be in the same situation next year with the Oberon 16s going to Oberon 18s and we'll obviously having nothing this year hanging over and have to generate a side next year," Osborne said.

"And it's the same next year with the 15s. The 15s have also joined with Oberon, so we're probably going to be in the same situation for the next four years."

Osborne said the problem has been evident for several years and was not isolated to rugby league.

"Them two grades have struggled since juniors but it's just an epidemic in Lithgow,” he lamented.

"If you look at the soccer, the under 16s junior comps been cancelled, hockey is playing a combined boys’ and girls’ age group.

"Kids in Lithgow for some reason just aren't playing sport."

Workies have pulled together to field competitive sides in the other divisions.

“For premier grade and first division the numbers are good, we've got a pretty good team in both grades,” Osborne said.

"League tag, they're looking okay. They've got more than enough numbers and a few old heads have come back."

After having the bye last weekend, Workies will travel to play the undefeated Oberon on Sunday, the third of four home games the Tigers have to start the season – a phenomenal draw.

Workies first division and league tag sides will also be itching for their first wins after falling to the Bathurst Panthers in round one.

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