Chairman's vision for the 2018 BRL season
LEAGUE: Bundaberg Rugby League chairman Mike Ireland wants to see tough, high-quality on-field action that doesn't spill into cyberspace.
Ireland outlined his vision for the new season as the region's footballers returned to the field for the opening weeks.
Burnett Cutters' inclusion as Hervey Bay Seagulls' reserve grade team should ensure an overall rise in player participation, though Ireland's biggest wish is an improvement on off-field behaviour.
"On the field this year I would like all clubs in both men and women to play hard but play fair and legal and leave what happens on the field stay on the field," he said.
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"As far as off-field is concerned, I would like the clubs to be more aware of the behaviour of their patrons and help the BRL with crowd control, and control the language that comes out of some people's mouths.
"We must always remember we are trying to create a family atmosphere at all venues.
"As far as player numbers are concerned I think overall we will be up about 5% in total men in 2018 and the women should remain about the same as 2017 or slightly higher."
The BRL grew by a total of 8% in terms of participation between 2016 and 2017, an increase driven largely by the extra 59 female player who played rugby league last year.
Fixtures for the four-team women's competition are generally played first, with kick-off times as early as 10.50am.
Ireland conceded that early schedule could impact participation, which could also influence the five-team under-18s, but he said the push for Saturday fixtures limited options.
"With all Saturday league in 2018 it is difficult for all clubs with seven-day trading and I guess it really hurts both the U18 and women, but it is what it is and all clubs wanted to play Saturday at all venues in 2018," he said.
One of the biggest talking points in the BRL was the mass exodus of players from Hervey Bay.
The club has processed more than 20 player clearances across all grades in the off-season, with as many as 16 now registered for Isis Devils.
As many as 15 players who played A-grade for Hervey Bay last season have moved to other clubs, both within and outside the BRL.
Ireland said changes to the BRL's points system, which he said he wanted scrapped, was agreed to by clubs and had "come back to haunt" the "big spending clubs".
"It has really hurt Hervey Bay, I know the reason why and I said two years ago they will be in trouble down the track," he said.
"The points system was changed by the clubs after the AGM, and I mean the eight clubs not the BRL, and now it has come back to haunt a couple of big spending clubs who have just realised they will not be able to play all of the signed players be under the points cap.
"I wanted to scrap the points system at our first meeting but I got hounded down, now they are regretting it but too late for 2018."