Winning premierships can be a costly exercise. Since the Lower Clarence Magpies’ historic 2009 grand final win – the previous was in 1984 – the club’s debt crisis has threatened its existence.
The first grade team has languished at the bottom of the ladder, but the club is hoping to turn that around, announcing that it has secured the services of captain coach Ryan McGoldrick.
McGoldrick, who completed his first head coaching stint this year at Group 20 rugby league club, Darlington Point Coleambally (DPC) Roosters in the Riverina, comes highly recommended by former St George coach Brian Smith and new Newcastle Nights coach and Magpies’ old boy Nathan Brown.
When it was revealed that the club had debts of at least $130,000 following the grand final win (it had been juggling debt from as early as 2001), a new committee sprang into action and was granted an interest-free loan from the Country Rugby League – 35 members signed on as guarantors of $2,000 each to secure the loan.
The Independent spoke with Magpies’ stalwart and life member Ross McPherson about the club’s new direction.
“The club’s debts are now all paid off,” Mr McPherson said, “so now we can start afresh. The committee has been outstanding, there’s no risk about that. They’ve had a bad six years and they haven’t been able to buy or hang onto players.
“I can assure you that most clubs would have folded and said enough is enough … but being the Lower Clarence, it’s been a great effort by … a lot of different men and women, who have really put their insides into it, to get this debt paid off and get the club up and going again.”
Mr McPherson said the club had “sort of half bought a competition at the time” of winning the premiership.
“They brought players in and they just paid far too much money, and this happens all around the country, by the way, it’s not just a thing here in Maclean.”
Mr McPherson wouldn’t reveal any details regarding what occurred during that time, preferring to focus on the future.
He said that McGoldrick was the right man to lead the club because he had 16 years’ experience at elite level, having playing stints at the Cronulla Sharks (2000-02 and 2004-05) and with the NSW Waratahs rugby union side (2003).
From 2006 to 2012 McGoldrick played for Castleford Tigers in the United Kingdom. He played half a season with Hull FC in 2012, too, before signing with Salford City for the 2013 season.
At the helm of the DPC Roosters this year, he guided the club from last in 2014 to a grand final appearance and a club championship, with all four teams making the play-offs.
Mr McPherson said McGoldrick aims to embed his influence across all grades, “developing players within the club, including junior players”.
“There are players we have in mind, players in this area, who we really want to keep,” he said. “There are some very good footballers in the area, but he [McGoldrick] only wants players who are going to be fair dinkum, who want to train, because this fella won’t muck around.
“He told the players at Darlington Point that he will run onto the field with seven or eight players before selecting a player that hasn’t trained. He’s been having up to 60 training down at Darlington Point, which is only a very small town compared to Grafton, or even Maclean or Yamba.”
The club is holding its annual general meeting at the Maclean Bowling Club this Sunday October 25 at 2pm.
“It’s very important for the Lower Clarence to get behind the club now. We need a lot of support for off the field happenings,” Mr McPherson said. “We hope that former players and people who are interested in the club get along to the meeting and show their support.
“We’re not going to run this football club half hearted, we are fair dinkum from now on and that’s the way it’s going to be.
“I can’t thank the committee enough for the outstanding job they have done over the past six years. We want to turn the whole thing around and not finish last.”
Mr McPherson said the club was hopeful of “picking up five or six players who have come here to work on the highway upgrade and bridgeworks”.
McGoldrick was not available for comment, as he is in the UK. He is expected to return a day or two after the AGM.