HAPPIER TIMES: Lismore City celebrates its Far North Coast rugby union grand final win in 2013. The club has struggled since 2015.
HAPPIER TIMES: Lismore City celebrates its Far North Coast rugby union grand final win in 2013. The club has struggled since 2015. Doug Eaton

Lismore's football codes could be at crisis point

IT COULD be crisis point for two popular winter sports in Lismore that are struggling to compete in Far North Coast rugby union and Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League.

Lismore City and Southern Cross University look set to limp through another rugby union season in first grade as both clubs face some harsh realities.

It has been a major collapse for Lismore City, which won the premiership in 2013 but has struggled for players to field two senior teams since 2015.

The first grade team could name only 12 players ahead of its first-round clash with Byron Bay last weekend.

The 8-0 loss was hardly a flogging but the game against defending premiers Wollongbar-Alstonville tomorrow will be a better indication of what shape they're in.

In some ways City is a victim of its own success with most of the team that won the 2013 grand final retiring after the game or at the end of the following season.

Lismore won an Under-19 grand final in 2009 but after that they were never able to field a team in that age division.

Juniors numbers are low across all FNC rugby union and there has been no Under-18 or Under-19 competition since 2014.

SCU is more a casualty of the online world and the way the university set-up has changed.

The Gold Rats are no longer able to pick up 10 new players each season because of the number of students studying externally who will never set foot on the campus.

There is little likelihood of Lismore City and SCU merging and both will continue to resist dropping down to President's Cup, which is the old Village competition for one-team towns and third grade sides.

Elsewhere, Marist Brothers and Northern United don't look like they'll be able to match the top teams in the NRRRL based on results in the first round.

Brothers went down 46-20 to a reasonable Cudgen team while United were thumped 64-0 in an uninspiring effort against Tweed Coast.

The worst thing for Brothers is they look to have internal issues with eight players from last year's first grade team running around for other NRRRL clubs this season.

The Rams do well to foster their juniors from Under-18s and below while some will point to reserve grade coming off back-to-back premierships in 2017 and 2018.

However, the jump from Under-18s is still a big one and you can't rely on a handful of reserve grade players to pick up the slack after losing so many first-graders.

United has its own issues with depth and it's a concern that they had so many players missing or injured for a first-round game.

It is only early days and both competitions could prove to be weaker across the board this season - rugby union especially - but it does not make the problems any less concerning.