29th November 2018, 12:22 | ncl
The Kingstone Press National Conference league will run with 50 teams next season after Batley Boys, Hensingham and Heworth were all duly elected to the competition for 2019.
The votes were overwhelmingly in favour of backing the NCL Management recommendations that proposed a return to the NCL for Heworth after a three-year absence, and new members in Batley Boys and Hensingham.
All three have been powerful forces in their respective Regional Leagues this season and have strong clubs that field well developed youth and junior sections.
They got the nod over other strong contenders Nottingham Outlaws and Walney Central, with Gloucestershire All Golds, Cutsyke Raiders, Distington and East Hull also being disappointed.
All three new teams will play in a 14-team Division Three that will commence fixtures on Saturday, February 23, while the following week, March 2, will see the commencement of fixtures for the Premier Division, along with those teams in Division One and Division Two.
The rationale for 14 teams in the Third Division is that experience has informed us that not all clubs in Division Three are able to complete the season for whatever reason. No club has started the campaign with that intention, but when the losses start to pile on, some clubs find it difficult to retain their players and they struggle to fulfil their fixtures.
When we had 12 teams in the competition, a couple of clubs falling by the wayside lead to insufficient fixtures. However since we have gone to 14 clubs, we have still lost a couple of clubs, but it has still meant we have been able to provide sufficient games, usually around 22, to make the competition fully viable.
Hopefully this season we don't lose anyone and the clubs enjoy their full 26-league games, and to accommodate this we need to start the campaign just one week earlier than the rest of the competition.
The March 2 start for the other three divisions will enable those clubs who are still in the Challenge Cup to at least have a league game that prepares them for their third round ties a week later, potentially against League 1 opposition.