Huge debt leaves Hervey Bay rugby league club in crisis

THE sad and sorry state of Hervey Bay Seagulls' financial woes has been exposed as the proud club fights for survival.

A general meeting scheduled for Stafford Park at 5.30pm today has turned into a loud rally cry for supporters of the club to help determine the future of the Seagulls, which has been thrown into question after a tumultuous year. An apology addressed to members, players, parents and sponsors was posted on the club's Facebook page yesterday and included a call-to-arms for Seagulls supporters.

LOCKED OUT: Reporters barred from crisis meeting

"The club has a very tough road ahead of us and we will only be able to get through this very tough time if we band together as a club," the post read.

"We will have to make some very tough decisions in our immediate future."

The Chronicle yesterday revealed officials from the Seagulls, Bundaberg Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League's Central Division met at Seagulls headquarters, Torquay's Stafford Park, on Monday to hold crisis talks.

The Seagulls are in serious danger of not participating in the BRL in 2019.

The club remains unaffiliated and without a competition in which to play just months out from the start of the new season. A late audit meant its first scheduled AGM was declared invalid, which left the Seagulls without a voice at the BRL's annual general meeting in early November.

It is understood part of the discussion between officials from the club, BRL and Central Division was to establish a plan for the 2018 wooden spooners to pay back thousands of dollars of debt.

A document obtained by the Chronicle outlines the seriousness of the Seagulls' debt, which was discovered midway through the year to be about $126,000. While the club has reduced that figure by almost $50,000, there is still a long way for the club to go before it is back in the black.

Brendan Bowers, who was Seagulls president in 2018 before being replaced by Jim Russell in November, chose not to comment but the former Central Queensland Capras operations manager previously said it would take two to three years before the club was back on its feet.

In his president's report prepared for the 2018 AGM, Bowers said the club did not know the full extent of the club's true financial position until June.

He did not blame any previous committee.

The Seagulls have been home to some of the biggest names in rugby league.

The late BRL chairman Mal Breen, credited with saving local rugby league, captained the Seagulls to its first premiership in 1974 and the list of captains in the 44 years since includes local legends like former Queensland and Australian second-rower Dennis Manteit, Wayne Rasmussen, Mark Jamieson, Terry Lynch, Rod McGrath and Terry Horne.

Current Bulldogs coach Dean Pay captain-coached the Seagulls to a Group 1 premiership in 2001, the club's last title before the Tye Ingebrigtsen-led Seagulls won the BRL premiership in 2016.

The club limped to the wooden spoon in 2018 and more tough on-field years are expected while they work overtime to repay the debt.

That is, if they make it to kick-off.



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