FOOTBALL Mid North Coast chairman, Lance Fletcher says Southern United has the potential to be the pathways club for players in the Lower North Coast area.
Mr Fletcher was returned unopposed as zone chairman at last weekend's annual meeting.
He said the Zone Premier League, introduced in 2023, looks set to go ahead this year with only five clubs - all from the Hastings/Macleay areas.
Mr Fletcher thinks this would lead to promising younger players from the southern areas gravitating to the Ospreys if they wish to be involved in a stronger competition.
Forster-Tuncurry-based Southern United won the Newcastle Zone 2 premiership last year and will move to Zone 1 this season.
"We've been told by Northern NSW that we won't ever have a Northern Premier League men's club from this area because it's not financially viable for us,'' Mr Fletcher said.
"So younger players now have a pathway through Southern United.''
They still want to play with mates in a local team and come home every second weekend.- Football Mid North Coast chairman, Lance Fletcher
Mr Fletcher said United officials haven't been poaching players from established clubs now involved in the one grade Southern League.
"They said 'here we are, this is what we're offering, if you want to join us please do'," he said.
"That's essentially how Southern United have set things up.
"Some may argue differently, but that's a fact.
"They've put a product out there and if people want to become involved, then fantastic.''
Mr Fletcher said a solid portion of Southern United's roster were juniors from the Great Lakes now living in Newcastle for work or university.
"They still want to play with mates in a local team and come home every second weekend,'' he said.
"Playing for Southern United gives them the opportunity to do that.
"The majority of Southern United's players haven't come from other clubs.''
He said the Ospreys were "fending off some angst" from some clubs as they will have to field a third side in the Newcastle Zone 1 competition this year.
"But there is talk that in 2025 that competition may go back to a two team competition," he said.
Southern United was formed in 2022 to play in the now defunct Coastal Premier League.
When that collapsed the club successfully applied to play in Newcastle.