Group 20 rugby league
THE new Group 20 season is set for a blockbuster start with some massive games set to kick off the 2014 campaign in Griffith including two derbies under lights inside the first three rounds.
The competition's new draw was released earlier this week and features an increase in Saturday night fixtures and feature games, especially over the first half of the season.
Griffith's three clubs have each been handed a relatively tough start with the Waratahs set to host minor premiers Leeton on April 12 before a trip to Darlington Point and a night derby against the new-look Black and Whites.
Group 20 secretary Rocci DiSalvatore said while not all of it was by design, the new draw should see the season start with a bang.
"I go through it with a fine-toothed comb, every year," he said.
"That's just the way the draw worked out, but it's worked out pretty well. Of course you just can't make everyone happy even if you try, someone always ends up unhappy.
"Each team's going to have good things and bad things happen in the draw and it always balances itself out over time."
In a highlight of the draw, six of the Waratahs' nine home games will be played under lights at Exies Oval after the club submitted a request for more night games.
That includes three night matches in the second half of the season, ending with a final-round clash against Hay.
"Waratahs asked for a lot of Saturday games because they reckon that's how they can get more of their players available," DiSalvatore said.
"A lot of clubs don't mind those games in the early rounds because the weather can still be quite nice."
Former NRL star David Milne will lead the Black and Whites out for the first time away to the Bidgee Hurricanes in the opening round before his side hosts Yenda on April 26 at EW Moore Oval in a mouthwatering fixture.
It might read as a tough start but president David O'Keeffe said the club is ready to embrace their new era with open arms.
"We're pretty easygoing. We're happy," he said.
"There's nothing really adverse to us. I noticed last night there's two home games after a bye - last year we had three away games.
"It's just the luck of the draw. It's all swings and roundabouts."
O'Keeffe said he was personally in favour of more Saturday night games but said the majority of people inside the Black and Whites club are against them due to work reasons.
The Yenda Blueheelers - who loom as a strong contender for the premiership this year - have been handed a mixed bag early on, facing non-finals sides DPC and the Black and Whites before hosting premiers TLU in round three.
"We've got a few boys from the Point that have come our way so it'll be pretty tough against them, actually," president Lance Poka said.
"And then it's the Black and Whites, who are looking pretty good at the moment hearing who they've got from New Zealand.
"It'll be testing times in those first couple of games because you won't know what to expect."
Round one begins on the weekend of April 12-13 before the competition breaks for Easter and resumes a fortnight later.
A league-wide bye is scheduled for the June long weekend, although two clubs - TLU and Leeton - could yet apply to have matches moved to those dates.