It will be an early start for the Group 20 2019 season after the draw for the upcoming season was released this week.
The season will start on Saturday, March 30 which is two weeks earlier than last year with Group 20 president, Mark Stenhouse, saying the decision was made due to representative clashes.
“We wanted to make sure that we were out of the way so that the Under 15s were able to compete in the Country Championships,” he said.
“Last year they were held on the same weekend as our grand final, and we wanted to make sure that the players didn’t have to choose between their club and representative football.”
The earlier start time came as little issue according to Stenhouse.
“It came up, and we gave the clubs a few options,” he said.
“This one just seemed to fit best with the junior representative calendar.”
The draw will return to the home and away format similar to 2017 with a standalone game set for Good Friday with the Doug Alpen Shield going up for grabs when the Black and Whites take on the Waratahs.
“It is great to have that as a standalone fixture,” he said.
“It should be a good night given that it is a public holiday and with any luck, we will have all the junior grades there as well.”
The draw has also aligned with the junior season with the hope that it will help the numbers in the under 16s and 18s which have taken a bit of a hit over the last couple of seasons.
“If the Waratahs are playing Leeton in the seniors they will play each other on the same weekend in the juniors,” he said.
“We have been having trouble with the 16s and 18s and hope that aligning with the junior competition will help bring some numbers through. We only had five or six teams in the under 16s and 18s last season and hope to be back up to nine teams in the coming years.”
The Group 20 knockout was also discussed and will undergo a format change. Instead of being played with pool games leading into a knockout between the top two sides from each pool it will be a straight knockout similar to the West Wyalong Knockout.