THE rugby league pre-season will officially get underway in the Central Highlands this Saturday with the Bluff Rabbitohs hosting their own Nines tournament.
Alongside the Rabbitohs, the men's competition consists of the Emerald Cowboys, Gladstone Brothers and Emu Park Emus, the ladies has Clermont, Dysart and Blackwater as the local sides, with Emu Park rounding out the fourth.
Parramatta were the surprise packet winners in the NRL's own Auckland Nines and CH president Frank Lambley insists it is anyone's game.
"We are not sure what to expect from Gladstone Brothers or Emu Park Emus but they will be tough.
"The ladies comp will be very close as well, it is hard to pick a winner.
"It's not as big a comp as we hoped for but it will work well with only one field. It will be done in one day. It will at the very least make a good tester for future carnivals and help grow the game some more."
Lambley said all the teams involved would get something out of the hit-out.
"The teams playing will definitely get an advantage, extra match fitness for one," he said. N
"The new players to rugby league will get a good hit out for a taste of things. And Bluff might be working on new combinations.
"People need to remember that it's more physical than rugby sevens and a lot faster. You really have to do the hard yards in the middle of the field first before you can move the ball around.
"I think it will be a really good tournament."
The Blackwater Crushettes, the reigning champions of Nines football will be hoping to defend their crown. Local premiers Clermont will provide stiff competition for the young Crushettes and will be a feature game of the carnival.
1.25pm Bluff Rabbitohs vs Emerald Cowboys
2.15pm Gladstone Brothers vs Emu Park Emus
3.05pm Bluff Rabbitohs vs Gladstone Brothers
3.55pm Emerald Cowboys vs Emu Park Emus
4.45pm Bluff Rabbitohs vs Emu Park Emus
5.35pm Emerald Cowboys vs Gladstone Brothers
6.30pm Men's Grand Final
1pm Blackwater Crushettes vs Dysart Bulls
1.50pm Clermont Bears Ladies vs Emu Park Ladies
2.40pm Dysart Bulls Ladies vs Emu Park Ladies
3.30pm Blackwater Crushettes vs Clermont Bears
4.20pm Blackwater Crushettes vs Emu Park Ladies
5.10pm Dysart Bulls Ladies vs Clermont Bears
6pm Ladies Grand Final