St Pat's get a boost from Group 10 rugby league draw
By Alexander Grant
A RUN of home games will help St Pat’s get their 2016 Group 10 season off to the best possible start.
Pat’s will play four of their first five games at the Sportsground – as opposed to their Bathurst counterparts, Panthers, who will have to wait until round six for a home game.
The season will get underway on April 10 for Pat’s with a tricky encounter in Bathurst against last year’s grand finalists Lithgow Workies before the Saints travel to Cowra to duke it out with the Magpies.
A three-game home run will follow, starting with the now annual ANZAC Day weekend Bathurst derby against Panthers, before Pat’s battle the Mudgee Dragons and Orange Hawks.
“That’s always an unknown with the first game of the year, but I know Cowra’s built themselves up well,” Pat’s president Graeme Ward said.
“They’ve got a new captain-coach and a lot of younger players coming through.
“Mudgee’s always pretty solid and Hawks are in the same boat as Cowra as they have a new coach and will be an unknown quantity.”
It will be the first time since 2013 that Pat’s haven’t been given a bye in the opening round.
As opposed to their run of early byes over the past couple of seasons, the Saints will this year have uninterrupted football through until the seventh round of the competition.
“I know [premier league coach] Kurt Hancock didn’t mind that first round bye because it gave you the chance to get a look at the other teams.
“Having the general bye [on June 12] again is also a good idea.”
The flip side to the favourable early season equation is that Pat’s will have only three matches at home over the back half of the competition.
The Saints won’t want to leave themselves battling for a finals place in the closing round as they will face expected front-runners Orange CYMS for the third straight year.
The draw is less a concern to Ward than the work to finalise his premier league side’s playing roster, which is entering its final stages.
Pat’s have bid farewell to Tim Holman, who has left Bathurst following an injury-plagued 2015 season.
“We have a couple more players we’re looking to get on board,” Ward said.
“We’re still in the middle of some negotiations there.
“We’ve re-signed Garry Reilly, Benji John, Travis Waninara and Riley Cheshire. Tim Holman has left for Newcastle, though, for work reasons.”