Big year of Rugby League ahead for the Highlands

CAMERON STALLARD

It’s been 223 days since the final siren sounded on the 2015 local Rugby League season but the drought is set to break this weekend when the 2016 season kicks off for both the Central Highlands Junior and Senior Leagues.

The preseason has been quite a busy one with the hosting of the inaugural Central Highlands Nines, North vs South trials in Tieri, Highlands Hit Out and Wren Cup but no preseason games quite trumps the start of the competition season.

In terms of trying to predict a “Top Four” for both the Men’s and Ladies competitions, I’ve got absolutely no idea of who will be up there come August. Looking at the form from 2015, you’d have a few teams who would start short-priced favourites to make it to that day in September but after a few personnel changes in a few of the teams, I’m unsure if this year’s competition will be anything like 2015.

This year, the Clermont Bears are aiming to make the Grand Final for the fifth year straight, but are facing a “changing of the guard” with a youthful playing roster and new coaching staff.

The Bluff Rabbitohs are in the same boat. The club is looking to defend their 2015 success with the signing of coach Paul Byrne, however will also see some fresh new faces in the team with the departure of premiership winning halfback Mitch Wyatte and key forward Joe Taotofi.

Both Emerald clubs have recruited well for the 2016 season with plenty of youth mixed in with experience and I believe both clubs will finish high on the ladder in 2016.

Blackwater, Springsure and Dysart have also recruited well and look to build on their 2015 season. I am expecting all three clubs to surprise a few doubters this year.

Last but not least, Middlemount. The mighty Panthers six weeks ago looked almost certain to not field a team in 2016, that was until the Shorty Moffatt memorial game. The club has now seen their 2015 playing group regroup ready for a big 2016 season and has also seen a few new recruits including Mitch Wyatte and Joe Taotofi.

After much hard thought, I’m predicting that Middlemount will win this year’s Purcell’s Engineering premiership.

As for the Ladies, I think we’ll see two new teams in the Grand Final with it to be a Blackwater Crushettes vs Dysart Bulls Ladies final. Both these teams have had a great foundation year in 2015 and I believe they will be able to build on that success and make it all the way through to the Grand Final in 2016.

It’s set to be a cracking year of local Rugby League around the Central Highlands and I wish all players the best of luck this season!

Round 1 Games:

5:30pm – McIndoe Park Emerald
Emerald Tigers Ladies vs Dysart Bulls Ladies

7pm – Macca’s Oval Bluff
Bluff Rabbitohs vs Clermont Bears

7pm – Norm Blanche Oval Middlemount
Middlemount Panthers vs Emerald Cowboys

7pm – McIndoe Park Emerald
Emerald Tigers vs Dysart Bulls

7pm – Springsure Sporting Complex
Springsure Mountain Men vs Blackwater Crushers

 




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