THE Group 10 premier league season is already into round three, but the Centennial Coal Cup will finally get its chance to shine on Saturday with the opening round of the 2014 premiership.
The Villages United side will kick off their campaign when they host the Blackheath Black Cats in Rockley while the CSU Mungoes will stage a double-header at Diggings Oval.
This year’s title race will be without the Portland Colts, who had battled to be competitive in recent years, while the balance of power is expected to shift away from Kandos.
Last year the Waratahs took all before them as they comprehensively beat every opponent they faced.
While they were given a stern test in the grand final by the CSU Yellow team, the Waratahs still came away with a comfortable win though to claim the title.
However, this season Kandos have lost a number of star players to the Mudgee Dragons.
CSU president James Dunston is hopeful that either of the CSU Yellow or Blue sides can step into the top spot.
“I think having those players switch back to Mudgee changes things a bit. Kandos suddenly have a pretty young side and though I didn’t see it, I know they got a 40-0 touch-up from Wallerawang in the pre-season knockout,” Dunston said.
“Given that we’ve had a fair bit of recent success ourselves in winning the comp two years ago and making the decider last year, and the fact that we’ve retained and recruited fairly well, I’d be surprised if we aren’t up there somewhere once more in 2014.
“In terms of the balance of our two teams, we’ve tried as hard as we possibly could to keep the teams as even as we can while still ensuring that we still have
strong enough sides to win the competition.
“If we have got that formula right, particularly at one, six, seven and nine, then we should go okay. Our speed is definitely our biggest asset and we just have to make sure our forwards can mix it with the other teams.”
The Mungoes Yellow team hosts Wallerawang from 12.30pm at Diggings Oval while Blue face the Lithgow Bears in a replay of the 2012 grand final at 2.30pm.
Dunston said that both their opponents this week will be among the contenders at the business end of the season, though he sees Wallerawang as the bigger danger.
“Lithgow a couple of years ago were the benchmark and had been for five or six years. They have lost a few players since then, but they’ve still got some very smart players like Brett Ranse there who bring a lot of experience,” he said.
“Wallerawang, from everything I’ve heard, have a lot of size and they play with a fair bit of mongrel as well so you always know you’re in a contest.
“We didn’t field any sides in the knockout because of holidays and stuff, but we had an intra-club trial which was a good exercise and gave us a good idea of where we are headed.”