CSU Bathurst out, the Cowra Eagles in.
Retiring Central West Rugby Union chief executive officer Peter Veenstra confirmed the make-up of next season’s Blowes Clothing Cup top tier on Monday.
Defending premiers Forbes, Orange City, Orange Emus, Bathurst Bulldogs, Dubbo Roos and Cowra Eagles have been confirmed as the six sides to contest the new-look Blowes Clothing Cup in 2018.
Based on player numbers – the top tier requires clubs to field first, second and colts grades – CSU Bathurst was originally pencilled in as one of the six clubs to contest the new-look competition, but the students approached the CWRU board in October and expressed a desire to move down to the second tier.
CSU’s move back a peg enabled Cowra to step up, despite the Eagles’ recent battle to fill a colts side, which look likely to continue into 2018.
With that in mind, the students will continue to field a side in the Blowes Clothing Cup top grade colts premiership, filling the void left by the omission of a Cowra under 20s unit.
Along with CSU Bathurst, first and second grade sides from Blayney, Dubbo Rhinos, Mudgee, Narromine and Parkes fill the six-team tier two competition that is yet to be named.
The remaining clubs in the zone will contest either the south and north Graincorp Cup competitions.
Veenstra said the CSU Bathurst-Cowra relationship wasn’t ideal, given the structure of the competition was changed from the 10-team, top tier contested in 2017 so that clubs could field all required grades.
But, in the short term, this is what works best for all clubs involved.
“Correct, CSU could have been there (in the top tier) but they don’t want to be in the position of having massive scores against them each week. They’re not strong enough,” Veenstra said.
Veenstra said the draws will marry up to have CSU and Cowra aligned in the two tiers.
It means the club that’s playing the Eagles in Cowra, their colts will go to Bathurst to play CSU.
“We think that will work,” he said, adding Cowra’s quest to field colts into the future will be encouraged.
“We’ll work with the clubs so it works in everyone’s best interest.”
Veenstra said there was excitement from the Blayney and Narromine clubs heading into the new season.
“Blayney can’t wait to get on the field. They’re super happy about that,” he said.
The CWRU board will also look into fostering both women’s 10s and sevens competitions, with the growth of the latter making it impossible for the new board to ignore.
“There’s been significant growth in (women’s rugby) in 2017, and that certainly is something the board will address,” Veenstra said.
“The growth of sevens in NSW is unbelievable. And with juniors, there’s plenty of them around.”
Draws for all competitions will be released before Christmas.