THE 2019 CENTRAL WEST RUGBY UNION SEASON IS JUST UNDER A MONTH AWAY, HERE'S ALL THE BIG GAMES, PLAYERS TO WATCH - AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN - AS WE GEAR UP FOR THE 2019 SEASON ...
1 HARE LAVAKA … HE'S BACK
The Tongan international helpe Forbes to the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup premiership but had little involvement last season. He's back though, sort of.
The veteran coach will help mentor Dubbo Rhinos and, if we all know Hare, he'll find a jersey at some point, too.
2 THE SOUTH WEST
Young, Boorowa, Harden, Temora, Cootamundra … the old band is back together and Central West has renamed the southern branch of the Oilsplus Cup the South West Cup, terrific stuff. Really, these one-team towns are what country rugby is all about.
3 BULLDOGS VERSUS EMUS AT ENDEAVOUR OVAL
Round nine, June 15 - be there. Bulldogs coach Dean Oxley waxed lyrical about his side's need to beat Emus in Orange if they were to win the competition, and they never got there.
The Dogs have one chance during the 2019 regular season, and it'll near be the game of the season at that point.
Only one game between the two sides at Orange in 2019 regular season - June 15, round 9
4 MAHE FANGUPO'S HAIR
Donna Summer's called … she says you can keep her afro #lovetoloveyoubaby
5 NEW COLTS COMPETITION
At the end of last year, with less than a handful of teams competing in the Blowes Clothing Cup's under 20s competition, something had to give.
It has, with Central West CEO Matt Tink working through a new colts draw that will provide competition for any team in the region with side willing to give the title a shake. Expected to be up to eight teams, which is a big boost.
6 THE VIV EFFECT
Steve Hamson had the coaching reins at Orange City for nine straight seasons. The club enjoyed plenty of success, but 2018 was easily the worst in that time.
Viv Passi has taken on the top job at Pride Park and the young, experienced mentor has already made an impact, with big numbers at training. Will that translate into results on the field? Can't wait to find out.
7 WESTFUND FERGUSON CUP
There's no official draw yet, but word out of Central West HQ indicates just about every team in the zone is preparing to field a women's side this year - huge news.
8 MARK BALDWIN
Arrived at Roos last year fresh out of the Shute Shield and played a handful of games on the side of the scrum before rupturing his ACL while on rep duty, a huge blow for the Dubbo club.
Any play out of the former NSW Country Eagles breakaway will be a bonus in 2019 but Baldwin's biggest impact might just well be with the clipboard. He's currently in New Zealand helping the Blue Bulls coaching staff on tour.
9 EMUS V CITY
Seems like an eternity since Emus and City played in the 2015 Blowes Clothing Cup grand final, the level of competition between the two derby rivals was immense five years ago.
City's slump meant that level of competitiveness was virtually non-existent last winter but change is in the air and if the Lions start strong, expect a bumper derby in round four at Chook Park.
10 COWRA EAGLES
Will the competition's sleeping giants do anything in 2019?
The Eagles made a lot of noise last season but in the end it all amounted to nothing, as the club missed out on a grand final appearance with a preliminary final loss to the Dogs. Can the Eagles finally step it up?
They're best mates, work together and now Jack Hammond and Jarrod Hall will co-coach the Forbes Platypi together in 2019. They're basically CWRU's Bert and Ernie.
But when's the last time we saw a captain-coach in rugby? It doesn't happen very often at all, so how this pair make it work at Grinsted Oval will be interesting to watch.
12 GEURIE V WELLINGTON
Round two, April 13 - you could travel the vast Central West zone looking for a more heated rivarly than the Goats and Redbacks but you won't find one.
These two tiny towns share the Mitchell Highway and a hatred of the other. It's gripping rugby, and in 2019's second Oilsplus Cup round they'll duke it out in a grand final replay.
13 THE CALDWELL CUP
After falling short in the final last year, Central West is going all out in 2019 taking a group on tour to New Zealand to officially kick-off the Blue Bulls' quest for Cup glory.
Central West, country champions - it's a title the Bulls are gunning for.
14 NO ROGERS, NO BOARS?
Parkes' star of 2018 was undoubtedly Lloyd Rogers, the Welsh gun kicking a memorable conversion in extra-time to launch the Boars into grand final.
But the livewire half has returned home, leaving a huge hole in the Boars backline this season. Can new Parkes coach Ben McNiven find a suitable replacement?
15 ROUND ONE - REDEMPTION ROUND?
Opening the 2019 season on April 6, the Blowes Clothing Cup's top three host the last year's bottom three - it's a huge chance for the
Bulldogs host Orange City, Emus welcome Dubbo Roos and Forbes travels to Cowra for week one of the season - can the Lions, Roos or Platypi cause an early boilover?
16 ROUND ONE - REDEMPTION ROUND 2.0?
Wellington broke the hearts of Molong in last year's third tier southern preliminary final but the Magpies will get a first-up chance to turn that around in round one.
Likewise for the students in the New Holland Cup, a side that had their season ended in an extra-time preliminary final. CSU Bathurst, though will have to wait until round five of the 2019 season to catch-up with the Boars again.
17 NARROMINE V PARKES
Parkes went oh-so-close to ending Narromine's unbeaten run in last year's New Holland Agriculture Cup grand final, but ultimately the Gorillas got up 19-15 and capped an undefeated premiership in style.
Huge chance for the Boars to hit back early this year.
18 BEAU ROBINSON'S LIVE VIDEOS
He won a Wallabies, even took out a Super Rugby title with the Queensland Reds, but sadly Dubbo Roos coaching coordinator Beau Robinson won't be winning any Oscars for his brilliant live videos.
Pre-game, post-game, mid-game … we don't care when, but the more Beau the better.
19 COWRA RUGBY GROUND PULLED PORK PERFECTION
Somewhere in the canteen of the Cowra Rugby Ground, probably between the pie oven and the old Coca Cola fridge, Eagles grand poobah Ian Robertson is probably right now working on his club's next, great canteen item, and we're thankful for that.
20 BLAYNEY RAMS ROUND ONE
April 6 will be a big day for the Rams club.
Tragically, premiership-winning Blayney five-eighth Cameron Hobby died in the off season while Josh Farr, a gun centre with the club who also played in title-winning GrainCorp Cup sides, was left wheelchair bound after being injured in a horrible car accident before the 2018 season started.
Farr has moved back to Blayney after a long rehabilitation and after the passing of Hobby, there's little doubt the club's first home game of 2019 will be an emotional one.
21 FINALS FRENZY
Whether by design of just plain good fortune, this year's deciders are again staggered to gift rugby lovers from Bathurst to Narromine a three-week period of grand final goodness.
The South West and Oilsplus deciders, then the New Holland Cup Grand Final and then Blowes Clothing Cup big dance in consecutive weeks - it's brilliant.
22 EMUS NO.10?
Bulldogs five-eighth Brad Glasson is probably relieved Kyran Bubb won't be at Emus in 2019, especially after the bath the knock-about greens pivot gave the highly fancied Bathurst star throughout the finals.
But we're filthy. Bubb was brilliant to watch last season. But who fills the vacant No.10 jumper for the defending premiers next season? Bubb's are huge - albeit them niggly - boots to fill.
23 BULLDOGS WOMEN
West Wyalong tried, as did a gallant CSU Bathurst, but the 2019 Westfund Ferguson Cup premiership race reaffirmed what we already knew about women's rugby in the zone - the Bulldogs are unstoppable.
Speed, strength and class across the field, if there's a better team than the blue and golds in 2019 they will be worth watching.
24 HARDEN'S WOMEN
If ever there was a team that embodied the true spirit of rugby, it's the Harden women's side.
Thirteen games, 13 losses and a negative-differential that would give even the most avid of mathematicians a nose bleed, the Red Devils' girls play simply because they love the game.
But in 2019 we want more - come on, girls, jag a win!
25 SHUTE SHIELD
Games in Orange and Mudgee this year - the Shute Shield is acknowledging the part the country plays in the developing rugby talent and bringing these games west is a wonderful gesture. The rugby's top shelf too.
26 YOUNG YABBIES
Get around them, a new club hoping to make a mark in the strongest country rugby zone in NSW. Nip nip.
27 ROOS MAKE HISTORY
The Dubbo club is set to unveil a first for the Roos, with a women's team to line-up in the beefed up Westfund Ferguson Cup in 2019. Massive step for the red and sky blues.
28 THE GOOCH
No better bloke in Central West rugby than Chris Miller. He's been with Cowra through all the lows and if anyone deserves a fairytale premiership in 2019, we record it's the Gooch. Come. On. Eagles.
Mark down May 25 in the diary - the Goldies celebrate their 50-year anniversary in 2019.
30 THE FINAL ROUND
Something tells me this year's Blowes Clothing Cup is going to be incredibly tight. The Lions are bound to improve, as are the Roos, while Forbes will be well and truly over a premiership hangover that butchered their title defence in 2019.
With that in mind, mark July 27 down in the diary - finals places will be on the line.
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