May 20. Mark it on your calendars.
That’s the date which marks the highlight of the local rugby union season – the Dubbo derby between the Kangaroos and Rhinos.
The official draw for the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup season was released on Wednesday and it is punctuated by massive clashes almost weekly after the Central West Rugby Union released the top flight’s draw on Wednesday.
Bathurst Bulldogs host CSU Bathurst in a round one derby – potentially on a Friday night – before a grand final rematch between Forbes and Orange Emus at Endeavour Oval in round two.
From there, Orange City returns to Anne Ashwood Park to right the wrongs of last year’s elimination semi-final debacle in round three, before Parkes takes on Forbes (round four), City hosts Emus (round five) and the Dubbo’s Caltex Park takes centre stage in round six.
Last season, Rhinos’ first back in the central west’s premier rugby competition, the Roos won the two derby clashes comfortably.
But with a year of experience under their belt, the Rhinos players will be aiming to produce better performances in 2017.
The reverse fixture will be played at No. 1 Oval in round 15 on July 29.
The season starts on April 1 with defending premiers Orange Emus coming to Dubbo to take on the Rhinos while the Roos travel to Forbes to take on the Platypi.
CWRU chief executive officer Peter Veenstra said the 10-team - Narromine isn’t in the 2017 men’s top flight – 18-round draw was infinitely easier to work than last year’s 11-team version, and the winners will be rugby fans from the outset.
One of the things I’m looking forward to most is seven clubs have a women’s side headed into next season.
“Bathurst (Bulldogs) requested to play CSU in round one … we did that a few years ago and both clubs agreed it was a success, so we went back to that for them,” Veenstra said.
“And Orange (City and Emus) wanted their derby on May 13 ... so we accounted for that as well.
“From there, everything fell into place.”
The finals begin on August 26 while there’s a general bye on April 29 for the country championships. The June long weekend bye is on June 10.
The grand final will be played on September 16.
Veenstra added the growth of the women’s game would add to the 2017 season.
“One of the things I’m looking forward to most is seven clubs have a women’s side headed into next season. We’re growing the women’s game, which is encouraging to see,” the chief said.