Just over a year after featuring in the 2015 GrainCorp Cup grand final Canowindra was officially defunct but now, with the help of Eastern Suburbs, Orange Emus, Molong and former Wallaby Cam Shepherd, the Pythons are back.
After not competing in 2017 due to a lack of interest, the Canowindra club makes its return to the paddock on Saturday when Easts, Emus and the Magpies land at Tom Clyburn Oval for a bumper afternoon of trial games.
The Beasties’ third XV will face a mixture of Emus’ senior grades, before the club’s fourth and fifth XVs will take on Molong and Canowindra respectively.
In between those games Easts’ under 10s will also play the Pythons while Shepherd, a veteran of 78 Super Rugby appearances and nine Tests, will run a couple of clinics as well.
“I’m hopeful that we drag a really big crowd. It’s a huge day for Canowindra and a great day for the Pythons,” Pythons president Jack Beath said.
“Having Easts bringing three grades, it’s about 80 plus players on its own. We have Emus and the Molong Magpies as well coming, there should be some good talent on show.”
Easts’ president John Murray echoes Beath’s excitement leading into Saturday, which continues the Beasties’ commitment to Central West Rugby Union and is a pre-cursor to the club’s Intrust Super Shute Shield clash with Parramatta at Orange later this year.
“Originally we were only sending thirds and fourths, but then it snowballed, everyone got excited and we’ve got a few more teams heading out which is really exciting,” Murray said.
“After we saw the SBS documentary on the Pythons folding, we thought we might be able to help by playing a trial out there. There’d be no point taking a mid-season game there if Canowindra didn’t have a team, you know, but this looks like it’s working.
“The club has reinvigorated itself and the Pythons will field a team this weekend and have nominated for the GrainCorp Cup, which is just great news.”
Pythons life member Adam Nash is one of the day’s pioneers, and he’s over the moon with Easts’ commitment to country rugby, particularly the Central West.
“Easts are coming out here to help the Pythons get back on their feet … the day is really all about a Sydney club coming out to the bush to help the sport,” he said.
Originally we were only sending thirds and fourths, but then it snowballed, everyone got excited.Easts president John Murray
Emus and Easts will kick the day off at 2.45pm, with the first of Shepherd’s clinics to run an hour later.
Easts fourth XV faces Molong from 4pm, before the under-10 game at 5pm. Shepherd’s kicking clinic starts at 5.40pm, before the Pythons face the Beasties fifths from 5.45pm.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what to expect. I know Emus were in the [Blowes Clothing Cup] grand final last year so they should be strong. Watching them last year I know they hit hard, so I’m glad I’m not playing,” Murray laughed.
“That game, against our third XV, might be pretty tight. We had a few guys released from the second and first grade squads, they were big groups, so there’s a few disappointed kids who will really want to put on a good show I think.”
In terms of the season ahead, Emus will be without the likes of Mitch Evers, Carter Hirini and AJ Sykes, while former Australia Sevens gun John Grant – who played in the National Rugby Championship just last year – has committed to coaching the Pythons.
Cowra Magpies star Ron Lawrence, a former NSW Country colt in the 15-man code, has also linked with the club.