Bathurst derby will kick off the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup season

IN a change from recent years the Bathurst derby will be the opening round clash for this year’s Blowes Clothing Cup.

The release of the cup’s provisional draw on Tuesday has brought the Bathurst Bulldogs and CSU clash forward to the opening weekend of the competition, on April 1, giving the city’s rugby faithful one of their most anticipated clashes right off the bat.

Bulldogs vice-president, and for 2017 the first grade manager, Brian Roberson said it’s an exciting clash to get the season underway.

“It’s a really good way to launch the rugby season in the area. It promotes the game in the community and gives us a bit of a kick start for rugby in Bathurst for 2017. We’re looking forward for the challenge,” he said.

After their match against CSU the Bulldogs travel to Mudgee Wombats before hosting Orange City.

The team have a tough end to the season with away games against last year’s grand finalists Forbes Platypi and Orange Emus.

Meanwhile the students will host Dubbo Rhinos in round two before travelling to play Forbes the following weekend.

CSU end their year with back-to-back home games against Cowra Eagles and Wombats.

The return derby at University Oval will take place on June 24.

With Narromine’s exit from the Blowes Clothing Cup for 2017 there will be no byes this year and each team will go back to playing each other twice.

“I don't think there’s any easy games anymore. When you play away it can be like playing against a different side,” Roberson said.

“At the end of the first round we have a couple of home games against last year’s grand finalists and then at the end of the competition we have away games against those finalists. That makes it very tough leading into the semis for Bulldogs.

“I’d expect Forbes to improve even a little bit more this year. They’ve got a great coach out there in Heamani Lavaka. He’s very good with the breakdown, and that’s one thing we can improve on and learn for our team.

“Emus will still be there. They’re very strong as a club. I think Orange City might bounce back a bit from last year and obviously Dubbo Roos will be up there as well, with their new coaching structure.

“I’d expect the top five to be similar but it’s a new year. You never know what’s going to turn up.”