THE draw is yet to be rubber stamped, but under 18s clubs across the Western Region are already salivating over a season which will feature local derbies, new rivalries and an eight-team finals series.
While the impact of the coronavirus saw senior football for the Group 10, Group 11 and Woodbridge Cup competitions cancelled for 2020, NSW Rugby League's Western Region manager Peter Clarke was determined to see an under 18s premiership go ahead.
It was an opinion clubs across the region shared and 13 nominated to form an under 18s Western Rams premiership for 2020.
Clarke will meet with those clubs before releasing the draw later this week - he anticipates it will be on Friday - but there are already elements of the competition he can confirm.
They include sides being split into three pools to minimise the impact of travel ahead of a eight-team finals series.
Last year's Group 10 grand finalists St Pat's and Bathurst Panthers will join Lithgow, Orange Hawks and Orange CYMS in the eastern pool, while Mudgee, Wellington, Dubbo Macquarie and Dubbo CYMS have been grouped together.
The southern pool features the 2019 Group 11 premiers Forbes, Cowra, Canowindra and Parkes.
"It was really important we had the 18s competition and that view was shared across Woodbridge, Group 11 and Group 10 - we knew we had to do what we could to ensure there was football for the youth," Clarke said.
"We can all work together and have a good comp and all the clubs I've spoken to are really excited about it.
"It's great to have some variety and when you're young and enjoying your footy you are looking for something different, so we're giving them at least eight games of footy to look forward to and possibly finals.
"They are pretty strong across most clubs, so I'd say there'll be a lot of interest.
"For a lot of them it's their last year of playing with the players they've been with through junior footy - it's often the year you remember. Next year things will change, some of them might not play due to work or move away."
Clarke said cross-over games between pools are being considered, while clubs will also be consulted in regard their preferred day to play - Saturday or Sunday.
But whether the league starts on July 18 or 19, Clarke knows the competition will be stiff. The chance for some clubs like St Pat's and Panthers to still have local derbies and an eight-team finals series is an exciting prospect.
"Obviously we've got a wider area coming together for a finals series, which will be terrific," Clarke said.
"It will be the top two from each pool plus your highest ranked third placed side will go through to that top eight.
"I've got a bit of consultation to do with clubs, but I'd say the finals will be over three weeks and a knockout thing.
"We'll probably seed them and make sure the top two sides are on different sides of the draw, but we thought we had to have a top eight to have that incentive there as not everyone will get to play everyone.
"The clubs were just so excited to be able to train a couple of weeks ago and from July 1 contact training can begin, so that is another landmark ... 30th of June is like a new year's eve."
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