IT'S a year of unknown quantities in the Astley Cup as the historic school sporting competition makes its return after a COVID-enforced hiatus.
Despite Bathurst High School entering this Thursday's opening tie at home against Orange High School as a three-time defending champion there's bound to be completely new-look teams from all schools - and that makes picking a favourite nigh impossible.
Bathurst will be fighting hard to extend their current dynasty of success, which began in 2010 and has resulted in six more titles since that breakthrough win.
School captains Zoe Peters and Charlie Hutchings are both back for their second crack at the event after first taking part in year 10 in 2019.
The captains said it's great to have the buzz of a pre-Astley Cup atmosphere going around the school once again.
"It's so exciting to have Astley Cup back after the break in 2020. It was quite disappointing not only for the Astley Cup team but for the whole school to miss that competition, so we're excited to be able to compete in 2021," Peters said.
"Last year was pretty tough on everyone. We were all keen to play and it was set to go ahead right up until two weeks beforehand," Hutchings added.
"That was pretty heartbreaking for us, especially after winning the previous three years. Getting it back this year is a really great feeling. It will be fun being out there again."
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Normally each school would have a couple of rival players to keep an eye on, based on the previous year's performances, but the 2020 break adds an extra layer of mystery to the build up.
"There's not really a favourite this year because we don't really know what each school has," Hutchings said.
"I think it's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
"We have a lot of younger athletes in our teams this year because we've lost quite a few from the last few years. It will be exciting to see what each school will bring," Peters added.
Dubbo Senior College will be hoping to end their 10-year wait for an Astley Cup win while Orange last won the event in 2016.
Bathurst and Orange get things underway on Thursday with tennis getting started at 9.15am, the girls' hockey to follow at 11.15am, boys' rugby league at 12.45pm and athletics to round out the day at 2pm.
Friday sees the girls' netball starting 9.15am, the boys' basketball to follow 10.45am, then girls and boys soccer to follow at 12.15pm and 1.30pm respectively at Proctor Park.
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