DERBIES, rivalries and the debut of two new teams will be the focus of the opening round when the Western Premier League (WPL) gets underway in April.
The scheduled for this year's competition has been released, with 11 teams from across the Central West to play a total of 20 games across 22 regular season rounds from April 2-3 to September 3-4.
An Orange derby featuring Waratahs and Barnstoneworth United and a Dubbo derby between Macquarie United and Orana Spurs will headline the opening round fixtures.
New boys Bathurst '75 and Orange CYMS are also set to do battle, while Parkes Cobras will travel to Lithgow to play arch rivals Workmen's.
In the remaining fixture, Bathurst club Panorama will travel away to play 2020 champions Dubbo Bulls to start their campaign, the second time and three seasons the fixture has been played in round one. Mudgee Wolves have the bye.
The only thing that remains unclear about the draw is the finals structure, with all clubs being presented with three different options, varying between a six-team or five-team format.
Football NSW development manager of regional football, Andrew Fearnley, said clubs will decide on their preferred option.
"The clubs have three options to consider around finals, whether its top five or six," he explained.
"To a large extent [whatever option gets the most votes] will be implemented.
"The [regular season] fixtures are set, it's now the clubs responsibility to confirm venues and time. They've all been given a week [from Monday] to come back and confirm times and the exact field they're going to use for each of their home games."
Two play-off formats that have been presented feature six teams, with one being used by the A-League Men between 2010-2012 and the other being used by 2013-2021.
The other option is the format officially referred to as the McIntyre final five system, one that has been used by Group 10 Rugby League for a number of years.
Fearnley said midweek fixtures were considered but ultimately weren't included in the draw.
"We were close to putting midweek games in but we probably don't need to at this point because we can still run 22 weeks and finals series in time," he said.
"Playing midweek games is a bit difficult with travel too."
The competition is expected to pause over the Easter weekend, however, the competition is set to play on the June long weekend.
The first Bathurst derby since the revival of the WPL is set to take place on June 18-19, with the Goats hosting that fixture, before '75 hosts the return fixture on September 3-4.
The 2021 WPL season came to an end prematurely when the COVID-19 lockdown for regional NSW was introduced.
Only one round was left to play before finals, with Orana Spurs leading the competition, two points ahead of Waratahs.
WPL officials opted not to award the minor premiership, a decision that was poorly received by Spurs players and fans.
The last grand final played was in 2020, Bulls winning 2-1 over local rivals Macquarie.
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