Group 11 president Derrick Hoe is expecting four red hot games when the best of Group 11 takes on the premiers of Group 10 during the NAB Western Premiers Challenge, but he believes the timing of the concept can be improved.
Sunday’s inaugural challenge will kick-off exactly two weeks after both group deciders and Hoe says while he expects his representatives, Forbes and Parkes, to give a good account of themselves at Bathurst’s Carrington Park he freely admits the buzz surrounding these new games isn’t at the same sort of pitch we’re used to seeing ahead of the big dances in both Group 10 and Group 11.
He’s determined to ensure bush footy excels, though, and says switching the games to a pre-season affair might ensure the challenge’s longevity.
“It’d be a great way too kick off the season,” Hoe said.
“I think it’d be a good idea to do it in the pre-season. Everyone’s energy has gone into the grand final whereas in the season clubs are looking for a game.”
He says some players will likely be on holidays or battling some form of injury heading into Sunday.
“After a grand final, teams might battle a flat spot,” Hoe added.
“Everyone puts all of their energy into their own grand finals and to have this now we could lose a bit of the sting out of it.
“I haven’t seen Panthers at all … it’ll be a lottery on the day but it’ll be a great day for Country Rugby League, but maybe the timing is an issue.”
Forbes will be without Jake Hadrill and Ben Robinson, with both on pre-schedule post-season holidays while the likes of Brad McMillan and Richard Fui are battling injury and two-try grand final hero Mosese Qionimacawa has flown home.
With $10,000 going to the winning side on Sunday – along with $1000 each to the league tag and under 18s champions – there can be little doubt every side will be keen to put their best foot forward.
“It’s going to be very exciting, particularly in first grade with the two underdog sides that won their premierships going head-to-head,” Hoe said looking at the Forbes and Panthers clash.
“The juniors (under 18s) should be a red hot game and the girls will be the same as well, and the under 16s, I’m really interested to see how it plays out.”
The champion Group 11 under 16s side will be determined when Wellington takes on Red Bend on Tuesday night at Peak Hill.