SECOND Division kicks off this weekend and, if the season is anywhere near as exciting as the Group 4 off-season, we could be in for a cracker.
Two months ago ten clubs were lined up for the second division season, amid concerns it was taking away from first division.
The Moree Boars moved to Group 19 and were replaced by new Tamworth venture Oxley Diggers, although there was a small player drain to the lesser competition.
Around a dozen players asked to be released from Group 4 first division to play Group 4 second division.
Uralla enquired about joining the group, but then withdrew the application and is now one of the favourites in Group 19.
Last year’s G19 grand finalists Gwydir dissolved back into Warialda and Bingara.
One was going to stay in G19 and the other play in G4 second division.
They were then both waiting for the other to fold to fill their numbers.
Both got their wish as the Wombats pulled out of Group 19 a fortnight ago and the Bullets lost velocity last week.
Unfortunately, club politics has left a busload of players with nowhere to play.
When Bingara pulled out, the ten-team competition went to nine teams a week before kick-off.
Then on Monday night Quirindi made a deal with Wests Lions to play reserve grade for them.
Then there was eight.
A re-draw was voted down at the same meeting and we are left with two byes a round.
Every week, two teams will be sitting on their hands.
This weekend it is Werris Creek and Manilla.
Kootingal won’t have a home game until round five, and Manilla will have two byes in a row mid-season.
With the dust almost settled, we are still left with a top-quality competition that will be fiercely contested.
Group 4 secretary Mick Schmiedel said Barraba, Dungowan and Kooty would be the teams to beat, with Walcha not far behind.
“It will be a very close competition,” he said.
Teams have recruited well and have all come up with exciting lineups that will make for a great season of footy.
A new-look Kootingal under Nathan Hamlin will go up the mountain for the first local derby against Bendemeer.
Bendemeer is once again coming into the competition with a lean squad, but coach Jake Reid wants to push the Mountain Men a step further than their minor semi loss to the Dungowan Cowboys last year.
Premiers Barraba will set the benchmark early in the season after keeping its premiership side together.
The Bulldogs have picked up where they left off and will be a handful for Boggabri today.
The Kangaroos went down to the Bulldogs deep into golden point this time last year at Jubilee Oval and Boggy will be looking for redemption in front of a home crowd.
A huge day of footy will see Walcha play host to Dungowan.
The Walcha Roos are sharing the day with rugby counterparts the Rams at Captain Cook Oval and are expecting a huge crowd.
The Roos will be in for a fight, with the Cowboys coming in with a head of steam after winning the Pepperell Shield a few weeks ago.
Some good signings and a vocal Walcha crowd might push them over the line though.
The women are the winners this season as league tag goes from strength to strength.
All sides in both competitions will field a side, with some clubs capable of fielding two.
League tag has become the fastest growth area in Country Rugby League and is a positive for the clubs.
Last night the Diggers played their fifth and final trial against Gunnedah before they head into the Wests Knockout and premier season.
The Wests Knockout next weekend will be the first time we see the full Group 4 sides together before they kick off on April 27.
The open winner will take $15,000, with the second division winner raking in $4000.