Group 4 clubs have voted in favour of a late start to the 2019 season, opting to kick the season off in the first weekend of May.
First grade will follow the same template as the 2018 season with seven teams participating and vying for a spot in the grand final, scheduled for August 31.
Group 4 chairman Ray McCoy told the Leader next season’s fixtures were yet to be finalised but would begin on May 4.
“It is a little bit of a later start than we would traditionally have,” McCoy said.
“The clubs were presented with two options.
“The first was to have a three-round competition where they play each other three times and begin on April 6.
“The other option was to have a two-round competition where they play each other twice and start on May 4.
“In the end the majority of clubs voted on the later option and we are here to help facilitate that, so that’s what we’ll do.”
North Tamworth Bears captain-coach Scott Blanch welcomed the move, saying “it suits us”.
“With only seven teams in the competition, it is what it is,” Blanch said. “We are getting the same amount of games as we have [had] in the last few seasons, except now we have more opponents to play.
“I think playing each other twice is also probably the fairest way to share things around as well.
“This way everyone gets there fair share of gate takings and stuff.”
Blanch said playing every team three times would have potentially negative long-term impacts.
“Personally, I really think playing each other three times for a total of 21 games for the season is too many games,” he said.
“At the end of the day we are country players and I think playing 21 games a season would see player numbers drop off over time.
“As well as that, I think crowd numbers would probably drop off as well and nobody wants that.”
The move will see representative matches pushed back, with the women’s nines country championships kicking things off on February 9.
The men’s nines competition has also been pushed back and will be played on April 6 at Jack Woolaston Oval.