The 2012 Shute Shield is almost here, and if the 2011 season is any indication (remind yourelf of the amazing final, apologies Uni fans) this one should be a cracker too .
There have been many changes in the off-season, not only to the teams but the Shute Shield format. The season now begins later and finishes earlier, containing 16 rounds, with teams after round 11 being split into two groups for the final rounds.
There are teams showing some real promise. Focus your attention on a strongly recruited and vibrant Northern Suburbs side. The Shoremen impressed in a Super Rugby curtain-raiser against the Rebel Risers at AAMI Park in Melbourne, defeating the home team in a close contest.
Eastwood should once again be hard to derail. They delivered a beat-down to Randwick in a pre-season trial, and the squad resembles the team who topped the ladder last season. Can the Woods establish a Uni-like dominance in premier rugby?
Clubs looking vulnerable this season apart from usual strugglers Penrith and Parramatta are Warringah, who lost trial games to Penrith, and Gordon, set for a sorry season losing their two best performers. Dion Berryman has departed to play in the Italian Super 10, and Dave Harvey has finally managed to play Super Rugby, and has apparently agreed to play for North Shore rivals, Norths, this season.
The match of the round this week will be the revamped and ready Northern Suburbs versus defending premiers Eastwood on ABC at the usual time of 3:00pm live from North Sydney Oval.
A nice piece of news here especially for our interstate friends: there will now be replays of Shute Shield matches at 4:00am Tuesday mornings, so make sure you wake up early or get it recorded.
Another season of premier rugby? Oh yes please.