The 2015 Ron Massey Cup season kicks off this weekend with 11 teams battling it out over 24 rounds of the regular season to see who will eventually be crowned premiers on September 27.
This year’s competition will have one less side in it after defending premiers The Entrance Tigers decided to return to the Central Coast Division due to budget restraints but eight teams will still be able to qualify for the finals in the first week of September.
One of the favourites to take out this year’s title will be 2014 grand finalists, Mounties, who will be looking to go one better after their heartbreaking 22-18 loss to The Tigers in a golden point thriller.
Although the men from Mount Pritchard have lost some key players from last season, including their captain Adam Tangata and both halves Joey Bond and Matt Place, Mounties RMC squad should benefit depth-wise from Canberra’s decision to cut ties with Souths Logan.
Another one of the Ron Massey Cup heavyweights who should feature at the business end of the season will be the Wentworthville Magpies who have won four out of the past six titles.
Former Magpies NRL player Chris Yates returns as coach after guiding Wenty to the minor premiership in 2014 and he will be hoping for a better finish to the season than last year when they were embarrassed by Mounties 34-0 in the preliminary final.
While they may have lost some quality players in the off season like Liam Foran and Pat Mataele, their feeder relationship with the big-spending Eels should keep them near the top of the table.
Last season’s surprise packets the Asquith Magpies will have to overcome a horror draw in the opening two months to see if they can repeat last year’s heroics of finishing third.
The Magpies won’t get a home game at Storey Park until Round 8 but coach Simon Clarke is remaining positive.
“It doesn’t worry me. We were better on the road last year anyway. This is a very good comp and anybody can beat anybody!” said Clarke.
Although Clark described losing his captain and hooker Luke Jay as “a huge loss”, they have gained Aidan Carney from Kingsgrove and any team that has Fijian international and ex-Canterbury Bulldogs first grader Aaron Groom in their side remains a threat.
With former Kiwi International and Canterbury-Bankstown premiership winning winger Jason Williams back at the helm for his second season, Cabramatta look definite top four material.
Guildford finished sixth last season and while they may have lost their classy halves Dylan Izzard and Jason Vidal to the Eels Holden Cup Squad, experienced Owls coach Steve Ghosn, a former 1980s Magpies first grade coach, will have some tricks up his sleeve to qualify for the finals.
Sentimental favourites the Western Suburbs Magpies have a new coach this season in former player Nathan Waters with inspirational leader and ex-1980s Magpies first-grader Leo Epifania now the general manager of football operations.
With only a handful of players remaining from last season, Wests big off season signing is former Tiger and Cowboy NRL speedster Shannon Gallant.
“It might take a while to gel as it’s not easy to start from scratch but we are hopeful and our fans inspire us. We love them and it is a privilege to play for them!” said Epifania.
Former Souths forward Darren Maroon is head chief of the Warriors again and despite not playing any matches at Belmore this season, Auburn will still be a feeder club for the Bulldogs in 2015.
Brad Prior continues as coach of Windsor while the boys from Blacktown Workers have had a promising start to the season making the final of the International Cabramatta Nines.
Despite finishing 11th on the ladder and leaking 38 points per game on average, Kingsgrove were still one of the most improved sides last season compared to 2013, winning five games under the guidance of ex-South Sydney playmaker Jeremy Smith.
With a number of their young guns being promoted to the Roosters, Parramatta, Manly and South Sydney Holden Cup squads in 2015, the Colts may struggle to make the finals but they might have a star of the future in Bradley Mullins, son of former Raiders speedster Brett, to give new coach George Kuglen a glimmer of hope of a playoff spot.
2014 was a nightmare season for coach Nyke Aaron Zammit and his Burwood North Ryde United players finishing with only four wins and the dreaded wooden spoon.
But the charismatic coach is quietly confident they can turn it around in 2015 and is talking his team up.
Despite ending their merger with North Ryde, the Concord-Burwood Wolves will still be a feeder club for the Bears in the NSW Cup.