The Sydney Shield competition will be back bigger with two new teams making their debut in 2015.
Western Suburbs Magpies and the Windsor Wolves will both be fielding sides in the Sydney Shield for the first time but last year’s wooden spooners’ Burwood North Ryde United won’t be competing this season.
As a result, there will be thirteen teams fighting it out over 24 rounds before eight teams will be left to slug it out through September to see which two sides will meet in the grand final decider on September 27.
If history is anything to go by, all three previous premiers have had a type of bird as their mascot so if that trend continues, it could be one of seven teams this season.
It was a rags to riches Rugby League fairytale in 2014 when the East Campbelltown Eagles claimed the Sydney Shield title in their first season in the competition.
The Eagles dared to come back from a 20-12 deficit midway through the second half to soar over Mounties 27-20 in the grand final at Allianz Stadium.
However it is going to be hard for them to go back-to-back after losing their skipper Wayde Dunley to Wests Ron Massey Cup side and their grand final winning coach Gary Potts.
But 2015 coach Richard Barnes, is optimistic his Eagles can dare to dream of another title.
“We are optimistic about a top four finish. Our young guys will have to put their hands up but we will be doing our best to defend the title and prove people wrong,” said Barnes.
Mounties finished sixth in the regular season of the Sydney Shield before making a Bulldogs-like charge from the bottom half of the top eight to make the decider.
Northern Beaches new boys the Peninsula Seagulls almost had the perfect season in their first year in the Sydney Shield winning all but one match during the regular season and finishing ten points clear at the top of the table to claim the minor premiership.
Yet despite dominating the competition scoring 40 points a game on average and having the Sydney Shield Player of the Year Vinnie Ngaro carving up the opposition, the Seagulls exited the finals with losses to both Eagles sides (East Campbelltown and Belrose).
But NRL Development Officer Coach Tim Gee and his young Seagulls will have learnt some valuable lessons from last season and should be a contender again in 2015.
Wentworthville will see former NRL player Alex Chan return to Ringrose Park after a successful stint taking the Penrith Panthers to within a whisker of winning the SG Ball Cup last year.
Chan has won Ron Massey Cups for Wentworthville in the past as a coach and don’t be surprised if he has a run himself this season and the Magpies go all the way in 2015.
Belrose Eagles, the junior club of current Manly first grade coach Geoff Toovey, will be hoping to celebrate their 60th anniversary in style with another title in 2015 under coach James Mortimer, son of Bulldogs legend Peter Mortimer and brother of Titans playmaker Daniel.
Although they couldn’t repeat their efforts of 2013 last season, the Eagles were far from disgraced bowing out one game short of the grand final and should be finals bound again this season.
Guildford were the only team in 2014 to defeat minor premiers Peninsula Seagulls during the regular season and with their feeder relationship with the talented Parramatta Eels Holden Cup squad there is no reason why the Owls can’t finish higher this season than last year’s fifth on the ladder.
Cabramatta may have made the top eight last season but they were no match for Mounties in the first week of the finals and the Two Blues will have to win more of those tighter contests in 2015 after having five draws in 2014 if they are going to do some damage in September.
Last year, Auburn had the fourth best attack and fourth worst defence but still snuck into the semi finals with a late season surge yet the Warriors will be hoping to get off to a better start this season and will rely heavily on their relationship with the Bulldogs Holden Cup squad to fight their way up the Sydney Shield ladder.
Hills District Bulls will have a new feeder relationship with Concord-Burwood Wolves, which will improve their depth and increase their chances of returning to Sydney Shield finals footy like they did in 2013.
Blacktown Workers won the Bowl Final at the recent Cabramatta International Nines and could be a sign of a better season ahead than what they had in 2014 when they finished 10th with only six wins. How much they have improved in defence will determine how well the Workers climb up the Sydney Shield ladder this year.
Former Magpies player Brad Horder will coach Asquith this season and his experience at Ron Massey Cup level should help his young halves and also hopefully improve the team’s defence which leaked over 40 points per game.
Chris Boyd will coach the Windsor Wolves in their historic first season of Sydney Shield competition and they face a tough task in their opening match taking on last year’s premiers the East Campbelltown Eagles at home.
“It’s our first season in the competition so I am realistic but if we can make the semis then it has been a good year for us,” said Boyd.