Well, what a rollercoaster 1st Grade has been this year.
Many early predictions were correct, with the top 2 tipped to be last years participants in the Grand Final.
But what is happening underneath that is something no one would have estimated.
Big changes this year include the introduction of 2 extra rounds at the start of the season. Rivalry Round celebrated the geographical rivalries within our competition.
Country Round saw all four Wagga teams leave town to take on a random opponent from outside town. This was to balance the travel component during the season.
We also saw the reduction in the number of teams to make finals, with only four being accepted come August. It was tight to make it in 2018, going to be even tougher in 2019.
Wagga Agricultural College:
Our current ladder leaders have come to 2019 with a very similar squad to 2019. One major addition is Gabe Brown, who brings a wealth of experience to the Front Row, but has now suffered a serious elbow injury. Their other bookend in Duncan Woods has also suffered a hamstring injury, will their scrum woes affect their ladder positioning come August?
WAC have also started the season without their Club Captain, Cam Duffy suffering a facial injury in a pre-season trial (2nd time in 2 years), his return last week against CSU is only going to improve our table toppers coming into the back half of the season.
7. Win v Leeton (54-19)
8. Win v Albury (29-22)
9. Win v CSU (64-0)
10. v Waratahs (H)
11. v Tumut (A)
12. v Wagga City (A)
Last years Premiers entered the season slowly, suffering a loss to their local rivals on a Friday Night special event at Conolly.
They shook that off quickly, and haven’t lost a game since, including a notable win over WAC in Round 3.
The return of Blake Hart last week is particularly notable after his representative duties for Australian Army and a small injury suffered during that. The surprise arrival of a Canberra Premier Division player in Sam O’Leary has been quite low-key but he has already making an impact after his 1st Grade debut last week.
We’re all looking forward to next week when they come up against WAC again, many tipping this a preview of the Grand Final on 31st August.
7. Win v Tumut (55-5)
8. Win v City (77-18)
9. Win v Albury (39-10)
10. v WAC (A)
11. v Leeton (H)
12. v Griffith (A)
Everyone wondered what Wagga City would present in 2019.
Having finished 2018 with no wins to their name, an early announcement of James Curgenven coaching the 1st XV was welcomed by the players and the memories of 2018 quickly disappeared.
With JC’s arrival, some big names suddenly moved into Wagga Wagga with intentions to play for City. Some pulled through, some disappeared again.
City certainly turned out in Rd. 1, hosting a Friday night spectacular where they took down the undefeated Premiers of 2018, Wagga Waratahs.
Since then they have had mixed form, but with no wins in their last 3 games, can they hold onto 3rd spot, or possibly even a spot in the top four?
7. Loss v Albury (24-31)
8. Loss v Waratahs (18-77)
9. Draw v Tumut (26-26)
10. v Griffith (H)
11. v Reddies (A)
12.v WAC (H)
Many didn’t see Griffith as a threat in 2019, they missed the top 5 in 2018, and there were no positive rumours coming out of MIA leading into the 2019 season.
This transpired into a loss against Leeton, a strong win against CSU, then 4 consective losses to start the season. By Round 6 everyone thought Griffith were likely to hold 7th spot. Then 3 quick wins have turned that around quickly with them sitting in the all important 4th position at the half-way point of the season.
Some notable arrivals include David Serukai (mostly known as DJ) who has joined the region as a Teacher, but has shown his prowess for his club and representing SIRU at the BPC. Saione Ahomana is a mid-season exclusion, anyone who has played against him would know that the No. 8 is near impossible to stop when at full pace. Oh and don’t forget Chris Latu.
7. Win v CSU (62-19)
8. Win v Tumut (32-19)
9. Win v Leeton (29-27)
10. v Wagga City (A)
11. v Albury (A)
12. v Waratahs (H)
Tumut came into 2019 quietly confident, only dropped out of finals in 2018 due to a close loss to Leeton. If they had win it would have been a Home Semi Final against WAC.
2019 saw the return of nearly all of their players from 2018, some notable departures were made also. Tumut knew they had the cattle (pardon the reference) to be competitive, but they didn’t expect to encounter so many injuries in the early parts of the season. Injuries included Broken Finger, ACL x 2, Shoulder, Blue Card, and Blood Clotting.
Tumut came out of Round 3 undefeated and sitting on top, after that they have only had one win and a draw.
With some of the injuries returning this season, and some not, we’ll have to wait and see whether Tumut can be one of the elite four that play in Finals.
7. Loss v Waratahs (5-55)
8. Loss v Griffith (19-32)
9. Draw v City (26-26)
10. v CSU (H)
11. v WAC (H)
12. v Leeton (A)
Albury were unfortunately placed in 5th at the end of 2018, and couldn’t get past Tumut in the first week of finals. With the change in Finals for 2019, we wouldn’t see Albury in Finals, so they knew they had to improve.
A particular DO of the zone tipped Albury to be the dark horse of the tournament this year, after 4 Rounds you might have wondered how he got his job, but a big win over CSU in Round 5 started a 3 game winning streak, that was halted temporarily by our two top teams. This has put Albury right in contention for spot in the coveted top four.
Albury will be looking to get the W against their upcoming opponents with two home games against the MIA teams before travelling to CSU again.
All the news was around the two Chileans who moved to town before the 2019 season, whilst Thomas Boyle was secretly training the house down to turn up in 2019 in his best condition yet. Don’t forget the late arrival of Liam Krautz who all can agree makes a lot of difference across the park.
7. Win v City (31-24)
8. Loss v WAC (22-29)
9. Loss v Waratahs (10-39)
10. v Leeton (H)
11. v Griffith (H)
12. v CSU (A)
Our 2018 Semi-Finalists came into 2019 wanting to improve on 2018 and take the next step to the Grand Final.
With Vunibaka stepping down as coach, Seru Rogo returned to the region, and even in early season training you could see a change in the team mentality. Leeton started the season with mixed results, but their main concern was their discipline. Multiple Yellows and trips to the Judiciary made for a very distracted mindset.
They will be looking to start the second half of the season strong, and rise up from 7th into the top four.
Marika may have stepped down from coaching, but has returned to playing. A crop of young Fijians are making waves also, notably Semi Rokodinono, Mesulame Navakayala and Eroni Naua.
7. Loss v WAC (19-54)
8. Win v CSU (60-17)
9. Loss v Griffith (27-29)
10. v Albury (A)
11. v Waratahs (A)
12. v Tumut (H)
CSU finished 2018 glad to have gotten two wins against cross-town rivals City, but were hoping for an improved effort in 2019.
The appointment of Club Legend Paul Hood as 1st XV coach was a solid start, as well as the introduction of two internationals in Jacob Holt and Oliver Telfer. Dean Smart is always a welcome inclusion also.
Unfortunately CSU hasn’t found their feet, or a win yet. They have improved since their tough 1st Round match against WAC, and took Tumut right to the end in a close loss in Rd. 3. They will be looking to recreate that form this weekend.
7. Loss v Griffith (19-62)
8. Loss v Leeton (17-60)
9. Loss v WAC (0-64)
10. v Tumut (A)
11. v City (H)
12. v Albury (H)
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