THE 2014 Centennial Coal Cup (CCC) pre-season knockout competition will kick-off this weekend in Portland and CCC convener Paul Rudd is optimistic this year’s competition will be as close as any seen in the second division premiership’s history.
Following the club’s Group 10 dumping, Blackheath enters the fold in 2014 following the exit of the Portland Colts.
Two CSU Bathurst sides remain to contest this year’s title while new-look Kandos Waratahs and Orange Barbarians line-ups will give the competition typically dominated by the Lithgow Bears some added spice.
Rudd, also a member of the Barbarians side set to tackle 2014, believes Orange is a shot at competing for the CCC title this winter.
“We’re looking good. We’ve recruited well and we’ve trialled really positively,” Rudd said.
The pre-season officially kicks off on Saturday at Portland with the annual knockout.
Minus the CSU teams due to university holidays, six CCC outfits will contest two pools in this year’s pre-season tournament, with the top two sides from each pool set to play out the final.
Out of the knockout, a CCC representative team will be picked ahead of the squad series that pits the western division’s second division competitions - cups Centennial Coal, Barwon Darling, Woodbridge and Castlereagh - against each other.
Rudd was hoping there would be a few Barbarians knocking on the door of rep selection.
“It’s hard to tell. We’ve only probably got six or seven players that played last year with us again,” he added.
“They pick a 20-man squad and we can probably aim to have three of four in there. It’s just nice for a second division competition to have something to aspire to.”
Following two trials prior to the knockout - a 28-all draw against Villages United in Neville and a 28-16 loss to former Group 10 outfit Blackheath - Rudd was optimistic about the Barbarians’ chances this year.
“Wallerawang performed really well at the Bathurst knockout, I think it was Lithgow who didn’t have a side in the first division competition and Wang made it through to the final, so if they perform at that level they’ll be tough,” he said.
“Blackheath as well and Lithgow Bears, they’re always a big side.”
The first game of the 2014 CCC knockout is at 9.40am at Portland on Saturday.