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The Southern Region competition begins today with a short, sharp season.
With the condensed format this season of just one round and then finals, every match counts.
At the start of this campaign, no team stands out as a clear favourite for the title.
Five-time Countrywide champion Clutha will once again be hard to beat. Simon Grant is coaching, taking over from Ben Keach.
The side showed in its pre-season win over Heriot the players lost can be replaced and momentum is still positive.
Heriot will also be a team confident of featuring at the pointy end of the season.
With no imports, it will rely solely on home-grown talent this year. Ben Millar (Roxburgh) and Mark McKenzie (Clinton) — and Matt Saunders — in the coaching set-up — present Heriot with a big opportunity to be successful.
Crescent has lost none of its eagerness and motivation and had a convincing win at Clutha Valley in last weekend’s pre-season.
Crescent looks a touch light up front in terms of numbers, but the impressive backline will make up for this. Look for Chase Owen to take more of a leading role this season at first five-eighth as inspirational captain Harley McHardy drops into fullback. Naylor Edwards returns to coach the side.
Clutha Valley has an impressive squad this season and is looking to build towards its 100th Jubilee next year. It has brought back some good names such as Josh Botting, Mike Blair and Maurice Tairua.
Newcomer West Taieri has the competition pundits nervously looking at the draw. A convincing pre-season win over Toko bodes well in the side’s first Southern Region season. Ash Barron is coaching the team.
Owaka is another side which should make the semifinals a goal at minimum.
The Swamp Hens are looking to build on last season’s third to make the big dance for the first time in recent memory.
Toko and Clinton look to have the most to work on this season with player numbers and injury concerns not helping their cause.