The 2021 Callida Consulting First Grade Rugby season kicks off this weekend with a full slate of games across both the John I Dent Cup and the Women’s Premier 15s.
2020 was perhaps the most difficult in the competition’s history, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic felt across the region, in all walks of life. It took determined vigilance, by everyone involved in ACT and Southern NSW club rugby, but in the end, every competition was able to crown a winner with the Canberra Royals taking home both Premier First Grade gongs.
Wayne Southwell’s John I Dent legacy was cemented with the Royals head coach leading the Blue Baggers to back to back premierships, and three in four years while an Ash Bishop penalty goal at the death cemented Royals position atop the Women’s Premier 15s heap.
That’s 2020, but we move on now with a full season of fixtures leading to finals in September. Royals and Vikings are certainly odds on to be there on the final day.
The sides have wrestled for top spot for years now, and though Gungahlin represent the leaders in the chasing pack as worth grand-finalists last season, the Uni-Norths Owls, Wests and Queanbeyan are all arguable dark horses for the top prize. Translation; anyone can win the Callida Consulting John I Dent Cup.
The Premier 15s competition certainly has a dominant top-three. Owls, though beaten in the GF, went unbeaten until the big dance last year. Royals are champions, so deserve to be favourites and the Tuggeranong ViQueens will be out to prove they belong back in the Grand-Final.
That’s the big picture, but it all starts with opening day. Royals get their title defence underway against the Uni-Norths Owls away from home in round one.
The ANU North Oval fixture will be a grand-final grudge match in the Premier 15s competition while the John I Dent Cup clash will be a repeat of the round one blockbuster last season which saw the Owls score three times in five minutes to turn Royals over on their home patch.
Gungahlin Eagles are likely to be strong once again in 2021, the grand finalists hoping a few key recruits will be the extra spark they need to claim the title.
Their round one opponents Wests are somewhat of an unknown quantity, but have been impressive in preseason.
Completing the round one lineup is the Gage Roads game of the week between Tuggeranong and Queanbeyan.
Vikings are certainly preseason favourites on paper, and will put the Bob Hitchcock Territory Shield on the line against a Whites side which has a couple Brumbies stars boosting their opening day chances.
It will also be a historic day at Viking Park for Queanbeyan in the Premier 15s as well, with the Whites fielding a women’s side for the first time, taking on the Tuggeraning Viqueens.