Yass Magpies begin 2020 CRRL season with trial by fire

Canberra Region Rugby League has released the draws for the 2020 season, and it is safe to say that the Yass Magpies senior men have been thrown in the deep end.

Kicked off: The Yass Magpies will get their season underway on April 18 against the West Belconnen Warriors at Walker Park. Photo: Zac Lowe.

Kicked off: The Yass Magpies will get their season underway on April 18 against the West Belconnen Warriors at Walker Park. Photo: Zac Lowe.

Round one gets underway with a fixture against the West Belconnen Warriors on April 18 at Walker Park.

The Warriors, who finished 2019 ranked fifth and only just missed out on a finals berth, have appointed former Canberra Raider Matt Gafa to the role of head coach.

Gafa, who formerly captained the Belconnen United Scholars back in 2009, will bring a new flavour to the Warriors side, and the opening clash should give the Magpies a good opportunity to gauge where they stand early in the season.

Yass will face a sterner challenge in round two on April 26, when the team will face the Tuggeranong Bushrangers, also at Walker Park.

Having earned a second place finish and preliminary final berth last year, the Bushrangers go into 2020 as one of the teams to beat.

Under the eye of former Yass Magpies coach and CRRL 2019 Coach of the Year, Jarrad Teka, the Bushrangers are a formidable outfit - as evidenced by their three players named in the CRRL Team of the Year.

Though the Magpies will have the home field advantage, they will need to be at their best to face down the 2018 grand finalists, who have built a reputation for consistency in recent seasons.

In round three, the Magpies will have a bye, before a fixture against the Belconnen United Sharks at O'Connor Oval in round four.

Though the Sharks were inconsistent last year and floated around the bottom half of the ladder, they have had a busy off-season and signed former Canberra Raiders forward Shaun Fensom.

Fensom is one of four new recruits to the Sharks, alongside Nukurua Ngere (Queanbeyan Kangaroos), Sam Bramich (Gungahlin Bulls) and Seth Going (Canberra Royals rugby union).

He joins former Raiders teammate Glen Buttriss at Belconnen, and the pair will headline a revamped and intimidating lineup for the Sharks in 2020.

Meanwhile, the Magpies had their first pre-season run last weekend at the West Wyalong Knockout.

After a close win over the Tulli-Lakes United Sharks in round one, the Magpies faced a strong South City Bulls outfit in the quarter finals and lost 20-0.

The Bulls went on to lose their semi-final against eventual champions, the Goulburn Bulldogs.

The Magpies will field a largely unchanged side this year, with the exception of the return of the Barrie brothers from Queanbeyan, and will undergo a trial by fire to begin the 2020 season.

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