Oberon will unveil its new crack squad for the first time in 2018 at the West Wyalong Knockout later this month.
And Luke Branighan’s side’s run at the rich pre-season crown has opened up thanks to the omission of another black and gold outfit.
Gundagai’s reign at the West Wyalong Knockout is over after the Group Nine heavyweights decided not to enter this year.
The Tigers had a change of tact two seasons ago and entered for the first time in decades.
They were successful, downing Kangaroos in the decider, before getting the better of Southcity last season.
However this time around Gundagai captain-coach James Smart doesn’t believe it suits.
“It is enjoyable and a good competition but as good as it was to go over and win it with our team being relatively settled, we haven’t got a lot of guys going out or coming in, and the average age of our team I thought four games of footy over a weekend probably isn’t the best thing,” Smart said.
“It’s worked out even more so that the competition is going to be pushed back.”
Instead the Tigers will play a three way trial with Group 7 club Jamberoo and Manly club Forestville in Manly.
Despite the absence of Gundagai there is another strong line-up plus plenty of new faces at the knockout as the popular pre-season event continues to expand.
South Sydney District Junior Rugby Football League club Moore Park Broncos are among the 16 clubs entered for this year’s event.
There have also been two Group 7 clubs nominate in Nowra-Bomaderry Jets and Shellharbour Sharks.
Shellharbour became the first team from the South Coast to enter the annual event last season but did not compete.
There are six Group Nine clubs nominated this season, down from seven last year.
New Albury captain-coach Adrian Purtell has elected to play in the Canberra 9s, but Junee is back in the fold after missing last year.
Brothers, Southcity, Young, Temora and Kangaroos have also entered.
There are three Group 20 clubs with Yenda and Tullibigeal Lakes United joining the hosts.
Two of the top three Group 10 teams from last season have entered with former Cherrypickers’ captain-coach Luke Branighan entering with Oberon Tigers.
They join Bathurst Panthers, who the Tigers knocked out in the prelimiary final.
Canberra club Woden Valley Rams and Cobar, from Barwon Darling, complete the field
A draw for the event on February 23 and 24 is expected shortly.