19th May 2011, 11:20
Welsh Conference set to kick-off
Five-time winners Bridgend Blue Bulls will start the season as the rec
With the first week delayed, five-time champions Bridgend Blue Bulls will finally start the season as the recognised favourites to win the Welsh Conference Premier when it kicks off this Saturday with three exciting clashes.
They go into the season on the back of a very narrow loss to Valley Cougars in last year's Grand Final and are hoping to take the title in 2011 after missing out for the last two seasons.
The Cougars and Bulls dominated the league last season, and with the Cougars' first team now playing at a higher level in the Conference National and winning their first two games, it is expected that a new challenger will "front up" to the expected Blue Bulls dominance.
Blue Bulls Chairman Simon Green said: "We were disappointed that we were missing several key players for last years' final and narrowly missed out on the title.
"We have retained the services of almost all the players who played last summer and have recruited a number of new guys during the close season.
"We again have a great mix of youth and experience, with a 25-year age span from Huw Rosser, who starred for us as a 17-year old last season to evergreen legend Tevita Manaseitava who refuses to retire until we are crowned Welsh Champions for a sixth time."
The Blue Bulls travel to Torfaen Tigers' Pontypool United ground and the Tigers are determined to make their mark with an opening day win.
Torfaen Tigers Coach Rob Davies said: "There is a real Buzz around Torfaen about the Tigers Club in 2011.
"Our young squad (average age 23) gained valuable experience last year in the Championship and showed glimpses of what it was capable of and we have now recruited heavily in the off season from both codes."
Valley Cougars are hopeful that their new second-string "A" side will be competitive in the Welsh Conference when the majority of the club's first choice players are successfully turning out in the Conference National instead.
The Cougars travel to face Cardiff Demons at St Albans RFC in Cardiff on Saturday and Valley Cougars Media Officer Karl Jones said: "We hope that the "A" team can be competitive as it will benefit on two fronts - the team aiming for a place in the Grand Final and the opportunity to retain the title, whilst players in that team will hopefully push our first 13 for places."
Cardiff Demons have always been competitive and celebrate their tenth anniversary of their first game of Conference Rugby League this Saturday, but are playing down their chances this season.
According to Coach Idris Evans: "2011 looks set to be one of the most challenging ever for the Demons in what looks to be a rebuilding year. Several key experienced players retiring last year has left huge holes that will be filled by young blood."
CPC Bears will look to be tested by the former Newport Titans side, now known simply as "Titans" following their move to Machen, when the two sides meet at Carmarthen Athletic RFC.
Whilst the Bears have led the way in their youth development structure, their senior team failed to impress last season and will need to improve this summer.
Chairman Geraint Jones said: "The CPC Bears are looking forward to the start of their second season, with a number of new players and others returning to the sport we will be looking to make steady progress over the summer, and will give a warm welcome to all teams when visiting West Wales."
Meanwhile Earl Palmer, coach at the Titans said: "With the Titans finding a new permanent home at Machen RFC, the future is looking very bright for the team, I have high hopes this season and expect us to be a lot stronger than in years past."
Meanwhile in the Championship, new side Bonymaen Broncos will face a big test when they take on new local rivals Neath Port Talbot Steelers at Bonymaen RFC while Blackwood Bulldogs open life in the Championship after relegation last year when they travel to Dowlais RFC, the new home of Tydfil Wildcats.
The 2011 season starts on May 21st and looks set to be a great competition. Fixture information is available by clicking here.
By Paul Hart, Media Officer at Bridgend Blue Bulls ARLFC.