A HISTORIC Friday night game and Sunday blockbusters are centrepieces of the Hampden Football Netball League’s 2014 season.
Arch-rivals Port Fairy and Koroit will open the new year on April 5, followed by a stand-alone Sunday clash between traditional enemies Warrnambool and South Warrnambool.
The draw, released yesterday, has the season opening earlier than usual and includes two rounds before a break for Easter.
Hostilities will then resume on Anzac Day, a Friday.
The success of three matches this season on April 25 has prompted return clashes on the memorial day — Portland hosting Hamilton Kangaroos and Koroit playing at home against South Warrnambool.
In a first for the league, fierce rivals Cobden and Camperdown will play a Friday night game at Cobden.
The Anzac Day night game will be the first of two night fixtures for Cobden, which will host neighbour Terang Mortlake in round six.
In other highlights:
Hamilton Kangaroos will host two Sunday games and play a third away;
Warrnambool and South Warrnambool will clash in two Sunday games in a return to years past;
Port Fairy will play two Sunday matches against the Kangaroos for the second consecutive year and coach Bernard Moloney will lead his new side North Warrnambool Eagles against old club Camperdown for the first time in round one.
Those wanting grand final rematches will have to wait until round five for netball premier North Warrnambool Eagles to face off against runner-up Koroit, while football premier Warrnambool won’t play its grand final victim Koroit until round six.
The draw includes a bye for interleague and a mid-season bye in July, meaning the season stretches over 25 weeks. The fixture has all three Warrnambool-based clubs playing away in the same round three times, leaving the biggest population centre without major league competition in rounds five, seven and 15. All three play at home on the same day three times — rounds six, 14 and 16.
Neighbours Port Fairy and Koroit are drawn to both play away on the same day three times and are at home on the same day four times.
Camperdown and Cobden play away on the same day four times and at home on the same day four times, although Cobden plays at night on one of those occasions. The league had long tried to avoid having those clubs clash given their close proximity.
League chief executive officer Mike Farrow said each club had a home-and-away game in the first two rounds in a bid to kick-start interest at the start of the season.
He denied scheduling neighbouring rivals away on the same day would give district league clubs playing in those areas a free-kick in terms of crowd numbers.
“I believe if you are a Hampden club supporter you are Hampden and if you are a district league person you are district league,” he said.
“It’s hard to do it (avoid clashes) now with the number of teams in the competition. Maybe we are encouraging people to follow their teams away more.”