Saturday’s grand final rematch between Launceston and Taroona is set to dominate Round 1 discussion but there’s plenty riding on Friday night’s season opener between Hobart Lions and University.
The Sandy Bay neighbours will clash under lights at Rugby Park and University coach Michael Donnellan has high expectations for the students in 2023.
“Finals is our ambition as a unit and my ambition as a coach, there’s no doubt we’ve got the talent to get there,” Donnellan said.
“There’s been some changes like all clubs over the summer with key players like Jarrod Mabo and Liam Talty moving away but we’ve still got some old heads around to ground our younger fellas and have a good crack this year.
“We really want to start the season with a win as we traditionally haven’t been able to do that, so having Lions first up is a great opportunity.
“They’re our closest neighbours and rivals, they’re a side we enjoy beating and we want to beat them twice in 2023 – starting tomorrow.”
Round 1 Premiership Fixtures
Hobart Lions v University - Friday 6.30pm @ Rugby Park 1
Taroona v Launceston - Saturday 3:00pm @ Rugby Park 1
Hobart Harlequins v Burnie - Saturday 3:00pm @ Rugby Park 2
Glenorchy v Devonport - Saturday 3:00pm @ Eady Street
University is set to unveil Henry Davis as their new skipper after the forward’s breakout 2022 season with Ian Snyders and Harry Jensen directing from the halves.
“Henry’s our man to lead us to finals – he’s a good player, a good bloke and he’s been given that responsibility. We’re confident he can make his mark on the club before he heads home next season,” Donnellan said.
For his part, Lions coach Nick Marshall isn’t buying into University’s pre-game hype.
“Rivalries are good for bragging on social media – as far as I’m concerned all opposition jerseys are white and our players should always be up for a game regardless of who they’re again,” Marshall said.
“If (University) want to build it up they’re welcome to do so, but we’ve got our plans and we’ll just focus on ourselves.”
Round 1 Women's Fixtures
All Saturday fixtures at Rugby Park Field 1
11:00am - Launceston v Eastern Suburbs
11:20am - Harlequeens v Taroona
11:40am - University v Launceston
12:00pm - Harlequeens v Burnie
12:20pm - University v Eastern Suburbs
12:40pm - Burnie v Taroona
Finals TBA from 1:20pm-2:20pm
Veteran flyhalf Ian Clack has been named skipper for the 2023 season with Marshall eager to see his side’s pre-season efforts pay off.
“I’m sure all clubs have improved over the off-season but we’ve been really working on upskilling our players technically and tactically,” Marshall said.
Round 1’s Saturday fixtures in the Premiership (Men's 1st Grade) see the Penguins and Tigers collide at Rugby Park Field 1 with Hobart Harlequins hosting Burnie Emus over on Field 2.
Glenorchy also open their season at home with Devonport Bulls travelling to Eady Street while Eastern Suburbs kick off their Championship (Men's 2nd Grade) season against Taroona at Rugby Park.
In the women's Round 1 carnival at Rugby Park, Launceston and Eastern Suburbs kick things off at 11am with defending premiers University also set to feature alongside Burnie and Harlequeens.