RIVALRIES RESUMING: USQ winger Martin Van Staden on the charge against Toowoomba Rangers at USQ Oval last season.
RIVALRIES RESUMING: USQ winger Martin Van Staden on the charge against Toowoomba Rangers at USQ Oval last season. Kevin Farmer

2013 Darling Downs rugby season launches today

THE champions will lay in wait for another week while their challengers will be out to hit the ground running when the 2013 Darling Downs rugby season launches today.

Reigning Risdon Cup premiers Goondiwindi can rightfully be labelled pre-season favourites for this year's competition after a dominant end to the 2012 season, capped by a 27-22 grand final win over Toowoomba Bears.

The Emus sit out a first-round bye today before kicking off their year next Saturday at Condamine.

But the race for valuable early-season premiership points begins in earnest amongst their rivals with two city and two country matches to be decided.

Attracting plenty of first-up interest will be the cross-town clash of USQ and Toowoomba Rangers.

Rangers again have Tom Crockett in the head coaching role while Saints welcome back Greg Convery who helped guide the club to a flying start in last year's competition before stepping aside mid-season.

USQ will be without halfback Shaun Qualischefski this week while newcomer Nathan Murphy will play five-eighth today with USQ's inspirational number 10 Mitch Logan missing from the line-up this season.

"It's early days for everyone but all teams will be keen to make a good start to the year and Rangers will definitely come out hard at us tomorrow," Convery said.

Bears are at home against Dalby today at Heritage Oval and can expect a rugged opening against a Wheatmen side desperate to improve on its disappointing 2012 season.

Roma also endured a below-par 2012 and the Echidnas will be looking to make an early-season impression away to the Condamine Cods.

St George is also eager to lift this year and travels to Gatton where the Frillnecks meet UQ/Highfields.



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