GROUP Nine have slashed their finals series to three weeks following the introduction of a top-four.
In a major shift from tradition, the final-five format was abandoned after clubs voted for change during a meeting at Wagga on Thursday night.
The competition will start on April 14.
Albury Thunder president Rick O’Connell said he was open-minded about the changes.
“I’m happy with the 16 rounds,” O’Connell said.
“With the split round it will allow teams to freshen up.
“The significant number of clubs were in favour of the top four and we are happy to go with that.
“I would have liked to have spoken to our guys more about it, but the general consensus was to push ahead with it.
“We will give anything a try.”
Group Nine president Jack Morton said avoiding another clash with the junior grand finals was a major reason for the change.
The grand final will be played on September 1.
Morton is happy with 16 matches, the same number as when Tumbarumba played in the competition last year before going into recess.
The change to the competition’s starting date means Albury Thunder is now looking for another trial game after Easter.
“With the season starting later, we will definitely look at something else,” O’Connell said.
Thunder will bypass the West Wyalong Knockout this year in favour of the Canberra 9s,
Reigning champion Gundagai have also withdrawn, leaving Junee, Brothers, Southcity, Young, Temora and Kangaroos as the only Group 9 clubs in the competition.
“Adrian (Purtell) obviously has contacts in Canberra from his playing days there and he’s decided to go that way,” O’Connell said.
“You are guaranteed X amount of games and we thought we would go with something different this year.”