Forget your bulky bags packed with blankets and winter woollies ... day-time rugby has returned to the Hawke's Bay Magpies ITM Cup schedule big time this winter.
Magpies coach Craig Philpott was just as delighted as the Hawke's Bay union's commercial manager Jay Campbell when the draw was announced yesterday.
"Four of our 10 games have a 2.35pm kick-off and two of those are here at home. We also have two 4.35pm games at home and one away ... last year we didn't have any 2.35pm games at home," Philpott said.
He was happy there wasn't a repeat of last year's congested start to the campaign which saw the Magpies play Auckland, Wellington and Counties-Manukau within a nine-day period at the start of the season. During the first three weeks of the cup campaign the Magpies will play one game a week starting with a Kel Tremain Memorial Trophy challenge against the Manawatu Turbos at McLean Park.
There will only be one nine-day period where the Magpies play three games, from September 7-15. An away trip to Taranaki is in the middle of home games against Counties-Manukau and Northland during this period.
"We will place a big emphasis on winning our home games this season," Philpott said.
Last year the Magpies lost two of their five home games.
Premiership opponents for the Championship Magpies this season will be Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, Counties-Manukau and Wellington. The Magpies don't play Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato this season.
There is a chance of a Ranfurly Shield challenge if Otago beats Waikato on August 23 as the Magpies will be Otago's next opponents in Dunedin on September 1.
Philpott's biggest concerns relate to his Super Rugby players.
"We've got players spread across five different franchises. The final is on August 3 and players need a two-week stand-down before ITM Cup play so we may not have several players available for the first round. The mental and physical wellbeing of these players will have to be monitored closely," he said.
He pointed out former All Black halfback Alby Mathewson has played every minute of the Force team's games to date and if this continues, he is one of the Bay's Super players who may require a substantial rest before turning out for the Magpies.
Campbell agreed the day games are easier to market as crowds prefer them to night matches. He said he believes the Magpies style of play in recent seasons is also more suited to day-time conditions.
The Magpies only 7.35pm home match is against Wellington on October 10. Both Philpott and Campbell are confident of a good turnout because, everything going to plan, this will be a key match in the side's quest to secure a home semifinal.