ALBURY Thunder has welcomed Group Nine's decision to play an eight-round season starting on July 18. Although Temora and Cootamundra will be missing from the competition, Thunder president Rick O'Connell said the remaining clubs were keen to get the competition underway as soon as possible. Thunder will host Southcity in a rivalry round in the opening week. "It's good to have a plan in place," O'Connell said. "Clubs were keen to get things going and we can now get stuck into training. "Once we start training I think more and more players will become interested and want to be a part of it again." Albury Thunder will train this week with the numbers to determine how many sides the club fields this season. First grade will train on Wednesday and Friday from 6pm. Each club will have four home matches. A top four is planned, spanning over three weeks, with the grand final to be played at Wagga's Equex Centre on September 27. Group Nine chairman Peter McDermott said the competition's return from coronavirus was a big win for rugby league. "It was a very positive meeting, all the clubs were very positive and I see it as a huge win for rugby league and country sport," McDermott said. McDermott expects to have a first grade draw completed by the end of the week. However it may take longer for the lower grades to be finalised with clubs still taking stock of overall player numbers for the under 16s, under 18s and reserve grade competitions. McDermott believes a better indication of reserve grade will come through in the next week with a lot of players waiting for a more concrete decision to be made. Kangaroos were among the keenest sides to get back on the training paddock, creating their own return to training program before NSW Rugby League gave the green light. President Peter Hurst is pleased to have the season going ahead. "The green light is what we've been looking for and everyone is in, everyone is keen and we are all working for the greater good of footy," Hurst said. "Everyone is happy with the outcome. It was a good meeting. "Cootamundra and Temora put their case forward and everyone knows their own scenario and are doing it for the betterment of the game and their club. "Hopefully they can use this negative as a positive and come back bigger and better next year but for this year we're excited." While a draw will be finalised in coming days, it is expected Albury and Southcity will lock horns, Tumut will host a blockbuster clash with arch enemy Gundagai, Brothers and Kangaroos will face off at Equex Centre with Young to tackle Junee in round one.