And so, for Orange CYMS, life without Ben McAlpine and Chris Bamford begins.
The former Group 10 player of the year and the reigning MVP both leave massive holes in CYMS’ side and the loss of premiership-winning back-rowers Brenden Cousins and Tim Mortimer doesn’t help either.
Considering those losses and CYMS’ uncharacteristic silence over the off-season, captain-coach Mick Sullivan has put together an intriguing side for this weekend’s Bathurst Panthers Knockout, albeit one hit by unavailability.
What will be more interesting is how the green and golds come together without, arguably, four of their best from 2017’s title win.
But that’s largely what this weekend, and any other potential trials, will be about, Sullivan says.
With the likes of Ryan Griffin, Tom Satterthwaite and brothers Jerome and Tyrone Harrison all unavailable, Sullivan has turned to young guns Craig Simpson, Dylan Wood, Lincoln Monk and Ethan Kennedy this weekend.
“It is a fresh start in a way and (without that quartet) this year will be a new challenge for us, and a good one for the young guys to step up into a first grade role,” Sullivan, who will play halfback, said.
“I know everyone is writing us, saying we’ll be flat out competing every week, but we still have a bit of time left before round one and this weekend will be a good chance to have a look at some of those younger guys.
This year will be a new challenge for us, and a good one for the young guys to step up into a first grade role.CYMS captain-coach Mick Sullivan
“Guys like Lincoln Monk, Ethan Kennedy, Dylan Wood. The knockout is the knockout, you know, it’s not the be all and end all, but we’ll try and get something out of it.
“We were looking at another trial after the knockout but we’re getting knocked around a bit by the Western Rams stuff.
“We’ve got a lot of guys playing across the age groups and it is good in that it brings them through but it means we’d be throwing together a pretty understrength side for that trial, and I’ve never been that big on trial games anyway.”
CYMS face Mudgee in the first premier league game of the carnival, from 7.50pm on Friday evening.
The winner of that game will go on to battle Orange Hawks on Saturday, with a semi-final berth on the line.
“It’s probably a pretty good match-up, us and Mudgee. I think they’ll be scratching a bit as well,” Sullivan said.
- ORANGE CYMS: 1 Dylan Wood, 2 Lincoln Monk, 3 Ethan Kennedy, 4 Lachie Munro, 5 Semisi Katoa, 6 Luke Petrie, 7 Mick Sullivan (c), 8 Joe Duffy, 9 Craig Simpson, 10 Cam Jones, 11 Rob Mortimer, 12 Adam Stanford, 13 Brock McGarity