There were plenty of stand-out performers across the zone last weekend. From past Western guns to some of the genuine stars of the future, check out this week’s gallery to see some of the best from Saturday and Sunday’s association cricket in our Team of the Week XI.
Finals fever hits zone
We’ve waited all summer for this.
The business end of the cricket season has arrived in the zone, with Bathurst’s final series beginning last weekend and Orange and Dubbo associations kicking off their race for the title this coming Saturday.
Rugby Union is the first team through to the big dance in Bathurst while Orange City also qualifies for the colour city’s decider on the back of winning the minor premiership, comfortably, and the ODCA employing a top three this summer.
Rugby is also in the box seat to earn the first grand final berth at Dubbo having claimed the minor title on the weekend.
And if they get there, game breakers like Ben Patterson, James O'Brien and Jordan Moran won’t be joined by an old foe.
Only those who have been running around Dubbo for many a summer can remember a time when RSL-Colts didn't feature in the finals.
The men in red have dominated the competition for the best part of two decades but will watch on as Rugby, Macquarie and South Dubbo battle it out for the title.
Much like Cavaliers’ incredible run of eight straight crowns in Orange, all good things come to an end.
Game’s changing, let’s embrace it
I trekked out to Canowindra on Sunday for what is now an annual pilgrimage to Tom Clyburn Oval for the Western Challenge.
I wasn’t alone either.
An impressive 22 teams, a lot of their supporters and coaching staff defied the heat to produce some quality league tag, which was good to see so early in the season.
A stack of the girls scattered across all of the teams – from Lithgow to Dubbo and Mudgee down to Tuggeranong – play contact rugby league as well, most of them would have played in the latest round of the Western Women’s Rugby League competition the day before.
The girls – and their coaches, most of them double up, too – are putting in a massive effort to represent their regions and their clubs.
Their dedication is faultless and needs applause.
Five or six years ago, most competitions didn’t run league tag competitions.
These girls weren’t part of the game.
Women have long been part of the fabric of clubs, particularly in the bush, but their on-field presence is now ingrained into every club in the region as well.
At Group or Cup level, every club has a league tag team.
They’re as valuable to any club as a solid junior base, a reserve grade side full of experience or a first grade team topping the table.
You often hear a lot of people say bush footy is dying.
And to an extent that comment isn’t as far fetched as it sounds – the ARL commission seems irrelevant and rugby league in the country could always do with more funding.
But those people preparing the game’s eulogy in regional NSW need to take a breath, step back and head down to a footy club in 2018.
Bush footy isn’t what it used to be, sure, but it’s not dying either.
Sport is changing, rugby league clubs are changing, and the development of women’s rugby league and the league tag game is, if anything, helping keep some clubs relevant.
The quicker change is embraced the further the game, and its clubs, will go.
TAKE A LOOK AT …
The Bathurst Knockout, is its time up?
Mudgee won both its premier league and first division clashes on Friday night only to then forfeit the second round games on the Saturday.
Fairly, the organisers of the tournament weren’t happy – none of the knocked out teams wanted to take Mudgee’s place either.
There’s 30-odd years of history for the tournament at Bathurst, but times change. It might be time for a rethink on the format.
As a bit of perspective, it’s near $10,000 to win the West Wyalong knockout, while the winner of the Mudgee Nines took home $5000.
Panthers took home $3000 for Saturday’s knockout win.