When Matt Tink took his role as Central West Rugby Union chief executive officer he had a simple mission – make it the envy of other regions across the state, and country.
It may not be quite there yet, but the somewhat polarising restructuring of the region’s competitions into three tiers has certainly injected a new vigour into the players, and supporters.
It’s made each division more competitive, too.
There’s still been some blowouts and some teams have battled against classier opposition that will always happen to an extent, though – but for the most part the move has dramatically increased the level of competition and, in turn, the standard of play too.
“The talk around the water-cooler, so to speak, is that everyone is reasonably happy with how things are going, players are going into Saturday knowing you are not going to get the crap beaten out of you,” Tink said.
“I think the generic feedback from the clubs is that the towns are showing up a bit more to watch as well, the supporters, because they can see a bit of a contest.
Now with the Blowes Clothing Cup – the men's top tier – finals kicking off on Saturday and the other competitions’ play-offs continuing, Tink is certain there’ll be more gripping contests to come.
In that top tier minor premiers Orange Emus are intent on making amends for last year’s grand final loss, the 28-20 defeat at Forbes’ hands was the greens’ only one of the season.
The Platypi are still in the mix too, as are Cowra. The Eagles will host the Platypi in Sunday’s minor semi-final, the first final they’ve hosted in five years.
Bathurst Bulldogs are gunning to end an eight-year title drought and will head to Endeavour Oval for Saturday’s major semi-final.
So, who’s the favourite?
“If I put myself in the position of the coaches, I’d be nervous no matter which team I had,” Tink said.
“As they say any given Sunday, anything can happen and the competition has been like that this year. You’ve got to get up for it every week.
“We saw that out at Forbes a couple of weeks ago, Cowra were right up for it and Forbes probably mentally weren’t there on the day and Cowra did a job on them.
“Then the week before Emus didn’t quite seem there and Forbes did a job on them. I think the talent is spread very evenly, so I think the mental aspect of game day is a big one for every club.”
The GrainCorp Cup grand finals are also on this Saturday, as are the New Holland Agriculture Cup preliminary finals, with entry just $5 this year rather than the $15 charge that’s been in place in recent seasons.