AT THE END OF THE DAY | Western’s black and white dynamite ready to fire

ONE WIN AWAY: Josh Rainbow and Ben Maguire are two key players for their respective sides ahead of Sunday's Group 10 and Group 11 deciders, where Cowra will play Panthers and Forbes faces CYMS.
ONE WIN AWAY: Josh Rainbow and Ben Maguire are two key players for their respective sides ahead of Sunday's Group 10 and Group 11 deciders, where Cowra will play Panthers and Forbes faces CYMS.

It’s odd, sometimes, how things marry up.

Last year we had the Oberon Tigers and Nyngan Tigers both qualify for their respective Group 10 and Group 11 grand finals.

Both sides stumbled on the final Sunday of the season – their premiership droughts continue - but the lead-up to the deciders was brilliant.

The two Tiger towns were draped in black and gold and, in turn, so too were both Wade Park and Apex Oval.

And, now, 12 months on we’re faced with a similar scenario.

So, at risk of being the subject of another Tim Ryan spray post Group 11 grand final, here we go again …

It’s officially swooping season.

Not because we’ve hit the start of spring, although it’s tough not to notice the increase in cyclists wearing those silly looking antennas on their helmets, but because the mighty Forbes and Cowra rugby league clubs have both won through to their respective deciders.

The Magpies, as their both known.

Cowra booked its place in the Group 10 grand final after a late, Caley Mok penalty goal secured the black and whites a remarkable 26-24 major semi-final win over Hawks.

From that moment it’s like the entire Cowra community has inhaled, and is too frightened to breathe out.

That sigh of relief won’t come until Josh Rainbow has the Western Challenge Cup firmly in his grasp.

You see, the Cowra swoopers have been in this position before.

It was 2014, Cowra won through to the grand final via the major semi-final and earned hosting rights for the deciders. Steve Sutton’s side was billed as a decent shot of snapping the club’s then 19-year title drought, too.

It wasn’t meant to be, though.

Bathurst St Pat’s stormed to a 34-12 victory, ending the Cowra club’s premiership dream seemingly quicker than it started. 

You could forgive the club for sensing a touch of deja vu, too.

First through to the grand final, again. Another Bathurst team set to arrive as the challenger, again. Steve Sutton coached Cowra in 2014 and hasn’t been back at the helm again until now, 2018.

THEY'RE BACK: Nine members of Cowra's 2014 grand final squad are back and will contest the 2018 Group 10 grand final on Sunday.

THEY'RE BACK: Nine members of Cowra's 2014 grand final squad are back and will contest the 2018 Group 10 grand final on Sunday.

But he won’t make the same mistakes again. Neither will the club’s experienced players.

Guys like Ron Lawrence. Blake Tidswell. Warren Williams – he’s essentially carried the club on his back since graduating out of under 18s in 2004 as one of the most prodigiously talented players Western has produced.

Jeremy Gordon? He’s done just about everything in Group 10, except win a title.

Then there’s the skipper, and you talk to Rainbow and he’s as focused as he’s been in his career, which included a stint down in Sydney where he was part of the original NSW Blues emerging origin squad.

Rainbow has always had the talent, that much is abundantly clear.

He’s now got the drive, too, and that’s been crucial. A ball-playing wrecking ball that whacks in defence, has a handy left-foot kick and is hugely respected – it could be the key to Cowra’s success.

The bond we’ve got, everyone is equal.

Forbes Magpies skipper Jake Grace after his side's 30-point win over Wellington.

From one steely-faced skipper to the other, one so confident in his own team’s ability he’s basically been saying ‘look at us’ for a month now.

We see you, Jake Grace, don’t worry.

It’s impossible not too, especially after the black and whites from Forbes irresistibly accounted for Wellington 54-24 in last Sunday’s preliminary final at Dubbo.

While Cowra is treading softly softly ahead of their Sunday decider, Forbes is slamming down the door at Apex Oval.

They have every right to, though.

“Smells like 2016”, the Magpies bench said after essentially lapping Parkes, a top three side, 44-6 in the final round of the regular season.

They said it again in week one of the finals. Week two, again. And then, again, last weekend.

That smell from 2016? It’s the endearing waft of a premiership glory.

BACK IN THE DAY: Jake Grace leads the Magpies out in 2016.

BACK IN THE DAY: Jake Grace leads the Magpies out in 2016.

That year, the club snapped a 29-year first grade title drought with a pulsating 26-22 victory over Sunday’s opponent, the Fishies.

“The self belief in the squad is pretty high at the moment,” Grace said in a post-game interview at Apex on Sunday.

Understandable given the footy Forbes is producing. But this next grab sums up the Group 11 swoopers best.

“The bond we’ve got, everyone is equal,” he added.

“We’ve got one more game to turn up and give it our best, the result will take care of itself.”

There’s no big noting, not internally, from the black and whites out west.

Nor is there from the Group 10 variety, either.

So while last year’s Western Rams grand finals in Group 10 and Group 11 had a distinct black and gold feel about them, Sunday’s 2018 deciders will be awash with black and white.

One club quietly hoping of a break-through, the other club boldly dreaming of a second crown in three years.

Either way, Cowra and Forbes can dare to dream. They’ve got two pretty handy footy teams allowing them to. 

And, just quietly, how good would a back-row with Josh Rainbow and Jake Grace be? 

SWOOP.

GROUP 11 GRAND FINAL DRAW:

Sunday, September 9: Apex Oval, Dubbo: 10.30am start:

LEAGUE TAG: Parkes Spacecats v Dubbo Westside.

RESERVE GRADE: Dubbo CYMS v Dubbo Macquarie.

UNDER 18s: Forbes Magpies v Dubbo CYMS.

FIRST GRADE: Dubbo CYMS v Forbes Magpies.

GROUP 10 GRAND FINAL DRAW:

Sunday, September 9: Sid Kallas Oval, Cowra: 9am start:

UNDER 18s LEAGUE TAG: Orange Hawks v Mudgee Dragons.

LEAGUE TAG: Bathurst St Pats v Orange Hawks.

UNDER 18s: Bathurst Panthers v Orange CYMS.

FIRST DIVISION: Bathurst St Pats v Bathurst Panthers.

PREMIER LEAGUE: Cowra Magpies v Bathurst Panthers.