As one of the biggest characters in country footy, it’s hard to imagine Simon Osborne finding a home in a small town.
But the ex-NSW Residents gun has done just that.
And, more so, the former Orange CYMS, Bathurst Panthers, Bathurst St Pat’s and Mudgee Dragons enforcer says there’s a lot to learn not just from his latest club, the Manildra Rhinos, but the Woodbridge Cup competition as a whole.
The Woodbridge Cup used to be the Group Nine second division premiership but has, for a while now, stood alone as a competition in the bush.
It’s a title race, seemingly, going from strength-to-strength, too.
Last Sunday, Trundle knocked over the Rhinos in the 2018 decider at Jack Huxley Oval in front of what was a record grand final crowd of over 1800 people at Manildra, a town that’s every-day population is just shy of 500.
In many ways, the stars aligned to create that slice of history but Osborne believes the success stems from good planning rather than good luck.
The Woodbridge Cup management handed Manildra the hosting rights of the 2018 deciders well in advance of the Rhinos’ incredible run from fifth place to book a spot in the decider.
Osborne says sharing around grand final hosting rights is a concept that needs to be looked at by bigger Group competitions, too, in order to keep the game alive in country NSW.
If they start following in the steps of Woodbridge Cup then football will be a lot stronger in the country.Manildra Rhinos captain-coach Simon Osborne.
He says sharing the rights helps keep the Cup competition’s clubs financial and gives fans in each centre a chance to stay home for a decider.
“Have a look at it, this crowd, the support these small towns get … this is what every Group should be doing,” he said.
The Group 10 and Group 11 grand finals are on this Sunday.
Group 10’s hosting rights go to the winner of the major semi-final – which has been the case for a long time – and as a result Cowra will host this year’s Group 10 big dance at Sid Kallas Oval.
Group 11 almost always hosts its biggest day of the year at Dubbo’s Apex Oval.
Since 2010, Orange, Cowra and Lithgow are the only Group 10 towns to host grand finals.
While, the only grand final outside of Dubbo in the last 10 years was at Parkes in 2011.
In the last four years alone, Manildra, Trundle, Condobolin and Binalong have all hosted Woodbridge Cup deciders.
“If they start following in the steps of Woodbridge Cup then football will be a lot stronger in the country,” Osborne said.
“It’s a good concept, and it doesn’t matter where it’s played. Whoever is in a grand final gets a good following.”
Premiership-winning Trundle five-eighth Adam Porter agreed with Osborne, saying the Boomers recent success stems from the small-town love.
“Good players (and coaches) like Hayden Robinson and Adam Hall, they make it gel,” he said.
“But it’s all about the town. They get behind us and everyone loves it. It’s nice to win back-to-back.”