Twelve months ago the New Era Cup was perilously close to folding but in a remarkable, rejuvenating turnaround the 2020 season is set to be one of its best yet.
With eight clubs locked in by Group 10 Rugby League's executive a fortnight ago returning New Era Cup president Dallas Booth said there remains a chance of a ninth in Lithgow Shamrocks too.
Blackheath, the 2018 premiers, return after withdrawing last year while Kandos is back for its 100th anniversary season, Oberon has dropped from Group 10 and Orange United Sports Club has been accepted too.
They complement CSU Bathurst, Barbarians, Portland and Lithgow Bears, however despite being denied by Group 10's executive the Shamrocks have continued their bid to form again.
[Shamrocks] have come up with resolutions ... it's been forwarded on to Group 10.New Era Cup president Dallas Booth
The club, which formed in 1966 and won three Group 10 titles before disbanding in 2000, was denied due to concerns regarding pressure on the area's player pool, referee stocks and venue availability.
Booth confirmed the Shamrocks club has 'answered every question they've needed to and been very open about it' since then though, the decision is now back in Group 10's hands.
"They've done everything they need to to get in," Booth said.
"There are obviously some issues with Lithgow being a smaller town, whether or not another team is viable there. One of the issues is how it will effect Lithgow Workies and Bears, the other issue is the field.
"They have come up with resolutions that they believe will not hamper those sides and still allow them to be in the competition. It's been forwarded on to Group 10."
While Booth said he anticipated some growth in 2020 and was hoping for a six-club competition, he admits he didn't expect this kind of aggressive expansion, he's excited by it though.
"There was a real chance the comp was going to shut down this year, there were only four teams.... (but) if we did shut the comp down, it would be very, very hard for it to come back," Booth said.
"We did say teams like Blackheath and Kandos should be able to recover in 12 months and get a team together ... we were hoping we'd get a six team comp the following year.
"But with news about ... Orange United Sports Club, that's awesome. Oberon it's a bit of a shame they're not in Group 10, but now they're really excited to be able to play in a comp where all the local boys will be having a run together.
Booth said, naturally, reigning premiers CSU Bathurst will begin the 2020 season as red-hot favourites, especially considering the beaten 2019 grand finalists in Orange Barbarians have lost a handful of stars.
Mitch Britt and Ben Gosper, who captain-coached the side to the decider, have shifted back to their former club CYMS to mentor the green and golds' first division outfit, with centre Ed Morrish following them.
Jake Kelly will mentor the side in 2020, the Orange club remains confident of boasting a sizable, quality playing group despite their big-name losses.
While Booth returns as president, Wayne Morgan was elected as the league's vice-president, Lauren Stevens as secretary and Craig Parsons treasurer.
WANT MORE ORANGE NEWS AND SPORT?
- Receive our free newsletters delivered to your inbox, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up below ...