Did anyone else wake up to Sonny and Cher this morning and catch a glimpse of Punxsutawney Phil?
There's a touch of groundhog day to this week. It feels like we've been down this road before, right?
A mooted combined Western Rams rugby league senior competition has been floated for many years, the idea combining the powerful Group 10 and Group 11 premierships into one super league. It's nearly an annual thing.
A decade-or-so ago, Parkes threatened to move to Group 10. More recently Dubbo CYMS proposed a move east as well. And just last year Mudgee hoped to move to Group 11.
While proposals joining both competitions have often been dropped on the desks of officials.
The most recent compromise has been the NAB Premiers Challenge, run at the end of both competitions' respective grand finals and pitting the premiers of league tag, under 18s and first grade against each other. That kicked off in 2018.
While the Maas Group Western Youth League run throughout a shortened COVID-19 season was a raging success.
That change - the introduction of a combined youth league - was brought about by necessity. Some rugby league needed to be provided to the region's juniors from July 18. This year seemed like as good as reason as any to trial the format.
But what makes 2021 the right time to push the go-button on a full-blown Western league?
This simple answer is, there's never a right time.
But clubs deserve a say in the matter - at the very least.
The NSWRL's 'One State' strategic plan is the single biggest indication yet we'll see some form of change to rugby league in regional NSW, and we'll see that change soon.
There may well be a little bit of an evolution ...NSWRL CEO Dave Trodden on competition structure in Western.
But the plan is somewhat vague, with the only real specific highlighting the need to restructure the state into six zones which preserve historical structures but create more efficient competition possibilities.
Clubs though have not yet received any word of change from officials, except for NSWRL CEO Dave Trodden coming out in the media last week and saying "there may well be a little bit of an evolution" when it comes to competition structure in Western in the future.
What that means is anyone's guess.
That uncertainty has resulted in the rumour mill going into overdrive. Clubs will be cut, population size the main factor ... so the chinese whispers say.
It'd be difficult to see that being the case.
Try telling a town like Wellington, the reigning Group 11 premiers, with just 4,000 people that they're not eligible to play in an elite rugby league competition based on population size.
The same with Blayney in Group 10. A town of 3500 people, the Bears draw on a small pool and have battled to win games in the last three years, but there's a real level of optimism at King George Oval heading into 2021.
And fielding a competitive team capable of matching it with other finals-bound teams is looking like a reality. Should they be made to drop down to mid-west due to population size?
If a restructure is to be done, it has to be one in, all in.
You can split the division into three pools, each team in their respective pool plays each other on a home and away basis, and then you play the other teams in the Western League once - the draw is then flipped the following year, meaning Lithgow would only go to Nyngan once every two years, and visa versa.
There's no perfect formula for change. But the easiest way to make sure the transition is a smooth one has to be giving the clubs a voice.
Right now that's not happening. And each day it doesn't, it feels like 'I've got you, babe' is on repeat and we're all stuck in Punxsutawney.
WESTERN SUPER LEAGUE
How a combined Western premiership could work:
- EAST: Lithgow, Bathurst Panthers, Bathurst St Pat's, Mudgee, Blayney.
- CENTRAL: Orange Hawks, Orange CYMS, Wellington, Parkes, Forbes.
- WEST: Dubbo Maquarie, Dubbo CYMS, Narromine, Nyngan, Cowra.
- DETAILS: 17 rounds, top eight, four weeks of finals.
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