It's been a long wait but a new structure for rugby league in the western area next season has been confirmed.
The Western Premiership was announced by the NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) on Friday in a move designed to reinvigorate the game in the region and ensure it's long-term health.
The competition, at this stage, is purely for first grade teams from Group 11 and Group 10 and features a conference system and crossover games before a top eight finals system involving teams from each conference.
The champion side will then take part in the Presidents Cup to determine the state champion.
NSWRL director and Group 11 president Bob Walsh described it as a "terrific initiative" while his Group 10 counterpart Linore Zamparini added the Western Premiership is "creating exciting new contests and rivalries".
Significantly the schedule acknowledges the proud history of both Groups.Linore Zamparini
It was initially announced in March of this year a new competition would be introduced in 2022 but there's been plenty of changes and different options put forward in the time since.
The finalised competition will run from April to September and will feature a Group 11 conference and a Group 10 conference in a move which will preserve the proud history of both.
The crossover matches, potentially to be played in something similar to the NRL's Magic Rounds, offers clubs the chance to play against sides from the other conference and there will be a minimum of four of those next season.
The winner of each conference will be awarded the silverware from their former competition in another nod to the game's history while the top four sides from each conference will advance to a four-week finals series.
"The objective of the NSWRL One State Plan is to create competition opportunities like the Western Premiership and we are confident this concept will encourage further development across regional competitions," NSWRL Head of Football Robert Lowrie said.
"Evan Jones and the steering committee have done a terrific job working with clubs to evolve the concept to a reality, while David Skinner has worked tirelessly on the draw development.
"The Western Conference Premier will go on to contest the Presidents Cup against the champion clubs from the Central Conference (Sydney), Southern Conference (Wollongong) and Northern Conference (Newcastle) and have a chance to lay claim to the best team in the state.
"The Western Region has produced many wonderful rugby league players and I am confident the new structure announced today will continue that proud tradition into the future."
Group 10 includes clubs from Bathurst, Blayney, Cowra, Lithgow, Mudgee and Orange, while Group 11 includes clubs from Dubbo, Forbes, Narromine, Nyngan, Parkes and Wellington.
The reserve grade, under 18s, and league tag - set to be known as Championship grade competitions next year - will remain within their existing boundaries and fixtures will be aligned with their club's Western Premiership side.
"It's a terrific initiative, we have flexibility to cater for clubs of different levels, there's variety through the cross over series plus a road to a state title in the Presidents Cup," Walsh said.
"The key concern from clubs was splitting club volunteer resources. We've addressed this, and under this structure club grades will be synchronised."
Zamparini echoed that sentiment while adding he was pleased to see history of both Group 11 and Group 11 still recognised.
"Significantly the schedule acknowledges the proud history of both Groups, yet presents innovation creating exciting new contests and rivalries," he said.
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