Award premierships, crown champions and let's honour the teams on top in 2021. It's the least we can do.
The 2021 winter sporting season is one we won't forget, which is hard to believe given the COVID-19-affected 2020 we're following on from.
But where last season was delayed, this year is being hit late, and it's forcing officials, volunteers in many respects, to make some tough calls.
The Central West Rugby Union officially pulled the pin on its finals last week, awarding the premierships to those either on top of the ladder at the end of the last game or those that have won through to the grand final already after a major semi-final victory.
In the wash up, Cowra was crowned this year's champions. A win veteran lock and Blue Bulls rep Chris Miller said the Eagles boys were more than willing to celebrate.
Others, though, have been vocal in suggesting teams being handed titles was hollow.
That decision, CWRU boss Matt Tink admitted, might not have been a popular one. A tough, but courageous call, he said.
Shifting to the Central West AFL, its administration, led by Casey White, decided to pull the pin on 2021 last Friday.
It's decision including not awarding anyone a title, although those teams that won minor premierships would be honoured for those efforts.
Meanwhile the Western Premier League also decided coordinating a finals series just wouldn't be feasible this year, not with two of the sides locked in to play based out of Dubbo, where this week we saw our first death in the Western NSW Local Health District during this wave of the pandemic and active case numbers surged well into the 400s.
WPL chiefs took a different view to the situation completely, and decided to just essentially wipe the year altogether - no minor premiers, and certainly no major premiers.
And, at time of print, we're still waiting to hear what major rugby league competitions in the region will do.
Group 10 is still a chance, it's board believes, while Group 11 must be holding out the absolute faintest of hopes their season will get to stage the finals series it so desperately wants to - with their top five arguably the most even of any competition in the bush.
Senior Woodbridge Cup and Castlereagh League seasons also hang in the balance.
Just this week, NSWRL Western Division manager Evan Jones said those involved in the decision-making process were "staying positive".
But, you'd have to think, emerging from lockdown on September 10 will be key for all of those title races as they eye an end date in October.
Any extension of the current stay-at-home orders would almost certainly quash any hope of a return to the field.
So we have champions crowned, minor premiers honoured, no sides given a reward and then a stack of teams hanging in the balance ... what's the best way to mark 2021?
I read a post the other day that indicated 2021 was unprecedented times, and we needed unprecedented thinking to navigate a September we've never seen across the Central West.
I wholeheartedly agree.
You can't tell me teams in 2021 haven't had to work harder than any other year of sport this region has staged.
We've had snap lockdowns, we've had to introduce COVID-19 marshalls, we've had to wear masks, change rules regarding the use of drink bottles and check into grounds, while in Group 10 Lithgow's proximity to the Blue Mountains and all of the Greater Sydney bubble repercussions associated with that has meant Workies have been out of action since June.
Given the already scattered byes on a challenging draw, the absence of another side has meant even more breaks from play for teams.
Tell me Orange CYMS, on top of the ladder following the latest round of Group 10 played on August 7, doesn't deserve the title?
Dan Mortimer's men have had to navigate a year like no other. They've worked since November, knocked off some pretty handy teams throughout the season and done so despite being handed a draw that's probably been the hardest in Group 10's history - for all teams - in 2021.
How many teams a few years back would have been able to get blokes to training twice a week when their next game wasn't for at least two weeks?
Roughly 90 per cent of the season has been completed. If we were using the Duckworth Lewis method, that'd be more than enough play to get a result.
I applaud the Central West for taking the jump and crowning Cowra as premiers for 2021. It marks a huge achievement for the club, its players and officials. And they richly deserve it.
As would any of the sides currently on top of Group 10's grades. As would those who sat in pole position in the AFL Central West senior grades.
And, as do, Orana Spurrs in the WPL.
It's highly unlikely any regional competition in the area still holding out hope of staging a finals series will get to a point where that's possible. The numbers just don't show any sign of improvement, and anyone who's listened to Gladys Berejiklian at 11am each day knows the government expects numbers to continue to climb. What that means for western NSW is anyone's guess.
But in no way shape of form does that diminish how hard our sporting teams have had to work this year.
There will be those who will call it hollow. No grand final, no champions, they'll say. But that's what you'd say if the year was 2019, 2018 ... or any year that's not been dominated by a pandemic.
We're in 2021, and that unprecedented times and unprecedented thinking has to lead us to crown those teams on top as premiers.
It's not hollow. If anything, the 2021 year has been the clearest display of resilience our sporting codes have ever had to show. And, to us, that's absolutely worth recognising.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Send us a letter to the editor using the form below ...