EDITION one exceeded expectations and now there are expansion plans for the Western under 21s competition as it becomes a permanent part of the annual rugby league calendar.
For this year's inaugural edition, which began in late February and concluded in early April, six teams from across the Western region signed up.
It offered players who had graduated from under 18s a chance to prepare for senior level league ahead of the season proper.
It was Group 10 outfit St Pat's who won a high quality, physical final 20-16 against Group 11's Dubbo CYMS.
Orange CYMS, Dubbo Macquarie, Forbes Magpies and a combined Woodbridge Cup side were the other combatants.
For the 2022 edition clubs from Group 10, Group 11 and Woodbridge Cup have once more been invited to join up as well as Mid West League and Castlereagh Cup outfits.
"We had six teams this year so basically we are just trying to see what interest is out there to hopefully expand the competition," Dallas Reeves, NSW Rugby League league and club support co-ordinator, said.
"We are looking to make it an annual part of Western rugby league, 2021 was the first one, but hopefully it continues on for many years to come.
"Our competition is flexible, if two teams want to combine they can, this season we had the instance where Woodbridge Cup fielded a combined team in the competition. All those sorts of options are open because it's basically a participation competition."
While nominations don't close until November 15, already the two Dubbo clubs have made it clear they are keen to return, as are Orange CYMS, and Reeves thinks it is likely St Pat's will be back to try and defend their crown.
Certainly the Saints - and other clubs - benefitted from playing 21s last season as a number of young talents went on to play in first grade.
"The performance of the teams probably exceeded our expectations, the semi-finals and final were all cracking games, all very close and a really good standard," Reeves said.
"The idea of the competition was essentially for players who finish under 18s, keep them playing and with the under 21s, give them a transition before they had to play reserve grade games.
"It gives them a bit of confidence going into the reserve grade games later in the season because when you're 19 or 20 it can be a bit of a big leap.
"But that's where the expectations were exceeded, we had a lot of players go through and play first grade in Group 10 and Group 11."
The 2022 competition will be run over six weeks including finals to try and avoid scheduling issues.
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