The western area is renowned for producing elite rugby league talent and, in a new series, we'll be bringing you the stories of those stars.
Every Monday, we'll have tales of western juniors who now play in the NRL or NRLW, their rise to the top, memories of bush footy and what the 2024 season holds.
This week we caught up with Bathurst's Cronulla Sharks fullback, Will Kennedy.
SOME rugby league players in the western region might look towards a senior club mate as their source of inspiration when coming up through their junior years.
For Will Kennedy he didn't have to look further than his own family.
As the former Bathurst St Pat's junior prepares for his sixth season of NRL action with the Cronulla Sharks he'll go into a fresh campaign once again looking to make his father and uncle proud.
To Kennedy, the value that father Will 'Bubba' Kennedy and uncle Steve Lane have had to his game is almost immeasurable.
Having a dad who played three years with the Balmain Tigers meant Kennedy had plenty of tapes to watch for inspiration when growing up.
But it was watching his father on the field in person that Kennedy remembers most fondly.
"I remember watching all of his old tapes in the NRL and then I was able to watch him on the field in Group 10 and Group 11. He played a bit of everywhere," he said.
"It's been great watching him and learning a lot from him too. The same goes for my uncle, Steve Lane. He's taught me so much and they've played a lot of country footy together.
"They've been at Bathurst Panthers, Mudgee, Lithgow and even went out to Manildra. When I think about country footy that's what comes to mind - those two carving it up.
"They've played such a big role in my career and I wouldn't be where I am today without them."
It's surreal for Kennedy to think about the fact that he's now surpassed his father's number of Australian Rugby League appearances (61), all with the Balmain Tigers between 1996 to '98.
That overtake occurred when he stepped onto the field back in the second round of the 2022 finals series.
Now, with 81 appearances for the Sharks to his name, Kennedy is within reach of the magic 100-game figure after he signed a two-year extension with the team earlier this year.
"That's something I never could have expected," Kennedy said, regarding the potential century of games.
"We all dream of just playing that one game. To have played as many as I have, and as many as my old, is amazing, and I know that he's just really happy for me."
In 2015 he made it into Cronulla's premiership-winning SG Ball squad, in a season where he made the pivotal switch from hooker to fullback - where he's been ever since.
He joined the club's full-time NRL squad in 2018 and a year later made his debut in round six of the NRL season against the Penrith Panthers.
Kennedy's been a full-time member of the team ever since, winning the Porter-Gallen Medal as the club's best in 2021 and finding 38 tries in his NRL career to date.
"Those five years [in the NRL] have gone pretty quick, but it just feels so good to be able to play NRL footy week in, week out," Kennedy said.
"It's been a great couple of years at Cronulla. I love the club and it's a good spot to start my career. We've got a great team around us and good people everywhere in the club."
Kennedy got off to a great start in 2023 with six tries inside the first five rounds, and scored a pair of hat tricks, but had his season come to an early end with a grade two hamstring strain in late July.
That left Kennedy unavailable for the remainder of the season, with the Sharks knocked out by the Sydney Roosters in the opening week of finals.
"We just missed out on the finals and I was pretty close to coming back. I missed a fair bit of footy at the end of the year," Kennedy said.
"I've come back with my hamstring feeling stronger and I've been training well. I'm really keen to get back. I haven't played a game in ages."
He finished the season with 14 tries, equalling his season-best effort from 2021.
As he enters his sixth season of NRL action Kennedy still looks back on fondly with his time at St Pat's.
The Bathurst club rallied around his NRL debut in 2019 and has been proud of every step the Sharks player has made in his career.
The overlapping NRL and Peter McDonald Premiership seasons mean Kennedy hasn't had an opportunity to catch a fixture live in his home region.
But the new western region competition definitely interests the former Saints junior, and he likes seeing what his former club is up to.
"I've seen that they've joined the [Group 10 and 11] comps together. It's cool to see that they're expanding bush footy," he said.
"It's great seeing all the local talent out there having the chance to play new teams. I haven't had the chance to get out there and watch games but I've caught a couple of streams.
"It's great footy to watch and it's where I started out with Bathurst St Pat's. They played such a big role in my junior footy. I was able to also play a bit of Group 10 representative footy before I moved to Sydney."