The 2016 Group 10 rugby league season will go down as one of the more unforgettable in the competition’s history, for a number of reasons.
From Mudgee’s premiership triumph – all the way from fifth – to Mark O’Meley’s cameo with St Pat’s, the berth of the All Stars concept and, tragically, the disappearance of Bears pivot Terry Brown in the pre-season.
There’s never a dull moment in rugby league, certainly not in Group 10, so here’s a recap of the 2016 season.
The Ale brothers, Antonio, Cyp and Pale join former club Bathurst St Pat’s after starring in Lithgow’s run to the 2015 Group 10 grand final.
Wise Kativerata signs with Orange Hawks as captain-coach – then accepts a job with Fiji academy of sport in February. Jason Gangaram takes on the role in March.
Former NRL premiership winner George Rose – and his Group 10 title winning brothers Matt and Trent, the latter a Dave Scott medalist – link with the Oberon Tigers for 2016. Gorgeous George is the biggest signing for the Tigers in over a decade.
While (take a deep breath) Tim Bassmann signs with Cowra and the Magpies add Group 9 title winner Cam Bruest, CYMS sign Mitch Davis, Brock McGarity, James Wynne, Mudgee lures rugby convert Rota Setu to the Dragons, Pat’s pick up Demitrius Ainuu, Blayney snaps up Deryne McKenzie, Bobby Brown and Rakai-Manaia Tuheke while Panthers acquire Claude Gordon and former Hawk Kyle Byrnes.
Talk about music chairs.
The Group 10 draw reveals the traditional all-Orange season opener between CYMS and Hawks has been bumped back to round seven.
In a positive step for the game, the league announces it will introduce an All Stars concept to help celebrate the contribution Indigenous players make to rugby league in Group 10 – a host of the competition’s best players all nominate for the clash.
Mudgee Dragons win the club’s inaugural Nines competition, knocking off the Moore Park Brumbies 30-10 at Glen Willow.
CYMS bow out of the West Wyalong knockout in the opening round, then progress through to the final of the Bathurst Knockout in March. But a red-hot Panthers outfit shows it’ll be tough to beat in 2016, smoking the defending premiers 38-6 in the decider.
The Group 10 community is shocked by the sudden disappearance of Blayney, Group 10 and Indigenous All Stars halfback Terry Brown. The 22-year-old goes missing off the mid-north coast of NSW, placing the All Stars clash in doubt.
The game is played – Brown’s No.7 jersey is retired and the man of the match, Jono Van Veen, awarded the Terry Brown medal – with the Indigenous side winning 52-24 in a memorable day at Cowra.
Hawks and Lithgow indicate to Group 10 officials they won’t be fielding an under 18s or a first division side, respectively, in 2016.
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Oberon gets the jump on defending premiers CYMS in George Rose’s first game in the hills, coming from 10 points down to record a telling 20-18 victory in Tigerland.
While, Nick Loader scores four tries in Panthers’ 53-12 thumping of Hawks, Blayney knocks off Cowra and St Pat’s do a job on Lithgow. Mudgee has the bye.
Hawks lose boom prop Dougie Faaiu to Wentworthville the week leading into round two – and it hurts, big time.
The two blues suffer a 60-14 loss to Mudgee in the Dragons’ season opener at Glen Willow. St Pat’s make it two from two with a 44-22 victory over Cowra, while Blayney’s roll continues and Oberon stuns Workies.
Drama unfolds as Lithgow’s 2016 campaign spirals into freefall, the club forfeits its clash with defending premiers CYMS, potentially placing their season in jeopardy.
Green and golds life member Matt King labels the move “disgraceful ... [Workies] lack of a lot of class, integrity and backbone doing this”.
Mudgee clocks a 42-28 win in Blayney, the Tigers win their third straight home game of the season and Panthers topple St Pat’s 30-22 in the first Bathurst derby of 2016.
Lithgow’s supporters rally behind the club during a mid-week crisis meeting, backing Workies to return to the force it was in 2015 – when it made the grand final and came within a whisker of its first title since 2012.
On the field, Oberon shoots to the top of the ladder with a gritty 16-14 win over Panthers at Tigertown. CYMS find form with a 44-10 victory over Cowra, St Pat’s and Blayney get the chocolates too.
CYMS captain-coach Mick Sullivan leaves Wade Park fuming after his side’s 30-all draw with Panthers. The green and golds led 30-14, with the former NRL gun criticising his side’s “complacency”.
Cowra records win number one for 2016, St Pat’s hammer Hawks and Oberon keeps on winning, knocking off Jack Afamasaga and Mudgee 22-6.
Oberon’s momentum isn’t halted when the Tigers hit the road, the club recording a 42-10 win over Hawks at Wade Park – Zac Rowlandson’s side’s first away game of the season.
Blayney stuns St Pat’s 32-22 to jump to second on the ladder while CYMS edge Mudgee 18-16 at Glen Willow. Panthers knock off the hapless Workies 40-6.
CYMS leap to second on the ladder after blowing Hawks off the park in a 50-16 flogging at Wade Park. Ben McAlpine scores 18 of his side’s points.
Oberon wins the top-of-the-table clash with Blayney despite a Lawrence Fogg hat-trick, Mudgee trumps Workies and Panthers edge Cowra 30-24.
Group 10’s referees threaten to stand down from officiating round eight following a string of incidents over the course of 2016. The matter is resolved, though, with the referee’s association and Group 10 meeting to pour water on any strike action.
The result? Hawks’ first win of the season, a 38-32 shoot-out with Workies at Wade Park. CYMS get the job done against Blayney, too, while Oberon suffers its first loss against St Pat’s – George Rose misses the game after copping a two-match suspension the week before.
Rain – and lots of it.
The wet weather lashes Group 10 in round nine, forcing Workies’ clash with Blayney at Lithgow to be postponed.
Cowra keeps its hopes of a finals berth alive, though, knocking off the confident Hawks while St Pat’s edge CYMS 18-12 in a dour, wet affair at Wade Park – Brady Cheshire calls out the defending premiers’ pack in the lead-up to the contest – great stuff from the fiery red-head.
In the biggest indication CYMS’ premiership defence is on track, Mick Sullivaninspires his side to a 40-0 thumping of the George Rose-less Tigers at Wade Park.
Panthers hammer Hawks 38-10 in the driving rain, Blayney defeats Cowra 16-12 and St Pat’s get away with a win over Workies, 16-10.
George Rose speaks out after his suspension, declaring he doubts “very much” that he’ll play in Group 10 next season, adding he believes he was unfairly treated by the three-man judiciary panel.
If that’s not enough for Linore Zamparini and his executive, snow lashes the region, forcing a host of ground closures, potentially pushing the competition back a week.
The only game played, Panthers kick-off a memorable Penguins reunion weekend with a 34-22 win over Blayney – they’re great jerseys, too.
It’s June 30 deadline eve – in other words, silly season.
St Pat’s sign former Canterbury, NSW and Australian prop Mark O’Meley, as well as a host of other forwards to strengthen their premiership bid.
Rota Setu scores 22 points in Mudgee’s hammering of Blayney, ensuring the Dragons remain in fifth position, while Panthers earn the derby double over St Pat’s, CYMS smash Workies and Oberon edges Cowra 28-26.
Oberon pleads to the powers that be not to “punish us more” after both Matt and George Rose find themselves on report following their clash with Cowra.
In the match of the round, Mudgee incredibly blows a 34-4 lead with 15 minutes to go as St Pat’s charge home to snatch a 34-all draw.
Bathurst Panther Jake Betts emerges as a bolter for the Group 10 player of the year award, leading a stack of the game’s best players including teammate Jeremy Gordon and past winners Simon Osborne and Jack Afamasaga.
But in the big game, CYMS show why they’re considered the side to beat, producing an inspired 20-minute period to blow Panthers off the paddock, coming back from 10-0 down to win 34-16 at Bathurst.
For the second time in 2016, CYMS knock off Mudgee, this time 30-20, despite Mick Sullivan’s sin binning in the Wade Park clash.
Former international Mark O’Meleymakes his cameo for St Pat’s, too, in a 30-14 win over Blayney. The Ogre was a colossus up the middle for the Saints.
Details of a feud between Oberon Tigers guns Zac Rowlandson and Matt Rose emerge, with president Ian Christie-Johnson able to confirm the spat.
The matter doesn’t help the Tigers’ slide, the club loses 22-18 to the Bears at Blayney to land in fourth spot on the ladder.
CYMS hammer Hawks 88-0 in the biggest margin of the season, Ben McAlpine landing 28 points to take his individual tally against the two blues in 2016 to an incredible 46 points.
Orange Hawks injured captain-coach Jason Gangaramquestions the loyalty in Group 10 as the two blues season goes from bad to worse.
“Loyalty is dead in this game. There’s nothing left. Players don’t play for the jersey. They see dollars signs and that’s it,” Gangaram said.
Hawks bounce back to win their next game 40-18 over Lithgow, while CYMS secure the minor premiership with a 34-14 win over Blayney.
Two penalty goals in as many minutes off the right boot of Gary Reilly landed St Pat’s a gritty 20-18 win over CYMS in the final regular season round.
CYMS still finish on top of the ladder, while St Pat’s and Panthers round out the top three. Oberon land in fourth, Mudgee in fifth.
FINALS, WEEK ONE:
CYMS captain-coach Mick Sullivan is ruled out for the finals series after suffering a torn meniscus in his knee, blowing the competition wide open.
In the qualifying semi-final, Panthers blow St Pat’s off the park in a 54-26 shellacking of the fancied blue and whites.
While Mudgee begins an unlikely finals charge with a spirited 42-22 victory over the Tigers in Oberon in the elimination semi-final, spelling the end of 2016 for the black and golds.
FINALS, WEEK TWO:
After his side booked a spot in the major semi-final, Todd Barrow earns a contract extension with Bathurst Panthers.
His side goes within a whisker of grabbing the first place in the grand final, too, only for a touch of Ben McAlpine magic to take it away.
The mercurial fullback put in a crossfield kick in his own half, finishing with Dom Maley scoring under the sticks – McAlpine’s conversion made it 22-20, booking CYMS another home grand final at Wade Park.
Oh, and they did it with 12 men too, after hooker James Wynne was sent off for striking in the 25th minute.
In the minor semi-final, Mudgee show they’re not done yet, bouncing St Pat’s out of the finals in straight sets courtesy of a 20-4 margin at Carrington Park.
FINALS, WEEK THREE
CYMS are forced to fight to have James Wynne cleared to play in the 2016 grand final after president Linore Zamparini revealed the loop hole allowing Jono Van Veen to play in the previous year’s decider was closed.
While, incredibly, Mudgee claims another giant scalp after knocking off Bathurst Panthers 22-20 in the preliminary final – the second week in a row Todd Barrow’s side has fallen two points short of a grand final berth.
The come-from-behind win is sealed by young-gun Nathan Orr five minutes from time, meaning the Dragons take on CYMS in a grand final for the first time since 2010.
James Wynne is cleared to play in the 2016 grand final, the judiciary finding the star rake had no case to answer after being sent off in the major semi-final.
A character reference from Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson not needed, the #freewynnie campaign was though.
The clearing paved the way for one of the great Group 10 grand finals, with scores locked at 10-all deep into the second half on a water logged Wade Park.
With seconds remaining, Dragons halfback Tim Condon produces a crossfield kick that lands in the grasp of Nathan Orr, who then dishes it off to Rota Setu to score the premiership-winner as the siren sounds.
Prop Hamish Bryant is crowned the Dave Scott medalist.
Bathurst Panthers gun Jeremy Gordon is crowned the Group 10 player of the year.