Small towns are often the backbone of regional competitions, that’s no secret.
When they’re up and about – think Oberon, think Nyngan, think Blayney, think Narromine – the whole premiership is firing.
But the people that make up the backbone of those small-town teams are battling in 2018.
On Saturday, I made the trek out to Narromine to soak-up the major semi-final between the Gorillas and the Parkes Boars.
Cale Oval is a fortress for the Gorillas. It’s the case this year and, seemingly, each season for the better part of the last decade, too.
It’s also the scene of some of the club’s finest moments – none finer than the 2009 Blowes Clothing Cup grand final win over Bathurst.
Last year’s Graincorp Cup premiership triumph over Molong is another, while the extra-time epic grand final against Parkes in 2011, although a loss for the Gorillas, is arguably one of the region’s best moments.
But it’s also a place where the community gathers.
Where farmers, their families and their friends meet up to take their minds off what is a crippling drought, one of the worst some of these farmers have endured.
Grab a beer, tuck into one of those simply delectable chicken and mushrooms pies and enjoy some country rugby – sounds like a pretty good afternoon to me.
Growing up in western Sydney and now living in Orange, in town, the only pinch I feel from the drought is my lawn turning a desert-sand shade of brown.
It’s horrible, but it’s clear the impact is harsh elsewhere – extremely so.
Narromine got the job done last Saturday, scoring a 17-3 major semi-final victory over the Boars to secure Cale Oval the grand final hosting rights for the CWRU’s second tier competition, the New Holland Agriculture Cup which means the community gets another chance to rally behind an outlet that provides the nearly-4000 people who call Narromine home 80 minutes of joy.
After Narromine secured the win, skipper Tim Allworth touched on the drought’s impact briefly but said bringing the deciders back to Narromine would help galvanize the area.
It’s pretty clear any help farmers can get right now, they’ll take.
Let’s support them, in any way we can.
FINALS PLACES ON THE LINE OR LOCKED IN?
Chalk and cheese.
Group 10 and Group 11 have never really been similar, and in 2018 the neighbouring Western Rams competitions couldn’t be any different.
Both premierships head into their respective final rounds this weekend and, out west, the Group 11 top five is virtually set. Dubbo CYMS, Wellington, Parkes, Forbes, Macquarie, in that order, lock it in, please, Eddie.
In Group 10, four points separates first through to fifth and while Oberon can’t move any higher than the edge of the top five, Cowra, Hawks, CYMS and Panthers are still locked in a game of snakes and ladders heading into round 18.
What does it all mean? Not a lot. Nothing other than finals footy is nearly here.
Bring it on.
BRILLIANT BARRY ON THE BRINK OF TRIPLE-FIGURES CLUB
There’s three rounds of the 2018 Central West AFL regular season left – can Tim Barry boot another 28 goals and chalk up a ton during the regular season?
The Tigers star is sitting on 72 majors through 11 games.
He’ll almost certainly get there in the finals, at the latest, but reaching the mark in the regular season would be special.
Bathurst Giants young goal-sneak Aiden MaCauley is the league’s next best with 49, an indication of how dominant the black and golds power forward has been.
HUNTERS NOW THE HUNTED AS PLH SEASON REACHES BUSINESS END
“It’s nice we’re not the team everyone wants to beat anymore.”
Excuse me, Lithgow Panthers skipper Trent MacDonald?
But with Souths closing in on the 2018 minor title, he’s bang on the money.
The two blues have become the team everyone is gunning for, with coach Ray Winwood-Smith keen to bring in some big name players to help the Bathurst club atone last season’s grand final loss.
This weekend’s penultimate round Panthers-Souths clash has juicy written all over it.