IT has been three years since St Pat's tasted success in Group 10s first division competition and as they prepare for another shot at glory in 2020, many Saints will get a unique warm up.
For the first time clubs within the Western Rams Rugby League boundaries have been offered the chance to contest a pre-season under 21s competition.
The Saints are one of the clubs which leapt at the chance to do so and come this Friday night at Jack Arrow Oval, they will host Orange CYMS in the opening round of the new competition.
Games against Group 11 clubs Dubbo Macquarie, Dubbo CYMS and Forbes Magpies will follow while a combined Woodbridge Cup outfit has been entered as well.
"We were pretty happy with it. We opened up nominations in late November and had three or four teams locked in after the first couple of weeks and then we were able to extend that to six teams by the time we closed off noms on the 15th of January," Dallas Reeves, Western's league and club support coordinator, said.
"I would have liked a few more, but six is probably a good starting block with the time frame we've got for the comp and allows us to build it up and see where we can grow it."
The competition will be played over five rounds before a one versus four, two versus three semi-finals day on March 27. The grand final will follow at a date yet to be determined.
"What we've been able to do is give every team two home games out of five and there'll be four double headers - there's one this weekend in Dubbo, there's one in round two in Dubbo, another one in Forbes and another one in Orange," Reeves said.
"We're just trying to do little things like that to make it a little bit more interesting."
Give its short-sharp format - games will be play on consecutive weekends - the new 21s competition is a good way for players who may not get to see time in first grade pre-season trials to prepare for their respective Group 10, Group 11 or Woodbridge Cup seasons.
For many who play it will be their first football in a year given COVID-19 forced the cancellation of senior Group 10, Group 11 and Woodbridge Cup competitions in 2021.
Reeves sees it as a way to encourage more players stay involved with the sport.
"We are basically using this as base for clubs, to try and help clubs strengthen predominantly their reserve grade teams for the 2021 season," Reeves explained.
"The aim is a few of those guys will stick on that would otherwise be lost to the game, guys that have come out of under 18s stick on and hopefully play some reggies and some will be looking at first grade as well.
"The clubs have been really receptive.
"It should be a good competition, it's something a bit different anyway so we'll just test the waters and see how it goes."
The Saints' opener against Orange CYMS will kick-off at 6.45pm on Friday night at Jack Arrow Oval.
That will be followed by a Saturday double-header at Dubbo's Apex Oval with Dubbo Macquarie playing Woodbridge Cup at 4.45pm before Dubbo CYMS and Forbes Magpies do battle from 6.15pm.