A HAPPY 21st - that is what Dave Conyers hopes his beloved CSU Mitchell Rugby Club can deliver him in 2021.
No, the soon-to-be 63-year-old is not trying to deny his age. The 21st milestone is to do with how long Conyers has been coaching.
"All up I've coached for 21 years with the three Bathurst clubs, so I've set some record there I reckon. I'm probably the oldest coach in town or even in the Central West," Conyers laughed.
After undergoing knee and heart surgery last year, Conyers did not coach.
But his passion for rugby remained and when CSU's first XV was looking for a mentor to guide them in the New Holland Cup this season, Conyers was a good fit. It will mark his 10th season in charge of a CSU outfit.
"My first season was with the CSU ladies in 2002 when we lost the grand final to Emus with just 13 players," he recalled.
"I have been extremely fortunate to have been involved with first and second grade premierships in 2004 and that incredibly famous 2019 New Holland Cup title, as well as helping out with our 2005 colts premiership when my eldest son played."
That's not where the milestones end for Conyers either. Given the way COVID-19 impacted the 2020 season, CSU decided to postpone planned 50th year celebrations to this year.
That added to the lure for Conyers to return and coach.
"After winning the premiership I thought I'd had enough, but having a year off makes you realise that you are meant to be there, it's part of what you do," he said.
"The 50 thing, it was a big incentive to come back for that and try and help them out."
After winning the premiership I thought I'd had enough, but having a year off makes you realise that you are meant to be there, it's part of what you do.Dave Conyers
Conyers is using that 50th milestone as a way to to only motivate his first grade squad, but the entire playing group at CSU.
He issued them with this message: "It is an incredible milestone to mark 50 years of rugby and as the 2021 group it is our duty and mission to take our club to a new high in our history standings by capturing three premierships this season.
"This can only be achieved by applying the wonderful traits rugby offers us as players and ultimately the teams that are forged collectively from melding us all together."
The mission starts this Saturday at a venue where Conyers enjoyed one of the best moments of his coaching career - Cale Oval.
It was at that ground, the home of the Narromine Gorillas, that Conyers last coached. It was in the 2019 New Holland grand final, a game in which CSU defied their underdog status to win.
Conyers knows that both the CSU and Narromine squads have changed plenty since that afternoon, he is unsure what to expect and his side has not had the ideal build up.
But one thing that the coach will have is the faith the students can win.
"The thing about that is, the last time I was on that field we won the unwinnable game, so I'll never say never anymore," he said.
"It's probably the most under-prepared season I've ever been involved with. We had the oval closed for a couple of weeks after the rain and a lot of them didn't come back until late, so it's been a very limited preparation.
"Nobody knows what anyone else has got. I haven't heard anything from the other clubs.
"They're all going to be effected by rugby league getting up and going again. Last year with no league every club had some of those league players."
While initially concerned about the numbers he had to work with, over the past fortnight there have been a number of promising new talents join Conyers' squad.
He'd still like more depth - especially in the tight five - but he does have a good platform to start. It includes a prop who formerly played under 19s rugby for Australia.
"There are four from the grand final side from 2019 so that's a good frame work and a couple of those new guys are good," he said.
"That's the good thing about college rugby, you get that whole new influx every year.
"We've got a really good pack now, both our second rowers are 100 kilo boys and they've both played rep rugby.
"We've got a new forward called Lamarn, he apparently played under 19s for Australia so he'll be very handy up front.
"We'll have Marcus [Burrell] as one prop and Angus Dunn from Mudgee, he has a lot of experience so our tight five is very good but we just don't have a lot of depth in that position.
"We've got a new kid from Shore, he's a flanker and he looks quite handy and we've got a young kid who played with Randwick colts and he'll play number 10 and he looks really sharp."
Kick off is 3.15pm.
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