While we didn't get the finish we deserved, the 2021 Western Premier League will ultimately go down as a success.
Two new teams, a high standard of football and a competitive nature made this season one deserving of a final series but the COVID-19 lockdown in regional NSW had other ideas.
Orana Spurs and Orange Waratahs were competing for the minor premiership with just one round remaining, with WPL officials ultimately deciding not to award either minor or major titles after the competition was cancelled.
But we've racked our brains to put together the best team from the season that was, which proved a challenge considering the amount of talent on display.
We've opted for a 3-4-3 formation and we've picked six players on the bench, as well as naming our player of the year and a coach of the year.
- Bailey Delaney (Orana Spurs)
With just 23 goals against in 15 games, the Orana Spurs backline was the second best in the competition in terms of goals conceded
And while Barnstoneworth United conceded one goal less than the team that was on top at the time of the competition's cancelation, it's hard to go past Bailey Delaney as goalkeeper.
He's been a reliable presence between the sticks for Orana and would've played a huge part in the finals if they went ahead.
- Niall Gibb (Orange Waratahs)
Niall Gibb has lit up the Waratahs backline since arriving in Orange for the 2021 season.
Gibb, who was formerly part of a semi-pro league in the United Kingdom, has played a key defensive role for Waratahs in the club's return to the WPL.
The Yorkshire native has also been well supported on the WPL Facebook livestreams, with family members regularly tuning in to watch when Waratahs are involved.
- Connor McDonald (Orana Spurs)
A standout defender for a number of seasons.
The combination of McDonald and Dave Ferguson gave Orana Spurs the kind of defensive stability and base to work from all teams desire.
Ferguson might get forward at times while McDonald is the rock at the back and that consistency played a huge role in Spurs' success in 2021.
- Connor Crain (Macquarie United)
Not just the scorer of absolute worldies that have generated plenty of clicks on WPL channels, Crain showed his versatility to great effect this season.
More commonly known as a midfielder, Crain shifted into defence this season given the lack of experience at the back for Macquarie.
He did so with aplomb and earned plenty of praise his his efforts. Was key to keeping Macquarie's finals hopes alive for so long.
- Duncan Cahill (Orana Spurs)
Speak to a majority of fans of the WPL and it'll be hard for them to name someone that has outperformed Duncan Cahill this season, so that's why he gets our nod as our player of the year.
The 'Mullet Messi', as he's been nicknamed by his teammates, Cahill has been a huge part of Orana Spurs' resurgence this season.
After attending boarding school, Cahill didn't play last season and this campaign with Spurs will be his only one as he's set to move away for university next year.
- Kane Settree (Dubbo Bulls)
After playing for Western NSW FC at a junior level, Kane Settree has been one of the WPL's standout players in 2021.
The teenage midfielder has been one of the most talked about players in the Premier League so far this season, having slotted into the highly-regarded Bulls midfield seamlessly.
He had been fighting neck and neck with Spurs' Duncan Cahill in the WPL player of the year vote and it'll be interesting to see which one claims the prize once the tally is made public.
- Jackson Sinclair (Orange Waratahs)
Waratahs return to the WPL was one to behold, with the Orange-based club in second place at the time of the competition's cancellation.
One man that has been a reliable presence in Waratahs midfield is Jackson Sinclair.
Well rated across WPL circles, Sinclair has helped cement the Orange club as one of the most consistent in 2021.
- Brent Tucker (Parkes Cobras)
Parkes Cobras were potentially a week away from appearing in their maiden WPL finals campaign, with skipper Brent Tucker playing an important role in his team's success this year.
The typical unflappable distributor from centre midfielder, Tucker played a big part in the way Parkes attacked on the counter.
Picking midfielders for this team of the year was difficult considering the amount of talent on offer across the WPL, but we couldn't go past Tucker's impact in transforming Parkes from competition cellar dwellers to finals contenders.
- Craig Sugden (Orange Waratahs)
A man who likes to play the false nine at time for Waratahs, Sugden's game doesn't lack goals.
Alongside teammate Sinclair, Sugden has helped Waratahs tick along impressively during the team's 2021 run, which resulted in second place before the competition was ultimately abandon.
The Waratahs veteran scores goals - he scored nine this season - making him a valuable presence up front.
- Jacob Soetens (Panorama)
At the start of the WPL season, Jacob Soetens was actually planning to play with Panorama's Bathurst District Football first grade side.
But things changed and Soetens became a regular for the Goats in WPL and while he missed a handful of games, the prolific striker still managed to find the back of the net 10 times, making him equal joint goal scorer.
In two season in WPL now Soetens has managed 15 goals, cementing himself as one of the most reliable strikers in the competition.
- Alec Bateson (Parkes Cobras)
Alongside the previously mentioned Soetens, Alec Bateson was this season's WPL joint top goal scorer, so it's hard to argue against him getting a spot in the team.
With 10 goals to his name, Bateson was an ever-reliable threat in the 18 yard box for the Cobras, banging home a fair few penalties from the spot as well.
A highly skillful player, Bateson is well known around the league and if we had to pick a team of the year when it comes to online banter, he's easily our player of the season.
- Justin Gibson (Orana Spurs)
Gibson finished the season one goal off the top of the pile, so he's unlucky not to make the starting line-up. It was a tough decision to leave him out.
- Dave Ferguson (Orana Spurs)
Ferguson built a reliable combination with Connor McDonald in turning Spurs' backline into a force to be reckoned with. It was toss up between him and McDonald in making it into the first XI.
- Will Fitzpatrick (Panorama)
A workhorse in the Panorama midfield, Fitzpatrick was an ever reliable presence in the Goats line-up that put together a late in run for the finals.
- Harrison Maynard (Mudgee Wolves)
Mudgee had a challenging return to the WPL this season, managing just two wins from 16, but one of the standout performers in the Wolves team was Harrison Maynard.
- Josh Ward (Barnestoneworth United)
While he was injured at the start of the season, it's hard to go past the impact Josh Ward brought to Barnstoneworth United when coming off the bench. The coach always had the ability to lift his team, which helped spark a mini revival in the second half of the season.
- Logan Inwood (Lithgow Workmen's)
After going from semi finalists to 2020 to last place in 2021, it's been a tough season for Lithgow Workmen's. However, there was been a bright spot for Workies with the performance of Logan Inwood, who has shown great sportsmanship every time he takes to the pitch.
- Ben Manson (Orana Spurs)
In 2020, Spurs were lucky not to win the wooden spoon.
But there's no doubting the effort Ben Manson has done to the club, turning them from cellar dwellers to potential title challengers in the space of 12 months.
Many ruled Spurs out from qualifying for the finals, let alone battling for top spot and the way he had Spurs ticking along in the second half of the season was impressive. Had the finals gone ahead, they would've been hard to stop.
An honourable mention for coach of the year was Parkes' Meaghan Kemspon.
She's another coach that has transformed her team, with Parkes being wooden spooners last year to potentially playing finals.
While Manson has a strong approach to managing his players, Kempson is a bit more hands on, having been Parkes coach in the club's inaugural season.
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