A shorter season and geographic pools are set to be implemented for the upcoming 2022 Western under 21s competition.
The draw for the fledgling junior competition was recently released, with 11 teams set to contest the competition, a significant jump from the six clubs that competed in the inaugural edition in 2021.
Defending champions St Pat's will be joined in the eastern pool by Bathurst Panthers, who make their Western under 21s debut, and two Orange clubs CYMS and Hawks.
The inclusion of the Panthers in next season's competition means there'll be a Bathurst derby in the Western under 21s competition for the very first time.
NSW Rugby League club and league support coordinator Dallas Reeves said local derbies will provide the competition with a little extra spice.
"Group 10 is the area where we've picked up a few teams and the derbies had an extra bit of interest, that's for sure," he said.
"When the two Bathurst teams play, I'm sure it will be fairly closely contested."
In the northern pool are Mudgee Dragons, Dubbo Macquarie, Dubbo CYMS and Coonamble Bears, while the western pool will have just three teams in Cowra Magpies, Parkes Spacemen and Forbes Magpies.
Castlereagh Cup outfit Coonamble is the only team from outside Group 10 or 11.
Reeves said he had been hopeful that they could find a 12th team, to help fill out the western pool.
"We tried all sort of scenarios. West Wyalong were actually not far off, they were interested, they just couldn't jag enough players," he said.
"We also tried Young and even Narrabri and Gunnedah up north. We cast the net pretty wide but we just didn't have any luck."
Next season's Western under 21s competition will be a week shorter than last season.
The 2021 campaign featured six teams, playing a round robin before culminating in two weeks of finals, for a total of seven weeks.
Next year will feature three pool rounds before two weeks of finals and a final, for a total of six weeks.
"We sent out some feedback to the clubs that participated earlier this year and the consensus that the length was more than enough," Reeves said.
"We were pretty conscious of not going over six. I think four to five games is the perfect sweet spot but we decided to settle on the six weeks."
The opening round fixtures will see Cowra host Parkes, a double-header at Orange with Hawks versus Bathurst Panthers and CYMS versus St Pat's, before a double-header in Dubbo when Mudgee plays Coonamble and local rivals Macquarie and CYMS clash.
The opening round will be played on February 12-13.
The local derby between Panthers and St Pat's will be held at Carrington Park on February 26.
The three-week finals series will see a top level cup competition and consolation plate series contested.
The finals of both the cup and plate will be held at the same venue on either March 18, 19 or 20.
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