LOVE a good story about a tough as nails performer, a veteran who is carving up, young guns impressing or a whole-hearted performance?
Well round 13 of the Peter McDonald and Western Under 18s Premierships delivered all that and more.
Take a look at the talking points to come out of the weekend in the latest edition of Set of Six:
1) Amazing Grace soldiers on for the Magpies
JOHN Sattler's broken jaw, Sam Burgess and his busted cheekbone, and now Jake Grace and his broken hand.
Grace's injury may not have been have been of the same magnitude as those famous rugby league moments, but the Forbes star still produced one hell of a tough effort at Apex Oval on Saturday.
Grace suffered a suspected broken hand when making the very first tackle of the match against Macquarie, but the lock still got through the entire 80 minutes.
As is always the case, the Group 11 premiership winner still got through a mountain of work in attack and defence in what was a fast-paced and bruising clash with the Raiders.
His hand was noticeably swollen post-game and the pain of the injury was made that little worse as Forbes suffered a hugely frustrating 22-16 loss to the Raiders, one which drops them back to third on the ladder.
With Mitch Andrews also battling a lower back injury late on in Saturday's match, it will be a nervy week for the Magpies as they await the status of their two stars.
2) There's superb Saints and then there's sloppy Saints
SUNDAY'S 48-0 victory over Cowra Magpies certainly looks great for St Pat's on paper - and there was plenty of great football from the Saints - but the middle portion of the match showed what happens when a team starts rushing things.
With a 20-0 lead at the half-hour mark, Pat's started to cough up the ball when take riskier options in attack.
That trend continued into the second half and it gave a depleted Magpies team the chance to pepper the Pat's try line.
Pat's would eventually see through that period of uncertainty to put on a 28-point blitz over the last 18 minutes.
The Saints got back to basics and started picking gaps through the middle of a tiring Magpies defensive wall.
However, what will give Pat's confidence is that Sunday's game featured several players shifting around in key positions. Those new combinations were still able to link up in exciting fashion to set up some excellent tries.
"We had blokes in new roles and I was really pleased with what they did," Pat's coach Zac Merritt said.
"We pretty much trained the way that we played - a little bit erratic. We've got two new halves and a couple of other blokes moving around. Aiden Stait had a really great debut.
"We know what works well for us now, and that's moving the ball through the middle."
The fourth-placed Saints will have a golden opportunity to lock down a place in the finals over the last three rounds of the regular season.
They go up against the winless Wellington Cowboys next round, then face the struggling Lithgow Workies and end the regular season with a bye and a guaranteed two points.
Pat's hold a one-point advantage over the Orange Hawks in the battle for fourth place and are three points behind cross-city rivals Panthers.
3) Cowra might not have the wins, but it has plenty of spirit
IF you had any doubts that an injury-ridden Peter McDonald Premiership season would get to the Cowra Magpies, then those would be quashed if you spent time near their bench on Sunday.
The team were still able to share plenty of laughs and cheer on some of their squad mates who were backing up from lower grades, despite the scoreboard reading 48-0 against them in the game with St Pat's.
It's a healthy attitude from a team who have been cruelled by the losses of what president Marc McLeish recently called "foundation players" of the club.
The Magpies' finals hopes officially ended with the Sunday's loss, though realistically they were gone several weeks ago.
It was hard enough to lose Jack Buchanan and Warren Williams early in the season, but with the recent losses of Cameron Picker and player-coach Jack Nobes it cranked the difficulty level up to a whole new level.
With the end of the season in sight Nobes said it's been great to see the team maintaining a solid level of enthusiasm in a tough situation.
"It's been a long season for us, but St Pat's are a very good side and they're going to be there at the pointy end of the season. We expected it to be tough and they took their chances when they had them," he said.
"Our guys are getting around each other. You can't help injuries. Rugby league is a contact sport and that's how it is. We're down to about 24 players between two grades, and that's tough.
"These boys still rock up to training every week and put in for the guys next to them. Many of them are going out to play reserve grade and then back up for first grade. I couldn't be prouder of them."
In more positive news for the Magpies, their under 18s are right in the mix for a finals appearance.
They currently sit second on the Group 10 ladder, and sixth overall, with six wins from 10 games.
4) Veteran Spacemen are still flying
IN the final five minutes of Sunday's reserve grade match at Pioneer Oval, Dubbo CYMS kicked off after conceding a try and it was Marika Koroivui who took the first hit-up for the Spacemen.
It's one thing for a centre to take the first run after any kick-off, but the fact Koroivui is 48-years-old makes it's even more impressive.
The veteran Fijian is a real favourite in Parkes, having been a star for the Spacemen and Boars rugby union side for what now feels like an age and he's still going strong.
Someone who still makes the odd first grade appearance, Koroivui is a standout in a Spacemen reserve grade side that has been battling for much of this year.
Koroivui isn't the only Fijian reserve grader who continues to do a job each and every week for Parkes.
Forty-four-year-old Epi Sadrodro, another premiership winner at Parkes, was also in action on Sunday and got through his usual hard work in the middle of the field.
The Spacemen have a proud tradition with Fijians and while Koroivui and Sadrodro are two of the greats, the club will hope current first graders like Jim Dabea, Tikoko Noke and Benny Cokanasiga can lead them to premiership glory this year.
5) Is West the best? Panthers coach Carter's not quite sure
OVER the past fortnight there has been plenty of talk about expanding the Western competitions to four grades, adding league tag and reserves to the under 18s and first grade premierships which currently exist.
Many see it is a way to strengthen league in the region, pointing to the success of the Peter McDonald and Western Under 18s Premierships.
But when it comes to the Western Under 18s, Bathurst Panthers coach Mick Carter is still not completely convinced it is better than having separate Group 10 and Group 11 titles.
"I definitely think the boys have enjoyed it and it's a different experience, but I still myself don't know what to make of it," he said.
"I'm still neither here nor there whether it should just be Group 10, but it is something different."
A Western-wide competition for under 18s - the Western Youth League - first ran in 2020 as a way to give juniors the chance to play after the Group 10 and Group 11 seasons were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Its format saw teams from Group 10 and Group 11 plus a Woodbridge Cup outfit split into geographical pools with games played in 15-minute quarters.
Forbes Magpies won the grand final 22-10 over Dubbo CYMS.
Last year both Group 10 and Group 11 ran their own under 18 premierships once more, but in 2022 a Western competition was introduced to compliment the Peter McDonald Premiership.
The format sees clubs play a bulk of their matches against rivals based within their respective Group 10 or Group 11 regions, but there are crossover fixtures too.
It means some teams will go through the season without ever meeting and some teams get easier crossover games than others.
That's one of the reasons why Carter is not sure if the Western competition is better than what Panthers had when it was Group 10 only.
He has other questions about how successful the finals series will be.
The top four sides from Group 10 and the top four sides from Group 11 will advance to the semi-finals.
"Time will tell after this year and how the semi-final format works. There are still a lot of people wondering where the games are going to be played and how it's going to work," he said.
"Dubbo normally just play everything at their main ground and it's neutral, while Group 10 has gone to who earns it each year in first grade. At this stage that's potentially looking like Mudgee for us.
"So we'll see what happens, but I'm still not sure if I think it's better."
6) Forbes Magpies send a reminder of their quality
FOR much of the Western Under 18s competition this year the talk has been around the sheer quality of Dubbo CYMS as well as the ability of small-town teams Nyngan and Cowra to punch above their weight and sit high on the ladder.
One side which hasn't been spoken about quite as much is the Forbes Magpies.
That might seem strange as the Magpies have been a powerhouse of Group 11 for a long time now but, for the most part, they've just been quietly going about their business.
Things will be different now though after a fantastic and dominant performance on Saturday.
The mercy rule almost came into effect at Apex Oval as the young Magpies simply overpowered the Macquarie Raiders.
The Raiders were only one spot below the Magpies in fifth prior to Saturday, but they were no match for the kids in black and white and suffered a 54-6 hammering.
Forbes' almighty forward pack was immense, constantly punching holes through the Raiders' defence, while in Jamie Thorpe the Magpies have one of the best young playmakers in the region.
Saturday's match also finished a couple of minutes early due to a potentially serious knee injury to Raiders five-eighth Dont'e Fernando that required an ambulance at the ground. Here's hoping the young gun can get back on the field soon.
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