There were plenty of people who had concerns about the 2022 season when it was announced Group 11 and Group 10 would be coming together in one competition for the first time.
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But, sitting back now after six months of action, it's fair to say fans around the region were treated to some elite rugby league in 2022.
The Forbes Magpies were crowned the inaugural Peter McDonald Premiership champions but there were a host of memorable performances throughout the season.
We've put our heads together, looked back on all those performances, and named out team of the season for 2022.
You can have your say here as well and vote for who you think was the best player in the west this season.
NSW Country representative, premiership winner, Scott Weir medallist.
That's about all you need to know. Andrews is a simple choice after a sensational 2022 season.
Staying fit was massive after an injury-ravaged 2021 season and Andrews' performances were key to Forbes' success this year.
Seventeen tries for the season, hat-tricks against Macquarie and Nyngan, and that all-important tackle on CYMS winger Tom Hughes in the grand final.
Praised by Magpies coach Cameron Greenhalgh time and time again for his ability to stop tries as much as score them, Andrews enhanced his reputation as one of the best players in the bush in 2022.
A selection that might surprise a few but the youngster made the wing spot at Forbes his own this season and thrived for the eventual premiership winners.
While he's still prone to the odd mistake, Hartwig makes up for with his pace and finishing ability.
Eleven tries for the season, second to only Mitch Andrews at Forbes, Hartwig scored a number of crucial tries for the Magpies this season while a hat-trick against Cowra was a deserved reward.
Forbes struggled in 2021 and finished outside the top five in Group 11. A lot of that was due to an in experienced backline being found wanting at times. Hartwig was part of that backline but came through the other side and has been a better player for it.
One of the best centres in the western area, without a doubt.
Year after year, it's the same Corin Smith, and it doesn't look like he's letting up anytime soon.
With 17 tries throughout the whole season, when Mudgee needed some inspiration they looked to the edge and Smith was always there ready to produce his magic.
One of the easier choices here. The top try-scorer in the Peter McDonald Premiership and one of the most destructive players with ball in hand.
Thurston is someone capable of playing for NSW Country and his lack of involvement was one of the reasons CYMS was second best on grand final day.
Whether he's playing at centre or switching to fullback and causing chaos with his running game, Thurston is someone who just knows how to find the try line. The kind of player every team would love to have.
While hooker Hayden Bolam was definitely the best for Bathurst St Pat's this season, Brien would've been a close second.
Just like Corin Smith, St Pat's always looked to their centre for a way to open up the game and it was a regular sight seeing Brien beat his man on the outside.
While wing wasn't his spot, there's no way he couldn't be included and with his frame, there'd be plenty of run metres coming off kick returns for this side.
He might've missed half the season through injury, but Orange CYMS' captain-coach was clinical whenever he featured in the Peter McDonald Premiership.
Mortimer played a massive role in CYMS' first round win over Nyngan and was equally as impressive in their 32-30 victory over Parkes Spacemen, when Chad Porter took him on.
On two occasions, Dubbo CYMS coach Shawn Townsend referred to Mortimer as 'the best player in the competition' and while it may have been a deflection tactic in his side's run to the finals, he wasn't wrong.
Daniel Mortimer can deal with the number six jersey, because Porter deserves the seven.
Porter played arguably the best footy of his career this year. Always one of the best organisers in the western area, his eagerness to run the ball in 2022 helped take his game to the next level.
He scored 14 tries for the year and finished the Peter McDonald Premiership's top point-scorer. His playmaking was as good as ever and he combined to great effect with hooker Sam Dwyer and captain-coach Jack Creith.
Mudgee's Jack Littlejohn and Mortimer might be bigger names, but Porter would deserve to be the Western Rams halfback if a team was getting named right now. That's about as good a compliment as you can give.
Wow, doesn't this team have some NRL experience?
When it comes to the Mudgee pack, Priest was undoubtedly their leader this season.
The former Bulldogs and Raiders prop was a standout for Mudgee all of this year, constantly winning the middle for his side.
You'd have to think if he wasn't suspended for the finals, would Mudgee have made the grand final? It's a tough question, but that's the magic of being hypothetical.
The Group 10 player of the year, does there need to be much more said?
A former Group 11 premiership winner, 2022 was Bolam's first full season for St Pat's and was a big reason behind the side's much improved season.
Crafty around the ruck and never missing a tackle, the hooker was his team's rock and would lead this team around the park.
Dubbo CYMS front-row partner Jarryn Powyer is normally a certainty in these type of teams but as he missed a large chunk of the season through injury, it was Marlin who took on even more responsibility.
Marlin is always one of the most consistent at CYMS and he was no different this year. His leadership was also vital, with the performance in a gutsy win over Forbes midway through the season when an injury-ravaged Fishies side trotted out a host of youngsters was inspirational.
He couldn't get the best of Forbes' forward pack in the grand final but that shouldn't take away from anything from another cracking season from one of the biggest workhorses in the region.
Wellington won just one game this year, scored the least points of any team in the Group 11 pool, and finished the regular season with a differential of -252.
Despite that, Justin Toomey-White was named the Group 11 and the Peter McDonald Premiership Player of the Year.
Some might argue whether he was a worthy winner or not but there can be no arguing about his quality as a player and ability as a captain-coach.
As reliable as anyone in bush footy, Toomey-White verges on unstoppable when he's running the ball out wide. He had to do even more this season with such a young side and found himself playmaking and kicking at times. Unsurprisingly, he did that well too.
You could be forgiven for not even knowing the name Charlie Lennon at the midway point of the 2022 season.
He only played his first game for the Magpies this year in round 11 but his impact during the run to the grand final victory was so immense the young back-rower deserves his place here.
After years in Sydney, the Red Bend product came home for a refresh. After scoring tries from the bench in round 11 and round 12, the 20-year-old was quickly promoted to the starting lineup.
He only lost once while back at home and his energy and strength, particularly during the finals series, worked brilliantly alongside the grinding, workhorse-style of other members of the Forbes forward pack.
Cemented his status as one of the greats of western area footy this year.
As tough as they come and an inspiration to those around him, Grace won a third premiership in seven years with Forbes in 2022 and he was crucial to that success.
His return was one of the biggest factors in the Magpies' turnaround this year and scoring two tries in the grand final was just rewards for one of the genuine good guys of bush footy.
He said after the grand final win he's going to hang up the boots and if that's the case he's going to bow out a Forbes Magpies legend.
A no-nonsense hooker who gets his work done and provides plenty of creativity for the Dragons.
Beasley has consistently been one of the best hookers in Group 10 for some time, and only featured in the second half of the Peter McDonald Premiership this season.
Despite the shorter stint, his form was scintillating and there was no better indication of his ability to dominate the ruck than Mudgee's 56-16 win over Orange CYMS in the final round.
The third Dragon in this side and one of the most deserving.
It's no wonder all of the Dragons team of the year players feature in the middle, because that's where Mudgee did all their work and Thompson was a big part of that.
A goal-kicking forward, Thompson's hard-working nature would be extremely valuable in this side. The lock was also suspended during Mudgee's finals run but only missed week one against Forbes.
However, if he was there for that game, do they lose to Forbes? It's just another hypothetical, but worth asking.
This bench will go down as one of the most hard-working of any team of the year in the country.
When you bring Betts off the interchange you get a leader, strong defender and metre eater and he did all that with aplomb this season. Even when his Panthers side were struggling, Betts was almost best on ground in every game, his work rate never wavered.
If it wasn't for the great Jake Grace's premiership season, the Western Ram would probably be throwing on the 13 for this side.
Anyone who has represented NSW Country previously arrives with plenty of pressure on their shoulders but Parkes recruit Wardle lived up to the hype and then some.
He quickly bought into the culture at the Spacemen and became a real fan favourite, while also delivering on the field.
Hard to handle with ball in handle and someone who whacked the opposition in defence, Wardle almost immediately became a key player for the Spacemen this year. The side's poor performances when he was injured or suspended also proved his importance.
The mastermind behind so much of Forbes' success in the past decade. Jake Grace might have been captain-coach in 2016 and 2018 but 'Red Dog' was there in the background providing a huge amount of expertise and has continued to do so since.
He brushed off a disappointing 2021 season and rebuilt the belief at Forbes. Tells it like it is and has continued to bring young players through while getting the best out of the Magpies veterans.
He's developed a real legacy at the club.
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