The pain of grand final defeat still hits Shawn Townsend now and then but it hasn't been enough to stop him putting his hand up to coach Dubbo CYMS again in 2023.
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Having coached the Fishies for the past two seasons, Townsend is remaining at the helm and will aim to help his side go one better in 2023 after a Peter McDonald Premiership grand final loss to Forbes this year.
After CYMS lost just one during the regular season that defeat took some getting over, but Townsend said it's all about moving on as teams are already eyeing the start of 2023 pre-season.
"I was poking around with my head down around my knees for a few days," Townsend said after the decider loss.
The nature of bush footy these days means the season never stops and it was just days after that grand-final defeat Townsend was asked about staying on as coach while conversations about the 2023 playing group also began.
The CYMS side for next season is already certain to look a little different as powerful ball runner Brydon Ramien has made the move to the Central Coast while young guns Riley Wake and Fletcher Haycock are among the next batch of Dubbo juniors making the move to the Penrith Panthers.
"I think they're the only ones who've left at the moment and we sort of knew about it halfway through the season," Townsend said.
"Hopefully those two (Wake and Haycock) go on to bigger and better things."
No major additions to the side have been confirmed at this stage, but Townsend said he would like to add some depth CYMS' back-row stocks.
Wake played in the back-row and while Ramien offered versatility and sometimes played in the centres he also predominantly spent his time in the forward pack.
Billy Sing and Mitch Cleary started in the second-row for CYMS in the grand final and are set to to return next season while the likes of 2022 under 18s captain Cooper Ferrari and some younger players from reserve grade could also push their case in pre-season.
"We're happy with what we've got but we might be after some depth in some areas," Townsend said.
"We'll look around and see if we can get some depth in the back-row but, in saying that, we've got Coop Ferrari there so there are some coming through.
"A lot of the reserve graders this year were also only 21 and 22. You've got Jackson Bayliss, Kyjuan Crawford and Jarrod Peachey there so we might not have to look to far and the onus is put back on them if they want to play first grade and get fit.
"We might chase one for some depth but it won't be some A-grader who's come straight from the NRL, it will be more give that bit of depth and maybe cover a few positions."
Townsend hasn't been afraid to give young players a chance in the past two seasons and that won't be changing in 2023.
Ferrari will spend the start of next season with Penrith in the SG Ball but is expected to push for first grade minutes when he returns, while the same goes for Canterbury Bulldogs-bound Latrell Fing.
Fing was named the Player of the Year in the Tom Nelson Western Under 18s Premiership this season and could provide back-up to the likes of halves Alex Bonham and Jordi Madden.
"There will be a few who get a chance," Townsend added.
The structure of the 2023 season is far from certain at this stage but it is looking more likely all four grades will be involved in western-wide competition.
Group 11 clubs have long been in favour of adding reserve grade and league tag to the western structure and last Sunday Group 10 clubs voted in favour of the push, as well.
"Towards the back-end of the season in those last crossover games when there was just two games you could see people turning up asking why they're not watching four games," he said.
"People still had to pay money to get through the gate and all clubs chase sponsors so when you turn up and just have two games it's probably not the look bush footy is after.
"I think we were a club which had two crossover games and then a bye so they [reserve grade and league tag players] were going almost a month without footy.
"It didn't sit well with me...I don't know what everyone else's stance on it is but we want the four games."
Townsend is expected to start light pre-season sessions with his first grade side prior to Christmas.
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