FROM the international stage, to playing for New South Wales Country, Central West, their clubs or their schools, it was a super season for Bathurst's rugby talents.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
There were grand finals and premierships, milestones and debuts as players from the junior ranks right through to masters impressed.
So here's the A-Z of the biggest rugby union stories from the season and the best Bathurst performances throughout 2022:
ADELAIDE was the venue for this year's Australian Rugby Championships and amongst the talented players who converged were a handful of Bathurst Bulldogs.
Peter Fitzsimmons and Joe Nash lined up for the NSW Country Cockatoos, while Marita Shoulders, Mel Waterford, Jacinta Windsor and Teagan Miller represented the NSW Country Corellas.
While both Cockatoos and Corellas came up just short in their quest to be crowned Australian champions, the Bathurst players enjoyed being part of the tournament.
"It was my first full Corellas experience, I've played Chikarovski Cup which has never been the full experience. So it was pretty good," Shoulders said.
"It was very emotional, the coaches were very big on our emotional journey and our why we are here. There were a few tears shed."
TOM Hooper made his Super Rugby debut last season, but 2022 will go down as the year he became a regular for the ACT Brumbies.
The hard working lock got time in the Brumbies' starting XV and got to play in his first Super Rugby Pacific semi-final.
Hooper also picked up the Shawn Mackay Award for most outstanding young talent and the members' choice player of the year.
On top of that, when the Brumbies' Australian representatives were away for the start of the 2023 pre-season training program, Hooper was given a leadership role.
"I've undertaken a sort of senior role. Obviously I'm still young in age, but a majority of our squad is away with the Wallabies, so there are not that many guys here to lead the younger guys," he said.
"We're easing all the young guys into it, we're teaching them our foundational stuff on the field, a few of our set pieces, and being around them off the field and making sure they are at home."
THERE were a host of Bathurst talents who headed to the NSW Country Championships in 2022 as Central West representatives and all of them got the experience of playing in a final.
The women's side which made it three consecutive Thomson Cup triumphs by beating Central North 23-0 in the decider was skippered by Mel Waterford.
That Blue Bullettes side also included her Bathurst club-mates Poorsha Mcphillamy, Teagan Miller, Ebony Fenton, Marita Shoulders, Jacinta Windsor, Nicole Schneider, Daisy Morrissey and Sarah Colman.
The Central West colts also found Country Championships success with a Bathurst Bulldog at the helm.
Bailey Warren captained a colts side which included fellow Bulldogs Joe Kermode and Harvey Thurston through an undefeated Rowlands Colts Cup campaign.
In the men's Caldwell Cup decider, the Blue Bulls went down 32-29 to Central Coast in an extra-time thriller.
The Blue Bulls had Bathurst's Peter Fitzsimmons as co-captain, with fellow Bulldogs Justin Mobbs, Adam Plummer, Joe Nash, Matt Trapp and Kurt Weekes in the side as well.
FINALLY ending the drought by winning at Endeavour Oval against Orange Emus - that's what the Bathurst Bulldogs did in round one of the Blowes Cup competition.
In posting a 35-31 victory in a clash that Bathurst coach Dean Oxley called "worthy of finals football", the Bulldogs ended a drought of more than a decade on Emus home soil.
It was the first time since June 19, 2010, the Bathurst first XV had won against Emus at Endeavour.
"It was an outstanding game and the momentum swings were large throughout the game. There were moments where we just about couldn't get our hands on the ball and Emus froze us out of the game with their application to their game, but we bounced back," Oxley said.
Bulldogs went on to post their first clean sweep of all games against Emus in 12 years - winning their other regular season fixtures 26-20 and 35-31 before downing their Orange rivals at 15-13 Ashwood Park on grand final day.
IT wasn't a game that Bathurst Bulldogs won, but their August 7 clash with Forbes was still an epic.
Forbes fought back from a 10-point deficit to snatch a 25-21 win by scoring a try in the 87th minute.
Hooker Will Nash was the hero as he barged over and triggered huge scenes of celebration from the Platypi faithful.
"Against Forbes at home, they are never going to go away. We were in it the whole game and had opportunities to take it away from them when we were in front and we didn't execute when we needed to," Bulldogs centre Adam Plummer said.
"To be fair we've done that to a couple of other teams this year, it would've been heart-breaking for Forbes when we did it to them there in the first round.
"Someone has got to lose those sort of games don't they?"
PETER Fitzsimmons has enjoyed some big seasons in his rugby career, but few stack up like 2022.
He played in a nail-biter Country Championships final as co-captain of the Central West Blue Bulls.
His performances as a Blue Bull earned him NSW Country selection and at the Australian Country Championships his side placed second.
On a club level Fitzsimmons captained the Bathurst Bulldogs first XV to Blowes Cup glory, beating Orange Emus on grand final day.
He was also named first grade's best and fairest for 2022.
"It was awesome. I put in a lot of work with Foxy [Dean Oxley, coach] to become a better leader and to play better, but also to try and help people around me play well and pull it together," Fitzsimmons said.
"It's more about what we've put into those younger players, rather than my personal performances, because I don't think I played some of my best footy this year - but maybe I'm just a harsh critic."
HOW do you mark your first appearance at the Pan Pacific Masters Games? For the Bathurst Bulldogs Old Boys' it was by winning gold.
In their first major competition since COVID-19, the Bathurst side beat the Queensland Gorillas 40-5 in the final on the Gold Coast to be crowned division two champions and claim gold.
It was a success built off strong work from the Bulldogs tight five, the Bathurst side dominating up the middle and at the breakdown.
"It's a chance for a bunch of old blokes, for want of a better phrase, relive their youth. To come away with a gold medal was amazing. It was a real emotional moment," club president Paul Welsh said.
"It was something we joked about - wanting to go there and come away with something. To come away with gold, and the way we did so, was pretty impressive. It was a clean game, played in the right spirit of masters.
"That was the first time we've been to this, so that's one from one at this stage."
SEASON 2022 marked the first time in six years that Holy Family School qualified for the Chris Gangemi Shield State Finals.
They did it by absolutely dominating on the Western division level.
The Holy Family side went undefeated through the Bathurst portion of the competition, then showed their class again to win the Western division final in the 10-a-side format.
"They're a great bunch of boys and a good group of sporting all-rounders," Holy Family principal Kevin Arrow said.
"You've got some hockey players, soccer and rugby league players and of course a couple of boys who play for the Bathurst Bulldogs as well.
"They're playing 10-a-side rugby, which is really good for school teams because there's a fair bit of space on the field. That makes it great for scoring tries if you can get around your opponents, and we've got some kids doing well in athletics programs at the moment."
The squad consisted of Levi Thurston, Taron Bennett, Thomas O'Brien, Ryan Pringle, Nick Robinson, Will Curtin, Riley McNiven, Riley Nairne, Austin Chenhall, Elijah Prior, Will Marr, Lincoln Smith and Kai Sargent.
AN 18-year-old American called Judah Johnson - he was CSU's star import for the 2022 New Holland Cup season.
The tight-head prop joined the students in June to further his union skills and under the guidance of coach Dave Conyers he did just that.
He tackled with venom, he made good yards and he strengthened CSU's scrum.
Johnson himself loved the experience.
"It's a very different experience when you go up against someone a lot more physical than you're used to, the only other time I got to play against a physical team was when I played for the under 23s team for the USA South group," he said.
"But even then some grown men were fearful of trying to hit one another and run into one another, it confused me because I just like to hit people. That's one of my favourite things about rugby because I can hit people without pads as hard as I want.
"I love it here, I think it's wonderful ... just knowing that I can go all out and they're giving their all too. It's very new to me, but it's a very good kind of new, I'm enjoying it a lot."
THERE was huge news in November for a pair of Bathurst Bulldogs juniors graduates with Lachlan Hooper and Henry Palmer named in the 48-player Junior Wallabies train-on squad.
It's from that squad a team will be selected to play at the 2023 World Rugby Under 20 Championship.
While the duo are currently part of the ACT Brumbies Academy program, one of their former Bathurst coaches in Shane Cantrill said their talent was evident early on.
"Henry has just got unbelievable speed, it's something that you can never coach. He's just got natural ability, speed and awareness," Cantrill said.
"Henry could sniff out a try quite easily, his mates knew that and they would always back him.
"Lachie started his junior footy at Bulldogs then went through Stannies and to Barker [College] and he's really developed not only as a footy player, but as a really great kid as well.
"Lachie has great work ethic."
AS a university club CSU has fans spread right across Australia, but in 2022 the students added a group of children based some 13,000 kilometres away to their supporter list.
It was the children of the Kafunjo Orphanage in Uganda.
CSU players this year worked to raise funds for the orphanage through raffles and auctions, some of the money going to help buy food, pay teacher wages and allow works on a water infrastructure project.
"I thought it won't hurt the rugby club to do a bit more community work," coach David Conyers said.
"It teaches the boys about other cultures, so it's not a bad part of the learning for them either."
CSU bestowed a special honour on three stalwarts at their 2022 presentation evening with Dave Conyers Mark Campbell and Lee Nevins all being made life members.
Nevins was presented his award after playing more than 500 games for the students over the past decade.
Conyers, who was give life membership for his 20-year association with the students, was impressed with what Nevins has done.
"You don't get many guys playing 10 years for a university club," Conyers said.
"He always turns up for training, he's always there for the away trips, he's a very good clubman all-round."
As for Conyers, he's had some big moments with CSU too.
"I've been in four premierships and we won a club championship in 2005 which is absolutely remarkable a university club can be club champions in the Blowes Cup, because in those days you needed all four sides really doing well," he said.
SHE was one of the best players on the field in this year's Ferguson Cup grand final and while Daisy Morrissey didn't get a win that day, she still finished 2022 with a trophy.
The second rower with a huge work ethic was named the Bathurst Bulldogs' women's best and fairest player.
Given the sort of talent within Bulldogs' ranks it speaks volumes for the season she had.
Morrissey made countless line breaks, she had the ability to off-load when defenders were hanging off her and in defence she was amongst the top tacklers each week.
She praised her team-mates for helping her rapid rise in the sport.
"You learn something at every training session. There's a few times later into the season where I swapped to a position that I haven't played before, and everyone's always keen to help each other out," Morrissey said.
"You can't ask for more from a team when everyone's willing to help out one another like that. Right from Mel Waterford and Marita Shoulders through to the young ones coming through, like Jacinta Windsor and Ali Stanford, everyone is always willing to help."
IF it seems like Dale Norris has been playing for Bathurst Bulldogs forever it's easy to understand why - in season 2022 he notched up his 400th game for the club.
The man nicknamed 'Knocker' marked his milestone game for the Bulldogs in late June by kicking the final conversion of second grade's 35-10 win against the Forbes Platypi at Ashwood Park.
Slotting that goal when he's not a regular kicker to the cheers of the Bulldogs crowd was a special moment for Norris, but it's not the only one he's had at the club.
"I've had a few people ask me what the highlights on the field are, but it's not so much the highlights on the field that you remember the most," he said.
"You do have a lot of them, and there's usually one or two good moments a game to look back on, but it's the little things when you're part of a club that you remember, whether it's the spectators who come along and wear the funny things come finals time or the water boys who are there every week."
IT'S not the first time Dean Oxley has made our A-Z list of highlights and we are sure it won't be the last time for the master coach either.
In his first season back at the helm of the Bathurst Bulldogs first XV, alongside co-coach Chris Plunkett, Oxley guided them to Blowes Cup glory.
They beat fierce rivals Orange Emus on grand final day in front of a bumper home crowd at Ashwood Park.
That came after the Central West Blue Bulls side he coached was denied a third consecutive NSW Country Championships triumph when going down in a extra-time thriller.
Oxley also won Bulldogs' prestigious Ken Laird Memorial Trophy for club person of the year.
Then in late December, it was announced that Oxley had been appointed as coach of the 2023 NSW Country Cockatoos.
"I'm actually enjoying coaching more now than I have in a long time. It's not due to the results, it's due to the way I approach coaching without the same pressure there used to be," Oxley said.
"I stopped playing football when I didn't have the desire anymore and I'll stop coaching when I don't have the desire, but at the moment it's stronger than ever."
ADAM Plummer has been one of the big improvers in recent seasons for the Bathurst Bulldogs and on grand final day he certainly showcased his skills.
Plummer was the man who sparked a comeback against Orange Emus that ultimately saw the centre named best on ground and Bulldogs declared champions.
In the 51st minute Plummer broke through Emus' defensive line in a display then beat several defenders to score in the right corner. It took a burst of speed, it took strength and it took determination.
Plummer enjoyed that moment and his season as a whole.
"I've transitioned from being one of the younger players in the side to taking on more of a senior role," he said.
"It's awesome being a part of this back line. I've come through colts with Glasso [Brad Glasson], who I've been able to build combinations with, and then there's my main man Hunter Davis in the 12.
"It's just such a great group of boys to play footy with."
BATHURST Bulldogs underlined its status as one of the powerhouse clubs in the Central West this season by qualifying four sides for grand finals.
Though only two of them went on to win their deciders - first and second grade triumphing while the women's and third grade outfits lost - it was still a season to be proud of.
"To get four grades in when we've struggled in various ways, and to host, it's been just outstanding," first grade co-coach Dean Oxley said.
"We've had a great year in 2022 and the early signs for 2023, after talking to Dean Oxley, are even bigger and better. It's a great time to be involved," added returning president Phil Newton.
AT the start of the North Cup season the best word to sum of CSU's squad was rookies.
"I think we have 17 who had never touched a footy before," coach Marcus Burrell said after a pre-season trial.
Out of his squad of 30 players only "three or four girls who played last year" returned.
However, the rookies ripped in for CSU and showed huge improvement across the season.
They surprised many by qualifying for the North Cup grand final and though Mudgee Wombats were ultimately crowned champions, the rookies did themselves proud.
"Our girls showed up every week," Burrell said after that loss.
"I couldn't have asked the girls to do any more today and they showed great spirit in regards to the passion that they have."
SAINT Stanislaus' College has long had a reputation as a breeding ground for rugby union talents and in 2022 that reputation was further enhanced.
Wil Taylor and Riley Langfield earned selection in the Australian Schoolboys A Team which went on a three-match tour of Japan.
The duo earned national schoolboys selection with outstanding performances for NSW 1 at the Australian Schools Rugby Championships.
Taylor, 17, who hails from Buff Point on the Central Coast, was solid in the second row while 18-year-old Langfield from Cowra was voted the players' player for the NSW 1 team for his efforts at outside centre.
"It felt really pleasing to hear. It was great to know that all the hard work and dedication had paid off," Langfield said of his Australian selection.
"I've been playing since under 7s, back in Cowra, and I've always thought about making a team like this. It's always been a dream of mine, so it feels really good."
HE had plenty of minutes in first grade this season, but Phil Tonkin earns his spot in the A-Z highlights for what he did for Bathurst Bulldogs' second XV.
The experienced Bulldog not only skippered second grade to a 25-10 victory over the Dubbo Kangaroos in the grand final, but he scored a critical try.
Bulldogs were down by seven at the break, but three minutes into the second half at Ashwood Park Tonkin went over between the sticks.
From that point onwards Bathurst didn't look back.
"In the second half you could really feel a change," Tonkin, who played at fullback, said.
"We were flat in the first half. In the second half we had a lot more enthusiasm. Once we got that try we had the belief that we could do it."
THE Conyers family have spent countless weekends playing, watching and coaching rugby over the years, but in 2022 they enjoyed a first.
They united in a way they had never done so before.
For the first time ever brothers Lachie and Jarrad played in a team their father Dave coached.
It happened in late May at University Oval. While Dave had returned as CSU coach this season and convinced Lachie to play for the students, for one Saturday Jarrad joined in too.
"It was pretty special ... being able to play with my older brother and having my Dad as coach," Lachie said.
"I've played with my brother before, but to have the three of us on the same team was very special, it was nice to get to tick that off the list.
"I think the last time my old man coached me was in Year 7, so it's been 13 years now."
After what was a big year of Central West Rugby Union for Bulldogs and CSU, there were two sides that emerged as grand final victors.
It was the Bulldogs first and second grade sides and both won on home turf at Ashwood Park.
In the Blowes Cup decider the first XV Bulldogs showed grit in holding off Orange Emus for a 15-13 triumph.
Emus had looked in control when zipping out to a 13-0 lead, but the Bulldogs clawed their way back with tries to Justin Mobbs and Adam Plummer.
"There were a few times there where Emus could have taken it away from us, and that would have been heart breaking, and the boys just found another level," coach Dean Oxley said.
"Credit goes to a young group of fellas who decided to get around something again this year. They worked so hard to get the job done."
In second grade the Dogs posted a 25-10 win over the Dubbo Kangaroos, coming from seven points down at half-time to claim the spoils.
"They had the wind in the first half. We were pretty lucky to get away with being down only 10-3 and I was pretty confident that once we had the breeze behind us we'd be able to do a lot better," coach Adam Dwyer said.
"We've played really well all year. We lost our only game of the year up at Dubbo, where most of us also played third grade, but other than that we were excellent."
CAPTAINING the NSW Country Cockatoo Colts - it was a moment for Bathurst Bulldogs prop Bailey Warren to be proud of in 2022.
It was the second year in a row Warren had earned Cockatoos colts selection and came after he captained the Central West Blue Bulls colts to glory at the NSW Country Championships.
Though Warren wasn't able to mark his debut as Cockatoos skipper with a win - the Queensland Heeler Pups played smarter rugby on a windy afternoon come away with a 34-7 victory - the Bathurst talent still impressed.
"We played well, it was just they were the better team on the day," Warren said after the contest.
"The first half they were just kicking to corners, it was pretty tough what they were doing to us, making us run. Then the second half we just didn't get the ball.
"They played to the corners and then it was just hard running really. Then they just broke the line, got tips, got everything, they were playing like Fiji essentially, they were just off-loading running the ball."
CSU feared it and in mid-June an x-ray confirmed it, star flyhalf Ethan Cusick was out for the season with a broken arm.
The 2021 New Holland Cup player of the year had a mixed start to the season as injury and illness kept him from the field, but when he returned his quality was clear to see.
His strong kicking game, his organisation and ability to put team-mates into space were huge assets for CSU.
But with 10 minutes left on the clock in the round eight clash against the Dubbo Rhinos, Cusick was forced from the field.
He fell awkwardly in the tackle and broke his arm.
GETTING to play rugby sevens against international rivals in New Zealand - it was most certainly a yippee moment.
Taking part in the tournament was a huge achievement for the duo, who were a driving force behind their school offering rugby as a sport for girls.
Though nervous, Cobb, Craig and their Cavaliers team-mates exceeded expectations by finishing in 10th position as they made it to the bowl consolation semi-final.
"I was actually, really, really scared. I thought that everyone was going to be so much bigger and better than us, but actually everyone was pretty similar, which was shocking," Cobb said.
"The top sides just could read the ball better and work together.
"The Cavaliers manager said he was hoping for everyone to get in the top 18 and we got in the top 10."
A GREAT zeal for rugby - that's what a group of talented Bathurst juniors displayed in 2022.
Will Curtin, Riley McNiven, Archie Lewis and Jock Robinson ripped into their club rugby for Bulldogs and they were also selected to play for the Central West under 12s at the NSW State Championships.
It was a team that was co-captained by Curtin, McNiven and Millthorpe's Barkley Armstrong.
Then Robinson, Levi Maloney, Ellis Cooper helped Central West bring home silverware from the NSW Under 13s State 7s Youth Championships.
"We had quite a few of our under 12s make rep teams this year. We had the sevens, which three of our players made, and prior to that in the 15-a-side team we had five Bulldogs picked," Bathurst Bulldogs junior president Mark Brennan said.
"They all did quite well, enjoyed the experience, and they'll all be the better for it."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.