NSW Country have been waiting two decades to get the Australian Rugby Shield men's title back in their hands, but will new coach Dean Oxley be the man to lead the Cockatoos back to the top?
The Bathurst Bulldogs Blowes Cup premiership-winning mentor will lead NSW Country during this week's campaign in Queensland with a Cockatoos team packed with Central West talent.
The men's team, along with NSW women's and colts squads, all get their shield bids underway this Wednesday in the hopes of bringing some long awaited silverware back home.
Oxley was honoured to take up the role with the Cockatoos, having enjoyed Country Championships success in the past with Central West, and is eager for the challenge at the national level.
"I'm really looking forward to it. I'd done some satellite sessions at Orange, Wollongong and the Central Coast. I couldn't get to every place ... and that's just the nature of the beast when you cover such a wide area but I'm excited about the quality of player that we're working with," he said.
"Everything we've done so far has been first class. We're trying to put together a pretty professional outfit and approach to this carnival.
"The Australian Rugby Shield hasn't been won by the Cockatoos since 2004, so that's the job we're trying to get done."
It will be a tough introduction for Oxley's squad at the tournament.
They'll face Perth in Wednesday's opener, in a match where NSW will want to set themselves a strong platform to build off.
"That's basically the grand final of our pool, straight off the bat," Oxley said.
"We'll have the colts playing first, then we play and then the ladies play at night so it'll be a big day for NSW Country rugby."
The shield made its return in 2022 after a 14-year absence, and was taken out last year by the ACT & Southern New South Wales Griffins.
It can be tough to ascertain what the hierarchy is like when coming up against rarely seen opponents but Oxley said there's a small group of teams that are likely to set the tone.
"There's four big sides, and whoever takes those opportunities and stands up in the big moments can win it," he said.
"Queensland Country knocked off NSW Country at the start of the year but NSW Country beat them at the Australian Rugby Shield last year.
"ACT got the job done in the final last year where they beat Perth in a cliffhanger. It's hard to know what might have changed in 12 months but there's going to be no easy games.
"It'll be incredibly hot up here and there will be a number of factors that every team will do with but I'm just looking forward to a different challenge. I'm keen to get amongst it and we'll learn as we go."
The Cockatoos face Perth at 4.30pm and the Corellas will follow at 7.30pm in a meeting with South Australia.