Western Rams coach Darren Jackson believes the shock wins seen in both the Group 11 and Group 10 grand finals is evidence of the widespread talent in the region.
The Forbes Magpies stunned the previously undefeated Dubbo CYMS earlier this month while on Sunday the Mudgee Dragons capped off its run from fifth place with a grand final win over minor premiers Orange CYMS in Group 10.
Both matches were also decided by tries in the final minutes and such thrilling and high quality matches delighted the representative coach.
“If you look at first grade both games came down to the final minutes and in reserve grade they were both tight matches and both League Tag grand finals went to extra time,” he said.
“There were games won with tries in the final minutes and there was a high standard of competition so the Western region is in good stead.”
As well as each Group 11 and Group 10 finales being a close-fought thing, the Castlereagh League grand final was decided by three tries from the Gilgandra Panthers inside the final nine minutes.
The weekend’s Woodbridge Cup decider was also a thriller as Condobolin held off Trundle 18-16 while the New Era Cup came to an equally even finish with Bathurst Villages edging out the Blackheath Blackcats 12-8.
“It’s good for footy and I know as a player about 10 years ago to the day when I was playing for Cobar we beat Wellington and it’s just good for those smaller towns,” Jackson said in regards to some of the surprise grand final results.
“If the big towns keep winning each year it can be a bit monotonous.”
The discovery of new match winning players, such as Forbes young guns Mitch Andrews and Mitch Bourke, as well as Mudgee’s Rota Seru in 2016 was a major positive for Jackson.
As someone who has been busy selecting a Western Rams squad for the showcase match against Italy on October 15, Jackson has been pleased by the new talents on show this season, as well as the continued success of experienced campaigners like Narromine’s Luke Thompson and Ben McAlpine of Orange CYMS.
A number of players pushed for representative selection and a host of those who impressed are expected to be named in the 2017 Rams train-on squad, which Jackson hopes will have its first session in November.
“It’s all good signs,” Jackson said, adding he is keen to give new players a taste of rugby league at the higher level.
“Providing they stay injury free and are keen to play. And I hope that’s the case because I know playing representative footy and playing with a higher class of players can take your game to the next level.”