The Group 11 season delivered again in 2018.
There was drama, there was controversies, there was shocks, and at the end of the day there was rugby league of the highest quality being played each and every weekend.
The Daily Liberal is taking a look back at what happened in 2018, picking out some of the biggest moments, games, and players of the season.
The Cowboys return
In the build-up to the 2018 season it was all about Wellington due to the talk around Origin players Nathan Merritt and Timana Tahu linking with the club.
While we barely saw them this year it was still a memorable year for the Cowboys. The first grade side played some brilliant football in its return to the top five, producing some of the most entertaining footy of the season at times. The under 18s and reserve grade sides also delivered during a year that confirmed the Cowboys are well and truly back. As well as that, great strides were off the field and club’s passionate supporters were again decked out in maroon and out in force.
Group 11 is better when the Cowboys are riding high.
Still tough for referees
There was a few lowlights in 2018.
Referee abuse still goes on in our game and we saw it out at Narromine when a game was called off early after a touchie was subject to dreadful comments, while grand final day had its dramas in both reserve grade and first grade. The latter resulting in a hefty ban for CYMS enforcer Lincoln Kavanagh. Much was also made of Aidan Ryan’s comments after a loss to CYMS, where he slammed referee Willie Barnes.
It’s been said countless times in Group 11 and many, many other competitions that referees need more respect. While the likes of Ryan and the Cowboys, and also Jets coach Wes Middleton admitted after the incidents it wasn’t good enough, things like these really need to stop in season 2019. It’s hard enough to attract new referees to the good of the game we all love so a real effort needs to be made.
Clevin comes from nowhere
If you’d said at the start of the year Tony Clevin would finish as Narromine’s leading point-scorer and develop into a Group 11 standout few would have believed you.
The Jets started the year with the two Group 11 representative halves in Tyrone Walsh and Travis Lowe. However, things didn’t work out with the pair and neither finished the season in Narromine. Step up, Clevin. He started the year in reserve grade but by the end of the 2018 campaign he had made a halves position his own.
He also made the Jets better, playing a massive role in them avoiding the wooden spoon in the final round. As well as that, he created numerous highlights with one stunning individual effort against Westside springing to mind. After jinking and stepping for what seemed like an age, Clevin kicked for himself and planted the ball down just before the touchline.
Lamb stands tall
You could argue Farren Lamb’s reputation has been tarnished slightly after a dramatic off-season where he signed with Macquarie before soon turning around and joining with Oberon, but his grand final field goal still stands out.
A massive and vocal crowd in attendance at Apex Oval, a premiership on the line, and older and more experienced players barking orders to him. Despite all that, the teenager took it upon himself to kick the match-winning field goal inside the final 10 minutes of the 2018 Group 11 grand final.
This was against a CYMS side many had labelled as unbeatable during the year. Lamb could not have kicked it any better, capping off a year of real development and improvement with a fully-deserved premiership.
“All I could hear was ‘Burkey’ (Mitch Burke) saying swing it,” Lamb said post-game.
“But I said no, I’m going it.”
And go it he did.
CYMS runs riot
The opening 22 minutes of the NSW Challenge Cup final between CYMS and the Ron Massey Cup’s Guildford Owls was simply incredible.
Good luck finding a period of better footy anywhere in the west this year.
CYMS went at a point a minute early on in a display of outstanding attacking play against a side which was far more physically imposing. The early blitz exhausted the Owls and set up an incredible 62-18 victory. Undoubtedly a performance which will go down as one of the biggest highlights of the Tim Ryan era at the Fishies.
The men in green and white might have lost the Group 11 decider but this was a perfect reward for seasons of brilliance. The best club in the state? Who’s going to argue with that.
The Dubbo derbies still remain and are always entertaining while there is real dislike between CYMS and Wellington when they going head-to-head. But the best contests in Group 11 remain the clashes between Parkes and Forbes.
There’s few better days than the Sunday of the June long weekend when these two proud clubs are going head-to-head.
In front of a raucous Pioneer Oval crowd at Parkes it was the visitors who reigned supreme in 2018. The Magpies won in an absolute bottler, Mitch Burke starring as the eventual premiers claimed an 18-6 victory. Parkes were tough though and really stuck it to their fierce rivals while playing more than 50 minutes with 12 men.
THE SAM DWYER/STEWART MILLS ‘PLEASE DON’T LEAVE’ AWARD
Timmy takes a break
Named after two top players and genuine good blokes who sadly departed Group 11 after the 2017 season, this award goes to someone we don’t want to see leave our competition.
This time it goes to none other than Tim Ryan. Love him or loathe him it won’t be the same in Group 11 without the master coach of Dubbo CYMS.
He took and already great club to another level and he made all his rivals lift their game as well. Three premierships were won during his six years at the helm while countless brilliant displays were produced on the field. He definitely deserves a break from the game but he leaves massive shoes to fill.
Really, who knows?
The 2019 Group 11 season shapes as one of the most intriguing in some time.
No more Tim Ryan at CYMS, possibly no Jake Grace at Forbes, big changes and positive sounds coming from Macquarie and Nyngan, and steady development at the other clubs. If you can correctly predict a top five right now then you seriously need to go out and buy a lottery ticket.
Justin Carney will be one to watch at Nyngan, the coach swap between Macquarie and Narromine has created plenty of interest, Wellington is chasing high profile players like former NRL hooker Travis Waddell, and Parkes are determined to fight for the title again. Throw in Westside and it’s hugely passionate fanbase and there’s plenty to look forward to.
All that can be said with confidence is 2019 is going to be another season absolutely loaded with highlight after highlight.