While the 2020 rugby league season hasn't been what most wanted, Group 11 president Bob Walsh has had plenty of reason to smile lately.
The announcement of the South Sydney Rabbitohs hosting an NRL match in Dubbo for the next two years has given the game in this region a real boost while Walsh stated the current success of the Penrith Panthers also showcases the quality of the game in Group 11.
The Panthers are one win away from a spot in this year's NRL grand final and head into Saturday's meeting with the South Sydney Rabbitohs as the minor premiers and unbeaten in 16 games.
Dubbo's St John's junior Isaah Yeo has been key to the side's success this season and his form at lock has seen him enter the State of Origin conversation while Brent Naden has battled for a spot in the starting lineup at the beginning of 2020 but is now firmly entrenched in the centres.
As well as those two, there are a host of younger players who have contributed during the regular season and are waiting in the wings at the biggest time of the year.
Forbes junior Charlie Staines made huge headlines earlier in the year when he scored four tries on debut for the Panthers while Dubbo's Matt Burton and Billy Burns of Parkes have also contributed to the side's success.
"It's been good for our whole area," Walsh said.
At the start of the last decade there was no link between the Panthers and the Western Rams but now the NRL club has academies set-up at St John's College in Dubbo as well as in Bathurst and Forbes and the country juniors get access to the type of elite coaching those who played before them could only dream of.
Seven of the Panthers' past 22 debutants, six of those are former Western Rams players and there are a host of younger players working their way up in the Penrith system.
"The partnership with the Panthers and the development of the academies ... it's been fantastic," Walsh said.
"You can see that with the amount of players from our region in their squad or knocking on the door."
Yeo was something of a pioneer as the first of the current crop of western youngsters to sign with the Panthers and he's developed into one of the most consistent players in the competition.
He's also one of the most respected, with praise for his attitude and ability regularly coming from current and former teammates, coaches, and pundits.
It's because of that he's in the running to replace James Tamou as captain at the club next year when the former Origin prop departs for the Wests Tigers.
"They couldn't give it to a better bloke," Walsh said.
"He's a leader and there's no crap with him. He has a go, leads from the front, and he's not a hot head."
The Panthers meet the Rabbitohs on Saturday night with the winner of that match to play either the Melbourne Storm or Canberra Raiders in the grand final on October 25.