THEY were the fiercest of rivals in the inaugural Western under 21s competition but after its conclusion both St Pat's and Dubbo CYMS were united in their belief to make it a permanent part of the local league calendar.
After many of the talents within the Western Rams region missed out on a full season of league in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was decided to run an under 21s pre-season competition to help keep players involved with senior league.
Six teams entered - St Pat's and Orange CYMS from Group 10, a combined Woodbridge Cup outfit plus Group 11 trio Dubbo CYMS, Forbes Magpies and Dubbo Macquarie.
In the end it was the Saints who finished on top, beating Dubbo CYMS 20-16 in the grand final. It was a game which impressed with the intensity and speed at which it was played and for the physicality shown.
Dubbo CYMS mentor Paul Yeo not only wants to see the 21s competition return, but he is hopeful more clubs from across the region will sign up.
"I think it will grow from here, we had six teams this time around but it will probably go to eight I reckon," he said.
"There are a couple of nibbles there from two other teams that want to have a run, so they'll probably push on now they've seen how much enjoyment the young fellas get out of it.
"That's the other thing too, this is keeping them in the sport."
St Pat's coach Tyson Medlyn felt the competition helped to showcase the sort of talent within in region and fulfilled the goal of getting players involved.
"With our Pat's boys I knew we had the talent out there somewhere, I knew we had a few boys who hadn't played in awhile there. It was just all about us getting together, getting the players back and getting them keen again.
"We did that, we are thankful we got to do it and we are thankful that all the other clubs got to get their boys together too. Yeah I'd love to see it continue."
Just as those two coaches gave the concept the thumbs up, so too did St Pat's captain and halfback Cooper Neilsen.
He was impressed by the quality of football produced by all the teams that competed.
"We had the tough loss against Forbes and Forbes are the same as Dubbo CYMS, they stay in arm wrestle the whole time, they are gritty and they are a tough side and even Woodbridge Cup, hats off to them for putting a team together, they were unreal," he said.
"Orange CYMS as you could see in round one, they were a really tough side and even Dubbo Macquarie, we only beat them by four points in both games so that just goes to show the quality of footy for boys who are 21 and under, it's just going to carry on."
When asked if the competition should continue in season's to come, Neilsen replied "100 percent."
"It's a great concept," he said.
"It gives a lot of boys a lot of confidence. Some of them who played with boys that were older, it gives them the confidence to go back to under 18s and they are not going to have a big head, but they are going to stand up a lot more.
"Even boys that don't want to play reserve grade or first grade and get a bit shy when it comes to training with the first graders and whatnot, it gave them an opportunity to get out of the house and have a run."
"To see so many young boys now cracking first grade sides in Sydney now down from here and even we had boys come back from Sydney to play with us, it was great.
"I'm so keen for the year so hopefully I can cement a spot in Zac's [Merritt, premier league coach] side, I'm so keen to play footy, this is going to be an unreal year I reckon."
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