Putting a blue jersey on again has been special for Alex Ronayne this season but few occasions will be as meaningful for the Macquarie captain-coach as Sunday's match at Apex Oval.
The Raiders will hold their annual Perry Meredith Memorial Round this weekend and the club and its supporters will come together to remember and honour the Macquarie junior who died in 2016.
Ronayne played in the junior ranks with Meredith and they won a Group 11 under 18s premiership together in 2010, but this season marks the first the Western Rams captain has spent back on the field with Macquarie since a seven-year stint with Dubbo CYMS.
"I was one of Perry's good mates so it doesn't just mean a lot to the club, it means a lot to me," Ronayne said.
"I'm just very keen to put a blue jersey on this week and hopefully do him proud and do the club proud."
The Raiders take on the Nyngan Tigers at Apex Oval in the pick of the round 10 fixtures and while it is a crucial match for the hosts as they aim to maintain their place in the top three, Ronayne will take time to speak to his players about the occasion prior to kick-off.
"Most of the boys knew Perry and know how much it means," he said.
"It's definitely something I'll bring up before the game. How much it means to me, to Perry's family, and the club.
"It means a lot to everyone. He was best mates with everyone so it means a whole lot."
No-one across either club will wear the number 13 jersey the hard-hitting Meredith was synonymous with during his Raiders career while Macquarie will also promote the 'R U OK?' message and the importance of checking in with family and friends.
As important as the weekend is for Macquarie, it will also mean plenty to Nyngan captain-coach Jeremy Smith.
Smith is a former Macquarie player and teammate of Meredith and both were part of the Raiders first grade side which won the 2012 first grade premiership.
Smith's current side has started to show some of its best form in recent weeks, with wins over Narromine and Forbes sandwiched by a bye in the past three rounds.
"They're just tough footy players and they've got Squeak (Smith) out there doing a wonderful job. I wouldn't speak a bad word about him," Ronayne said.
"They're just like us. They just want to win and play footy and you're in a game every time you play those blokes."
We're just about to hit our straps and it's at the right time.Alex Ronayne
The Raiders, who had the bye last round, will welcome back prop Jack Kavanagh from suspension this weekend while Richie Peckham and Rob Mafi will return after missing the win over Narromine two rounds ago.
Sunday's match does come a little too soon for Oliver Gordon, Jordan Reynolds, and Nick Harvey but those three forwards should be back on deck for the Forbes match a week later.
"We're starting to get some good players back so we're just about to hit our straps and it's at the right time," Ronayne said.
"It's going to be good. We haven't had a full side since round two and it's going to be good but it's going to be hard for the blokes who have been there and have done a good job.
"I've spoken to the blokes who haven't been there and they're going to have to work their way back."
Nyngan sits one point behind the Raiders in fourth while Parkes, who has the bye this weekend, is a further one point back in fifth.
"It's a big thing this week and we really need to win," Ronayne added.
"I've said it to the boys and we really want to finish second or third.
"It's a big game for us and we need to win and it's the Perry Meredith round so we want to perform and show the crowd we're coming."
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