The pain of a semi-final defeat still lingers but there's plenty of excitement within the Dubbo Rhinos club ahead of what shapes as a bigger and better 2022 season.
The Rhinos were a vastly improved outfit in 2021, ending a long-running win drought in first grade on the way to securing a place in the New Holland Agriculture Cup finals.
A defeat to Mudgee in the semi-final was a painful blow for the Doug Sandry-coached outfit but reaching that stage was still a positive, while second grade and colts were still in premiership contention when the season was abandoned due to COVID-19.
The focus has shifted quickly to next year, with plans to reform a women's team and maintain a strong colts outfit two of the biggest goals.
Sandry will return as first grade coach and he said it's a special time for the club as it prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2022.
"It's very exciting," he said.
"The whole thing is we've got a great group of people around and they're good people. That's the focus the club wants to have. We want to attract good people and people who want to be involved with club and help out, and we want everything to make us into the quality rugby club I know we can be."
"There's a lot of work done in the past year-and-a-half and I can see the fruition of that coming next season."
Sandry is adamant the first grade side can take that next step next season and that's just one area of focus for the club.
The Rhinos have fielded women's sides in the past - the most recent of those was in 2019 - but there wasn't the required numbers in 2021.
"It would be great to have them onboard and we've had a fair bit of interest," Sandry said of a women's team in 2022.
"That's not just from former players, but new players as well. We would love to have 15-20 women and have them in the competition with us. It would be absolutely fantastic."
Getting the colts side back in action is also important for the club's ongoing development.
A talented bunch of juniors have made a real impact in the past two seasons and looked primed to battle minor premiers Orange City for the 2021 title, but now they will be making their way up into the senior grades.
"It's massive for the club," Sandry said.
"It's really important we can keep 18s coming through. We had a fantastic bunch this year and last year as well. To be honest, and I'm not being one-eyed about it, but I think they would have been the team to beat in the finals.
"I know Orange City had only lost once, to us, but I think we might have had their number."
The Rhinos are currently looking for coaches for both the women's and colts teams for 2022.
In terms of the senior ranks, little is expected to change next season.
The one position Sandry wants to fill is the first grade scrumhalf as Teahu Baker, who earned plenty of praise for his performances in the number nine jersey this year, will be heading back to New Zealand.
"We have some talent in the 18s coming through who could probably fill that role. But it would be good to have an experience head running the forwards around the park," the coach said.
"I'm chasing someone in town and I'm hopeful we'll get some success there.
"But for for us to make the semis this season, which was unexpected for a lot of people, wasn't unexpected for me.
"It still hurts a bit to lose that semi and I know a few of he boys are keen to work even harder to help us take that one or two steps further up the ladder."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: