Round one of the Peter McDonald Premiership has come and gone with the Group 10 teams winning all their matches against the Group 11 clubs.
While there are a lot of talented players around the region, we thought we'd have a look at some of the best and brightest talents to watch for this season.
This list has everything from hard-working forwards to electric outside backs and a couple of classy playmakers.
Jarryn Powyer (Dubbo CYMS)
Kicking off this list of players I couldn't think of a better start than Dubbo CYMS skipper Jarryn Powyer.
Criminally underrated, the front-rower players 80 minutes every single week and is the leader of the Fishies' forward pack.
An excellent leader also, Powyer has the ability to lead by example, often taking the tough carries when the game gets tough.
The CYMS skipper is not one to shy away from a battle either, going head to head with a strong Orange Hawks forward pack last weekend. Powyer did everything he could to help his side get over the line in their opening match of the season.
Throw in Billy Sing, Ben Marlin and Hamish Astill, then the Dubbo CYMS forward pack looks incredibly strong for the season, spearheaded by Powyer.
Josh Merritt (Dubbo Macquarie)
Word coming out of the Dubbo Macquarie Raiders' camp is Merritt has been committed to training across the pre-season and along with his brother Jai, could help lead the side back to the top of the league.
Raiders captain coach Alex Ronayne recently said Merritt admitted the off-season training was the most he had done in six years.
Merritt is as talented as anyone in the competition when it comes to pure footballing ability, add this new desire to get better at training and suddenly the Raiders halfback looks like a very scary prospect for opposition sides.
While they lost in round one to the Mudgee Dragons, the Raiders have the ability to be one of, if not the best side in Group 11 and you can't help but feel Merritt's performances will go a long way to helping Macquarie make it deep in the competition.
Jack Creith (Parkes Spacemen)
The new Parkes captain-coach is another impressive leader, the versatile Creith can cover a range of positions and really showed the 2021 Group 11 competition, just how good he is last season.
There was no denying the excitement Creith had after being announced as the Spacemen's new skipper/coach, I feel he will put that excitement into his play this season and take his game to a whole new level.
Parkes surprised some with how well they played last year and by all reports, they should've defeated Bathurst St Pats in their round one match last weekend.
While Parkes have recruited well with NSW Country representative Will Wardle joining the club over the winter but Creith will have to have a big season if the Spacemen are to make a run towards the finals.
Expect Creith to be up near the top in the player of the year voting if Parkes finishes up the top of the ladder.
Justin Toomey-White (Wellington)
This name should come as a shock to no one. The Wellington Cowboys captain-coach has long been one of the best players in Group 11 and started the year off strongly against Bathurst Panthers last weekend.
With the likes of Will Lousick and more leaving the club, several players will need to step up into larger roles throughout the season but Toomey-White is the key to the Cowboys' success in 2022.
I went to the Cowboys/Panthers match on the weekend and watched first-hand how Toomey-White goes about his work which is something to behold.
One of the first people out of the line in defence, Toomey-White is also a player to puts his hand up when things are tough for his side.
A bit like Powyer and Creith, Toomey-White is a brilliant leader and leads through his actions making him one of the most popular figures in the competition.
Daniel Mortimer (Orange CYMS)
Another obvious one, Mortimer is an unreal talent which comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen the former NRL player in action.
Word coming out of Nyngan's match against Mortimer's Orange CYMS last weekend was that the playmaker was the difference between his side winning and losing.
Orange CYMS are one of the title favourites for the competition and with a player like Mortimer on your side, it is easy to see why they are rated so highly.
Mortimer's ability to slow the game down with a clever kick or blow it wide open with a spectacular play is going to be crucial this season with a lot of sides not having seen each other before.
Experienced players and the ability to adapt on the fly will be crucial in the Group 10 v Group 11 games this year, with Mortimer ticking both of the aforementioned boxes.
Mitch Andrews (Forbes)
Forbes hasn't played a game yet this season but Andrews to me is their most important player this season.
Having been named to represent NSW Country last season, Andrews has the reputation of being one of the competition's best players and for good reason too.
The outside back was brilliant in the early stages of 2021 before injuries halted his progress towards the back end of the season.
Forbes is a bit of an unknown quantity this season but if Andrews is at his best then the Magpies will be a nightmare matchup for any side in the region.
We will be lucky enough to get a good look at Andrews and the Magpies next weekend when they host the Mudgee Dragons at Spooner Oval.
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