There's been some notable departures at the Parkes Spacemen during the off-season but a new team of coaches has created optimism ahead of the 2023 season.
Following the shock retirement of captain-coach Jack Creith and departure of long-serving first-graders Sam Dwyer and Jordan Pope, there was some uncertainty around who would lead the side into the new Peter McDonald Premiership campaign.
But halfback and representative star Chad Porter has stepped up to take on the captain-coach's role and he'll be supported by a number of well known Parkes identities in the coaching ranks.
Premiership-winning league tag coach Michael Dumesny, a close mate of Porter, has returned to take on the Spacecats again while Jimmy Clyburn and Epi Sadrodro will lead the reserve grade side and Will Wardle is back as under 18s mentor.
"There's a really good feeling around the club. It's a fresh feel," Dumesny said.
Porter is a Spacemen through and through, having helped guide the side to a Group 11 first grade premiership as a teenager in 2013 alongside the likes of club greats Pat Rosser and Dennis Moran.
After a stint in Sydney - where he spent time with the South Sydney Rabbitohs under 20s - he returned home for the 2017 season and has developed into one of the most consistent playmakers in the western area in the time since.
Last season was arguably his best in red, blue and white as an improved running game resulted in Porter finishing as Parkes' leading try-scorer.
While he won't have the attacking spark created by Creith or Dwyer around him in 2023, Dumesny is still expecting big things.
"I'm really excited to be working with Chaddy. We grew up together and it's a really good coaching squad," he said.
Parkes produced some outstanding performances during the 2022 Peter McDonald Premiership but injuries and a raft of suspensions took its toll as they were knocked out in the second week of the finals by Orange CYMS.
Former NSW Country representative Will Wardle remains and will be key for Porter again this season while the club's Fijian contingent - headlined by national team squad member Tikoko Noke - will also be back again.
Consistent first grade performers like Brandon Paige, Jacob Smede, Joe Dwyer and Jake Porter will also be there again alongside a number of the club's younger players.
Youth is expected to be a bit of a theme across the club this season, with a number of younger players to again feature in the league tag side.
I think in the next couple years the Parkes juniors can give the competition a shake.- Michael Dumesny on the Parkes under 18s
Dumesny is eager to get back to work with that team, having not coached at his hometown club since leading the Spacecats to a premiership win.
"I haven't been in a (Parkes) coaching role since 2016 when we won the comp with the Spacies," Dumesny said.
"I had a couple of years out at Eugowra (coaching league tag) and was lucky enough to pick up a premiership and we got rolled in a grand final, too. I'm super excited to be back.
"This has been a few years in the making and Dave Simpson who coached the team last year, he and Troy Gosper will stick around. They were the brains trust behind the team last year and we're going to do it as a bit of a team.
"I love the Spacies and have since day dot, I've always been around the club apart from the couple of years at Eugowra. I am really excited about it."
Dumesny is also feeling positive about the club's other grades.
Wardle's wealth of experience will be invaluable for an under 18s side keen to climb the ladder after a tough 2022 campaign.
"Will Wardle is with the juniors and he did a fantastic job last year with what he had," Dumesny said.
"I think the juniors will be a totally different side this year with some younger kids coming up. They could be a real force and they're going to spend a couple of years together now.
"I think in the next couple years the Parkes juniors can give the competition a shake."
Clyburn and premiership winner and former first grade stalwart Sadrodro are well-known to anyone in Parkes rugby league and will lead a team competing in western-wide competition for the first time in 2023.
"Jimmy had to retire from playing but found his niche coaching and Epi is Epi," Dumesny said.
"He's just been a club legend and has given us 15 years of service and has barely missed a game in those years but age catches up with everyone.
"He's had to drop back to reggies but we'd love to have 1000 Epis at our club. I'm excited about that."
Parkes starts its 2023 season at home to the Orange Hawks in all four grades on the weekend of April 15 and 16.
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