Group 11-Group 10 decider confirmed
Unlike last year, both sides of the competition will be on show on grand final day in 2023.
Next weekend, Group 10 duo Orange Hawks will host Panthers with the winner to take on Mudgee in one prelim, while CYMS will take on either Parkes or Wellington.
Last year Group 11 fans had all the bragging rights as Forbes defeated CYMS but this year everyone will be invested.
Hawks nearing history
Coming into this weekend there were two teams who still had the opportunity to become the first ever unbeaten premier of a Western-wide winter competition: Orange Hawks' 18s and St Pat's league tag.
Now there stands only one.
The stunning win for the Macquarie Raidettes over the Saints in the opening game of the day at Carrington Park on Sunday means Hawks stand alone as the only Western side not to taste defeat this year. And if Hawks continue to play like they way they did on Sunday in Bathurst then you'd be brave to bet against them achieving their spot in the history books.
Hawks' big 42-10 win over perennial Group 11 contender Forbes Magpies is a big warning shot to whoever will meet them in the preliminary final.
Their lethal combination of size and strength is going to take a lot of stopping.
Mudgee master the clutch plays
It was a weekend to remember for the Mudgee Dragons as two of the club's sides peeled off remarkable comebacks in the opening week of finals.
On Saturday, the club's under 18s side fought their way back into the match against Nyngan at Kennard Park after trailing for most of the clash.
In the last minute of the match, Mudgee scored next to the posts to tie the game up before Jordi Robertson slotted a successful conversion.
Meanwhile, the Dragons fought their way back from 20 points down against Parkes in the Peter McDonald Premiership semi-final to book a home preliminary final.
Making things even sweeter for the Dragons is the fact both their reserve grade and league tag sides won as well.
Ferguson flies once again
Stop us if you've heard this story before but Blake Ferguson has become easily the best kicking target of anyone in the Central West.
It should come as no surprise the former NRL star is excelling back at his junior club and his connection with playmakers Jai Merritt and Rylee Blackhall seems to get better each week.
Once again on Saturday, the Cowboys targeted Ferguson with attacking kicks and he didn't disappoint.
The Wellington centre has now made it a habit of scoring tries from kicks, out-jumping several players for his second try on Saturday.
The Cowboys face a testing trip to Parkes for sudden death footy next weekend and you can bet Ferguson will be targeted again there.
Toughness and egos questioned
Everyone who knows Group 11 rugby league knows Dubbo CYMS has achieved long-term success due to the standards they set.
Whether it's in pre-season or the final minute of a finals clash, everything you do matters.
That was clear on Sunday, as coach Shawn Townsend was hugely frustrated when his side decided to put the ball through hands in the first set after scoring to make it 22-6.
His side was in control and didn't end up losing the ball, but it wasn't what the coach - who had earlier thrown his clipboard in annoyance - wanted and he's at a loss as to why his side still has poor patches in games.
"It's just us. We're making mistakes at bad times and I don't know what it is," he said.
"I don't know if we're not tough enough but losing the ball on tackle one, letting it go dead from the kick-off in the second half. We've just got to be better.
"I can't put a finger on it. The message goes out to just get through a set and we still offload the ball. I don't know if it's egos or it's the scoreboard and pressure if off but we need to be better."
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