Messages of good luck and motivation are a dime a dozen in the lead-up to any grand final.
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But there was one which stood out for Dubbo CYMS players on the morning of September 10, just hours before the Peter McDonald Premiership decider.
It was from CYMS legend and multiple Group 11 premiership winner Luke Jenkins and it related to an article which appeared in metropolitan media just days before, stating the Fishies had claims to be the greatest bush footy side in history.
"He just said that article was a piece of shit and we haven't won anything for ages. And that's true," CYMS coach Shawn Townsend said.
"It was pretty good," centre Jyie Chapman said of the message.
"He pretty much said everyone might be riding us and saying we're the best this and that but you're shit unless you win it.
"It was pretty honest but it was a good text message and it woke us up a bit."
The talk of CYMS' grand final record was mentioned plenty in the days and weeks leading up to the meeting with the Mudgee Dragons.
Just four of nine grand finals won in the last 11 years, no title since 2017 despite minor premiership wins in 2018, 2019, 2021 (pre-COVID lockdown) and 2022.
But there was something different about this CYMS side and Jenkins' message only made that determination greater.
CYMS produced as close to a textbook grand final performance as anyone could wish for in the 25-12 win over the Dragons at Apex Oval.
There was a steel about this side. And it started being forged almost immediately after last year's grand final loss to Forbes.
Townsend carried the hurt from that defeat with him for some time.
"I still bring it up sometimes and think about things I got wrong or things I could have done better through the week and in the game. It still burns a bit but things move on pretty quick now," he said in November of last year.
Almost immediately he began to think about how he could do things differently.
"I don't know what my mindset was. I don't know whether it was the loss last year and it just made me think we need to be bigger, better, tougher and stronger for longer periods," Townsend said at the time.
Change was needed as well, as Jenkins retired, Brydon Ramien moved to the coast, Brad Pickering eased back his playing commitments and young guns Riley Wake and Fletcher Haycock made their move to the Penrith Panthers.
The new signings didn't scream marquee deals, with western area journeyman Claude Gordon returning, Chanse Burgess joining from Dunedoo and Ratu Roko making the switch after a successful season playing rugby with the Dubbo Kangaroos.
All proved to be shrewd acquisitions, with a revitalised Gordon particularly important as he allowed Alex Bonham to shift from the halves to his more comfortable position at hooker, where he was undoubtedly the side's best player in 2023.
The kind of focus and maturity which would be seen throughout 2023 was on show early when a makeshift CYMS squad attended the pre-season West Wyalong Knockout.
As much a bonding trip as it is a footy carnival, there was no wild night for CYMS.
Gordon and Thurston took the lead that weekend and as two who have made real commitments to their health in recent times and don't drink alcohol, the rest of the young squad followed their lead.
Giving those younger players a taste of senior footy was something Townsend was eager to do as he felt more variety and options throughout the year would be a positive.
Multiple times he spoke about decisions being made to ensure the best for the team in the long run. Sullivan Haycock getting long minutes at hooker helped if Bonham ever got injured, Tom Stimpson and Jaymn Cleary were given plenty of chances up front as support for captain Jarryn Powyer and Ben Marlin, Mitch Cleary basically covered every position, while many other younger players got their chance throughout the year.
In total, Townsend used 28 players in first grade in 2023 and each knew exactly what was expected of them.
"If you want to play with us and play with Jarryn, 'Chapo' and Benny (Marlin) then the first thing is, you have to be fit," Townsend said.
"We were going to get into it and if you don't want to, fine, but if you do, we'll reward you."
It was clear to see CYMS was switched on from the word go.
In the opening three rounds of the PMP the Fishies scored 134 points and conceded just 22, with a 60-0 mercy rule win over Bathurst Panthers in week one the undoubted highlight.
Six wins from the opening seven rounds had CYMS top of the Group 11 pool but it still wasn't everything Townsend wanted it to be.
As good as his side was going, the fear it was more same-same and come finals time sides would know exactly what to expect.
He didn't want a repeat of Forbes.
"We just had to find a way to to break the cycle," he said.
"We just tried to find the best game style. We found one that suited us towards the end and then I tinkered with it a little bit just so we could even mix it up in a game."
A 60-0 victory over a struggling Orange CYMS side which hadn't won a game might not seem like a turning point, but the round eight game it was.
The directive was to use the ball more that day and the results were clear to see as the mercy rule came into effect in just the 60th minute.
Outside backs Corey Drew, Tom Hughes, Troyden Dixon, Jeremy Thurston, Roko and Chapman all benefited from the more expansive approach and crossed in the comprehensive win.
It was a key game for the Fishies, with Thurston suddenly more involved in the playmaking and quick shifts to the powerful left edge of Billy Sing, Hughes and Roko - even when they were inside their own half - quickly became part of the gameplan.
Bonham's ability to ease pressure by keeping from dummyhalf and then pinning the opposition in their own end was also used more and more.
There were changes up front in the middle of the season, too. James Stanley was rewarded for his destructive showings from the bench with a starting spot, while workhorse Marlin shifted to lock and ensured his side kept control in the middle of the park.
The Orange CYMS result might not have been one which shocked people, but the impact of that game was clear to see in the grand final.
"We wanted to move the footy when we were coming out of trouble to move the ruck and that worked at times today," Townsend said after the decider win.
"Our mantra was we wanted to kick the ball early and then bash them up. That's what we tried to do for the last part of the year and when we did that we found we played our best footy.
"As soon as we get into a cycle with other teams our fitness and speed got some points."
The gritty side of the game didn't disappear though and it was classic CYMS just a week after the Orange CYMS demolition.
The Fishies won the regular season top-of-the-table battle with Mudgee 18-12 on the back off a mammoth defensive effort.
If the quality on the field wasn't enough, Powyer's post-game comments said a lot about CYMS too.
"Some of the stuff I read is laughable," Powyer said.
"We're not going to be making any claims. (Elsewhere) An average team beats a below average team and claims to have the best forward pack and will be hard to beat at the end of the year. We don't buy into that, we just keep showing up and hoping we get the job done."
Cold and clinical. That's what CYMS was all about.
As much as Townsend talked tactics and the style of football he wanted, he also talked about his players as people.
When posed with questions about certain individuals ranging from up-and-comer Kyjuan Crawford after a strong pre-season, Bonham after his latest stellar showing, or Stanley following a powerhouse two-try effort from the bench, Townsend's reply was often something like "he's just a good kid".
He made the players feel comfortable and believed in and by also putting a focus and emphasis on families outside of the game, he made the bonds within it stronger.
The core group of the CYMS side has been mates for more than a decade and the fact so many are now fathers to sons who are now playing junior footy only made them feel more connected to the club.
The impact of that could be seen as the team celebrated its grand final win, with the players calling their kids to be in the victorious team photos.
"Apart from the game, this week was the most focus I've seen in quite some time," captain Powyer said after the title win.
"Really, 'Shag' (Townsend) has done an excellent job of bringing the family into the club and it's just a great feeling at the moment."
Grand final week had been a mix of emotions for Townsend.
He changed the way he did things to make it more of an event rather than any other game - something he'd seen Forbes do to great effort a year prior - while he was forced to keep a watchful eye on Billy Sing's injured ankle and Gordon's nasty cork.
When the decider did arrive Gordon failed to finish the match, something which Townsend and others were all too aware could happen, while Bonham and Tom Hughes were also injured.
But everything the coach had done during the season meant it was a seamless change to plan B and, in turn, a professional performance and premiership glory.
In the weeks after the 2022 grand final Townsend had "my head down around my knees for a few days" but this time around he'll be holding his head high, and rightly so after making the changes which returned CYMS to the top.
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