As far as Western has been off the pace during the last few years of country championship football, I don’t think anyone saw the weekend’s result going the way it did for Darren Jackson’s outfit.
Not on home soil. Not after the months of preparation Western has put into this campaign.
But we wake up, rub our bleary eyes and it’s still there. That 62-0 scoreline will haunt Jackson and the 17 players who donned Western colours for some time.
Based out of the Canberra region, Monaro proved way too good for the Rams under 23s side at Sid Kallas Oval on Saturday, the opening round of the country championships, which is played as a knockout.
A blazing first half in which Monaro raced to a 34-0 lead set up the emphatic win.
Regional sporting guru Nick McGrath tweeted to our sports reporter on the ground at Cowra, Peter Guthrie, on Saturday when the score was 28-0, hoping something would soon swing Western’s way.
“Can they turn it around, Pete,” McGrath’s fingers optimistically tweeted in response to a post of another Monaro try.
“It’s not looking great, Nick.”
Pete’s reply sums up Western’s day pretty well, but it also poses a pretty telling question ahead of future campaigns.
Given it’s the fifth year in a row Western has fallen at the first hurdle, is an under 23s Rams side going to cut the mustard in 2018 and beyond?
Jackson, who hails from Bourke, and his team has worked tirelessly to turn Western’s fortunes around at a championship level.
He believes the region is strong enough to compete at the top. Jacko has been steadfast in that belief.
If Jackson, one of the sharpest coaches in the area and easily one of Western’s most decorated footballers having dominated Group 11 and represented Country, thinks he can get the best out of the Rams against the best country teams in the state, then I’m on board too.
Defence is an obvious issue.
In the last half a decade, which obviously includes four years of open age teams, the Rams top side has conceded 194 points in five games.
That’s leaking 40 points per game. No one is winning anything with defence like that.
At the moment, as Pete tweeted, it’s not looking great.
But with Western’s under 18s and under 16s both making their respective country championship finals in each of the last two seasons, things are slowly looking brighter. Emphasis on slowly.
The talent is there. Ensuring the top players available, ensuring they know they’ve been picked in Group 10 or Group 11 teams ahead of the trial, and then getting them into the Western fold would help too.
Now all we have to do is convince the players it’s worth their time and effort to be part of the campaign and Western will improve.
It’s a long process, but given the vast proximity of the region, preparation is key.
Season 2018 starts now.
In terms of the weekend’s local action, well done to the Parkes Spacemen.
One of the most quiet sides during the off-season, that had many wondering what kind of Spacies side would take to the field in 2017.
Well, in the first two round this season we’ve got the answer. A very good one.
Dennis Moran, ravaged by injury the past couple of seasons, looked back to his best. Playing at centre as opposed to the halves, where we’re all used to seeing him, Moran took more hit-ups in the first half then I’ve seen him take in years while all his creativity and guile remains.
He led the way for Parkes in the 30-26 win over a Macquarie side which again did itself no favours by making errors and giving away a few penalties at key times.
3 | TRY! How good is Dennis Moran!? He darts from dummyhalf and puts winger Fletcher Strong away and in. Parkes leads Macquarie 4-0 #Group11— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) May 14, 2017
It’s clear there is a huge amount of improvement in both sides and there is every chance Sunday’s match was a preview of a clash we may see come finals time.
Meanwhile, Forbes and CYMS continued on their merry way, albeit not having everything their own way, over Narromine and a Westside side which showed a huge amount of improvement, much to the delight of every Group 11 footy fan.
Nyngan was the other winner in round two, holding off a spirited Wellington by just four points.
In the world of rugby union, the Dubbo Rhinos showed the kind of defensive effort the side has been striving for in a 10-5 win over Cowra.
There’s no denying the Eagles are struggling this year but the Rhinos still had to do the job.
The result will be a huge confidence boost for a Rhinos side which now has three wins for the season. That’s the same amount of wins in 2017 as local rivals the Dubbo Kangaroos, after defeat at Bathurst on Saturday.
It all sets up a bumper derby between the two Dubbo sides next Saturday. Watch this space for more.
In other sporting results, the Dubbo Rams scored a much-needed win in the Waratah League in front of a packed and pumping Woolshed while it was a big day of racing at Dubbo Turf Club on Sunday for the annual Mother’s Day meeting.
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