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.
I 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,” my 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 sentiment all season.
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, however.
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.
69' | Try to Monaro front-rower Mitch Shaw. Bit of push and shove out there. 52-0 @CountryRL— Pete Guthrie (@PeteGuth) May 13, 2017
The talent is there. Ensuring the top players are 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.
There’s no stopping Orange Emus. They’ve got one hand and four fingers on this year’s Blowes Clothing Cup, surely.
The two-time defending premiers face some stiffer competition in the later rounds in the form of the also undefeated Bathurst Bulldogs and the so-far impressive Dubbo Roos.
But will they be good enough to contain Emus’ attack, which has scored more than 40 points every game so far.
And if so, will their attack be slick enough to penetrate the Greens defence, which has been miserly conceding a touch over 10 points a game.
43 | City come HARD after the break but again, can't break Emus' wall and get turned over. #CWRU17— Matt Findlay (@MRFindlay24) May 13, 2017
Time will tell, of course but I reckon at the end of it all, we’ll still see Emus on top.
While on rugby, the Shute Shield spectacle at Wade Park on Saturday was sensational. Great rugby, great crowd.
Both Easts and Gordon have hinted they’ll be back again, with the players all enjoying the hospitality of both Emus and City as well as the adoring rugby faithful that poured into Wade Park.