Dubbo CYMS defeats Mudgee in Peter McDonald Premiership grand final
By Nick Guthrie, Daily Liberal.
There was elation, there was satisfaction and there was excitement, but the overall feeling among Dubbo CYMS players at Apex Oval on Sunday afternoon was relief.
A powerhouse of bush footy had been returned to the top.
CYMS was everything you would expect them to be in the Peter McDonald Premiership grand final and that unwavering consistency for 80 minutes, doggedness in defence and ability to find a try from nowhere led them to a 25-12 grand final win over the Mudgee Dragons.
It was the Fishies' first premiership win since 2017, with two grand final losses to Forbes, one to Wellington, and two years of COVID cancellations having been endured in the time since.
Relief was the word used by both captain Jarryn Powyer and coach Shawn Townsend post-game.
"Not so much for the game, but for the whole year," prop Powyer, who was also named man of the match after an 80-minute effort up front, said.
"We've had the same squad for a couple of years too, so we've had that pain and you carry that for a whole year.
"But now we're here and we're going to enjoy this week."
CYMS' grand final record was spoken about by plenty outside the club in the lead-up to Sunday, with the Fishies having won just four of nine played in since 2011 prior to the 2023 decider.
The first grade side had won the minor premiership each year since 2013 but victory in the game that mattered had so often evaded them.
Townsend described Sunday's triumph as a reward for effort in the six years since the last premiership while Powyer said avoiding the kind of complacency which he admitted had crept in during their past decade of dominance was key to the success.
"The reason why you love grand finals and they're so special is because no-one deserves it. You've got to be the best on the day," Powyer said.
"That's why they're so special. You can't get complacent. We spoke about it and I think we were getting complacent with grand finals and we have been to a few.
"You really can't take them for granted and I'm coming to the back end of my career now and you don't know when it will be the last one."
Sunday's win didn't come without its challenges.
Alex Bonham, hailed by his teammates as CYMS' best player all season, exited the match with an ankle injury five minutes before half-time and didn't return, while five-eighth Claude Gordon and centre Tom Hughes also went off injured in the second stanza.
There was never any panic though, largely due to Townsend's coaching throughout the season.
He tinkered with his lineup throughout the regular season, resting Bonham at times to see other options at hooker, while in Mitch Cleary the side has what Townsend calls the best utility in the competition.
Cleary spent time in the back-row and at hooker and five-eighth on Sunday and was at home in each position, ensuring CYMS never dropped their level of performance.
"Sometimes your head might drop when you lose your best player but Mitch has played there so many times this year," Powyer said.
"He jumps in and it was just seamless."
Bonham had been his usual influential self during what was a brutal opening 20 minutes to the match.
The contact of a number of tackles was felt around Apex while there was plenty of chat and niggle from both sets of players.
CYMS had opened the scoring on four minutes through winger Ratu Roko after a perfect grubber from fullback Jeremy Thurston, who was outstanding throughout.
But two tries in the space of four minutes for CYMS proved to be decisive.
Firstly Hughes went over after a lovely pass from halfback Jordi Madden before Thurston did it all himself by running 50m along the left edge and shrugging off another attempted tackles on the way.
The Dragons scored the next two tries but it was too little, too late and a Thurston field goal with two minutes to go got the party going for CYMS.
As CYMS players celebrated there were tears from a number of Mudgee players.
The Group 10 minor premiers played their part in a match of elite quality, especially in the first half, but it mattered little to the players and fans in red and white.
Player-coach Clay Priest, who missed the match through suspension, said it hurt watching from the sideline but paid credit to CYMS for their success.
Powyer was immense in the front-row against a physical Mudgee pack and was a worthy winner of the Scott-Weir Medal, and it was his try on 22 minutes which helped make it 12-0.
The lead grew to 14 when Thurston knocked over a penalty nine minutes before the break and that was how it stayed until half-time.
The Dragons needed to be first to score when play resumed and David West got them on the board when he was on hand to plant the ball down after Thurston and Jyie Chapman collided while attempting to field a Jack Littlejohn kick.