Almost a year ago, back in November 2020, Jake Rumsby sat down with The Courier at Collins Park for what was his first interview with Narrabri’s local newspaper since he was named Narrabri Rugby League Football Club’s first grade coach for the 2021 season.

His passion for both the game and the club was immediately evident as he explained his vision going forward, but anyone who had watched him play at Collins Park for his hometown in previous seasons already knew all about that.

The captain-coach set his side a goal on that warm spring day.

“Anything but a grand final will be disappointing,” Rumsby said.

“Celebrating 100 years of the Blues, we are trying to build it up to be a very successful year on and off the field.

“A home grand final is the end goal and I’d be disappointed if we didn’t end up winning it.”

They didn’t quite get there in the end, but it certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort nor their on-field results.

In fact, the Blues were enjoying one of their most dominant campaigns in recent history and a Collins Park grand final was certainly a realistic goal. However, that Blues momentum and the entire competition itself were stopped in their tracks one Sunday morning in August.

Less than 24 hours after Rumsby and his men racked up their 11th win from 13 attempts when they outscored Dungowan 56-26 on the road, Group 4 announced on Sunday, August 8, that it had postponed all matches scheduled to be played that day due to a positive COVID-19 test for a Boggabri mine worker, which was later clarified to have been a false positive.

However, less than a week later, the entire state was in lockdown as cases began to pop up in the regions.

Just as it had done in 2020 when it derailed the entire campaign, the dreaded COVID-19 curse had struck again and this time it cut the 2021 season short.

The round 13 games that were played were eventually scrapped and round 14 was cancelled as Group 4 Rugby League scrambled in a race against the clock to host a 2021 finals series and crown major premiers.

But like the majority of this year’s winter community sporting comps across many codes, the season was eventually abandoned.

Yesterrday, following what seemed like an eternity since the final ball was kicked back in August, Group 4 Rugby League decided to award the minor premierships to the teams which were ranked first in each grade at the completion of round 12.

That meant that the Narrabri Blues finished at the top of the first grade ladder for the first time in 30 years since the 1991 season.

Although the Blues won 11 games from 13 attempts throughout the 2021 season, they officially finished the campaign with 10 wins from 12 matches after their 30-point rout of Dungowan in round 13 was removed from the record books.

Kootingal-Moonbi also finished the year with 10 wins and two losses, however, Narrabri totalled 21 points to the Roosters’ 20 after one of the Blues’ losses was in golden point, meaning it earned an extra point.

In those 12 matches, Narrabri scored 304 points and conceded 222 to finish the season with a positive for and against differential of 82.

Narrabri Rugby League Football Club president Peter Doring said that he was proud of everyone involved at the club, especially the playing group, for what he described as a brilliant achievement.

“Obviously it’s a disappointing year when you think about what could have been in our centenary year, a premiership would’ve been fantastic but that obviously couldn’t happen due to COVID,” Doring said.

“But to finish minor premiers, I’m just overwhelmed and proud.

“To win the minor premiership in your 100th year, that’s massive for a small country town like Narrabri.

“Full credit goes to Jake Rumsby and his father John. John is the manager of the senior side and Jake is obviously the captain coach.

“What Jake did this past season was unreal, we used about 32 players in first grade all up this year and they all lifted.

“That all comes back to Jake as our captain-coach. At such a young age, his leadership skills are second to none.

“He really lifted the boys each week, I honestly can’t talk more highly of him.

“I’d also like to thank the club’s other coaches, as well as my fantastic committee and everyone who helped out this year behind the scenes, there’s too many to name but they know who they are, they all helped make the year very successful.”

Narrabri Rugby League Football Club has now turned its attention to Saturday, November 6, when it will host its awards presentation event at the Narrabri Golf Club. That will be an afternoon event.

It will then host its annual general meeting on Sunday, November 14.

Meanwhile, Manilla Tigers are this season’s reserve grade minor premiers, Dungowan claimed the under-18 minor premiership and Kootingal-Moonbi Roosters are the ladies league tag minor premiers.

In reserve grade, Manilla finished the season undefeated following 11 wins and a draw from their 12 games which saw them finish with 23 of a maximum 24 points.

The under-18s minor premiership winners Dungowan totalled 24 points following six wins, just one loss and six byes.

The ladies league tag minor premiers Kootingal-Moonbi edged out both second-placed North Tamworth and third-placed Dungowan on points difference after all three teams finished on 20 points following 10 wins and two losses each.

Group 4 chairman Terry Psarakis said he was disappointed with the way the season ended.

“It was very disappointing to finish early, to finish the way we did with the competitions at such an interesting stage,” Psarakis told league reporter Geoff Newling.

“The finals were going to be outstanding,” he added.

Newling reported on Tuesday that a Group 4 Rugby League team of the year would also be named soon, as would the individual award winners in all grades.

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