Mick Manning was talked into coaching the seniors, with Kim Reid and Terry Cooper coaching Reserve Grade, and Ken McMurtrie Under 17s coach, the League deciding the older age group a preferred grade. Under 14s was also introduced for the first time with Brendan Bedford coach.
With the exception of Paul Treloar, the Young players didn’t return, with the only other major loss being Tom Devlin, a good servant for the club with over 150 games.
Recruits to the senior ranks included Mick McLeish, Shaun Cox, Corey Kennedy and the return of Frank Bright.
Whereas there was no change in the results with 15 losses, the scorelines weren’t as one-sided, with a narrow 9 point loss to Orange, and a couple of relatively close games against CSU.
The Dubbo Demons were particularly strong keeping Cowra goal-less at home, and showing no mercy when the Blues traveled there late in the season heavily under-manned. The Demons kicked over 50 goals with the 319 point margin Cowra’s worst ever.
The Ken McMurtrie-led 17s were again strong and loomed as favourites for the flag. In a low-scoring Grand Final against Parkes at Dubbo where the Blues had their chances, the Panthers got up in a nail-biter. Still, the side continued to introduce players to footy and give plenty of players valuable experience.
First Grade: Wins 0 Losses 15 Position 6th
50 First Grade games: Brendan Bedford, Richard Leary
100 Club games: Kim Reid, Russell Manning, Andrew Falconer, Jason Petty, Shaun Cox
Former junior Dave Bryant took on the 2001 coaching job, Kim Reid was Reserve Grade coach, and Brendan Bedford took over as 17s coach with Ken McMurtrie having a break due to injury. Geoff Day was in charge of Under 14s.
By the start of the 2001 season, the Blues hadn’t beaten Bathurst since early 1994, CSU and Dubbo since mid-1997, Orange since mid-1994 and Parkes since early 1987, or, for that matter, anyone since very early 1998. Brothers Rod and Steve Gray were the only new inclusions in the 2001 side.
The team was coming off 40 straight losses, and for the season opener were up against a red-hot Dubbo side that had easily won the flag a few months before. Their previous encounter saw the Blues thumped by a record 319 points.
In a high quality game, scores were level at threequarter time, with the Blues kicking 7 final term goals for a memorable win by 36 points.
A great start to the season was followed by further wins against CSU and Orange to have the team on top of the ladder after 3 rounds. Losses to Bathurst and Orange brought them back to earth, but a 29 point win over Parkes, their first in 14 years again raised hopes of a finals appearance.
However, narrow losses to Parkes (12 points), Dubbo (1 point after the siren) and Bathurst (7 points) in successive weeks killed off any semifinal aspirations.
In 17s, Bathurst loomed as a major threat to a Cowra side that had built well over a number of seasons under the guidance of Ken McMurtrie. They met in the qualifying semifinal in Bathurst with Cowra narrow winners after extra time. In the decider, the Blues were able to hang on for a great win and just their second flag. The team was: Aaron Newton Ricky Neels Shane Stopps Ray Bridge Daniel Smith Andrew Cousley Brendan Reid Michael McMurtrie Bradley Green Kenny Webb Jason Cox David McMurtrie Shaun O’Brien Matthew Boyce Ben Newcombe Chris Hampton Ricki Bronish Coach: Brendan Bedford
Kenny Webb won the Clowry medal for Best and Fairest in both 2000 and 2001.
First Grade: Wins 6 Losses 9 Position 6th
150 First Grade games: Chris Gorham
100 First Grade games: Jeremy Ryan
50 First Grade games: Paul Treloar
200 Club games: Chris Gorham
100 Club games: Richard Leary, David McMurtrie, Terry Cooper
The coaching staff remained much the same for the 2002 season with Dave Bryant, Kim Reid, Brendan Bedford taking on the jobs, with Frank Bright co-coach of 17s and Mick McLeish coach of 14s.
After over 200 games, Jeremy Ryan finally succumbed to injury, while additions to the team included David McMurtrie and Aaron Newton from the juniors, and Warren McKenzie.
Early losses to CSU, Orange by nearly 150 points and Dubbo didn’t augur too well as the team continued to re-build, but round 4 saw a 3 point win away to Bathurst, their first victory over the Eagles since April 1994. However further losses to Parkes and Dubbo gave the Blues just a 1 win/5 loss record.
The Blues then strung wins together against CSU, Orange, Bathurst and Parkes, and repeated the dose against the latter two teams kicking a paltry 6-22-58 in the wet against the Eagles for a 10 point win.
Third position on the ladder at the end of the home and away series was Cowra’s best finish since 1987, earning them their first-ever home final. In a close battle, the Blues outlasted Parkes for a 11 point win.
The Preliminary Final meant another Dubbo trip to take on the Demons who lost to the strong Orange Tigers the week before. Cowra were well in contention late in the game when a goal square freekick ended the Blues run as they lost by 11 points.
In Under 17s, Bathurst avenged the Grand Final result of 2001 by easily accounting for Cowra in the decider. The flag began a dominance of the 17s competition by the Bathurst Eagles and now Bushrangers currently standing at 6 titles.
First Grade: Wins 8 Losses 9 Position 3rd
100 First Grade games: Kim Reid
50 First Grade games: David Manning
250 Club games: Geoff Day
150 Club games: Frank Bright
As in previous seasons, the Blues had few new recruits, only adding juniors Marc Hyland and Jason Cox and former player Ron Roe to the senior list. Roe was appointed coach, Mick McVey assisting Kim Reid with Reserve Grade, Dave Bryant Under 17s and Mick McLeish Under 14s.
The Mudgee Black Swans formed in 2001 and entered a First Grade team in the 2003 season, while the Lithgow-Katoomba Mountain Lions entered the competition on a trial basis as well.
The Dubbo club organised a pre-season competition involving Central West and Northern Riverina clubs. New coach Roe had early thoughts of success, and planned well having his charges ready to fire. The Blues played outstanding pre-season footy to beat CSU in the final under lights for their first taste of success in many years.
The good start to the season continued with the undefeated run ending against Parkes. The loss to Dubbo a fortnight later was the only other hiccup with Cowra stringing together 9 wins in the run-up to the finals.
Along the way, Roe kicked a club record 20 goals in the 275 win over Mudgee, Kim Reid kicked 12 against Katoomba, and Reid and Frank Bright both kicked 10 in beating Bathurst by 192 points.
A first minor premiership in 16 seasons rewarded the Blues with a home qualifying semifinal against a strong Dubbo team. Cowra started well but Dubbo fought back to see them lead by a solitary point with only minutes to go. This time it was a Dubbo discretion in front of goals that allowed coach Roe to seal the result with the last kick of the game.
With little finals experience, the Blues got off to a slow start against a well-drilled Demons side in the decider. Dubbo ran out 48 points winners, with the Blues perhaps having played their Grand Final a fortnight earlier.
Whenever the First Grade side is successful, the club’s Reserve Grade is also strong and 2003 was no exception. The seconds played great finals football to win a second flag: Richard Leary (c) Shaun Cox Brendan Bedford Ray Bridge Rod Doolan Shannon Dawes Ricky Neels Tim Miller Toby Treloar Justin Simpson Aaron Thorn Paul Treloar William Merritt Kel Kirby Kenny Webb Kevin Webb Dennis Kritsinelias Dusty Lee Michael Haydon Terry Kueper Michael McMurtrie Steve Hampton Damien Green Warren Williams Bradley Green Coach: Kim Reid & Mick McVey
With solid efforts from both junior teams, the club clinched its first-ever Club Championship.
First Grade: Wins 16 Losses 3 Position Runner-Up
250 First Grade games: Geoff Day
100 First Grade games: Frank Bright, Craig Reid, Steve Boyd
50 First Grade games: Mick McLeish, Mick McVey, Corey Kennedy
150 Club games: Craig Reid, Kim Reid
100 Club games: Brendan Reid, Paul Treloar, Ricky Neels, Jason Cox, Kenny Webb, Michael McMurtrie
The major change for the 2004 season saw the two Bathurst clubs merge to form the Bushrangers. Mudgee didn’t continue in First Grade, while not much more was heard from the Katoomba club.
Ron Roe continued in the senior coaching position, Kim Reid and Terry Cooper coached Reserve Grade, Ken McMurtrie returned to Under 17s while Danny Gregory took the 14s job.
Warren McKenzie was a notable omission through illness, while near-on 150 gamer Mick Manning finished up after a great career for the club.
Ex-juniors Russell Manning and Dave Thompson, ex-Bathurst player Aaron Grant and former local Matt Smith were inclusions.
The new Bushrangers outfit stamped their mark on the season early with a comfortable win first-up over the Blues. However, Orange was the only other team to defeat Cowra, their 69 point win the one where coach Roe came off the field thinking the Blues had won.
Cowra finished second on the ladder but were no match for a merciless Bathurst side that won the qualifying semifinal by a massive 177 points. Of further concern were injuries to Smith and Dave Manning, and a week later Cowra were knocked out in the Preliminary Final going down to a more enthusiastic Dubbo side by 41 points. Kim Reid will long remember this game due to a simple water bottle.
Again, the Reserves did well to make the Grand Final, but Bathurst had too much strength, completing Premierships in all 4 grades in their first season.
Dave Manning won the Clements medal, and Chris Day won the McMurtrie medal in 14s.
First Grade: Wins 8 Losses 6 Position 3rd
50 First Grade games: Andrew Falconer, Allan McVey
150 Club games: Andrew Falconer, Richard Leary
100 Club games: David Manning, Chris Day, Marc Hyland, Mick McLeish
Danny Gregory took on the senior coaching role for 2005, Steve Boyd Reserve Grade, Dave Bryant 17s and a young Chris Day coached 14s. The decision by Parkes to return to the NRFL saw First Grade again reduced to just 4 teams, but there was still plenty of competition.
New players for the year included Jason Durden, along with juniors Aaron Thorn, Zac Milne, Chris Day, Nathan Thorn, Luke Hooper, and locals Blair Holgate and Geoff Ryan. Notable losses were Aaron Grant, Ron Roe, Jason Cox, and Richard Leary who gave a decade of service to the First grade team, and would later play his 100th game in Reserve Grade in 2006.
The opening round saw Cowra hand the Bushrangers their first-ever defeat, getting up by just 9 points in a cliffhanger. Bathurst returned fire a few games later, knocking off the Blues at home, but Cowra again beat them at Bathurst by 26 points. Other than a 7 point loss to Dubbo in the wet at Mudgee, the Blues were rarely troubled, but again fell to the Bushrangers late in the season.
Cowra again claimed the minor premiership and home ground advantage for the qualifying semifinal, but despite having a number of opportunities to get on top of the ‘rangers, another poor finals performance saw a 34 point loss.
The Blues were favourites against Dubbo in the Preliminary Final, and despite an ordinary display, looked to have got out of jail with a 6 point lead at the final siren. A number of players had left the field, some with their boots off, before the central umpires recalled both teams declaring the game a draw. A deflated Cowra side lost extra time by 7 points against a resurgent Dubbo side.
Certainly disappointed at the time, the result seemed much the same as the 1985 season, where a Grand Final loss created huge resolve to finish on top the next season.
Dave Manning made it back-to-back Clements medals with another great season.
First Grade: Wins 12 Losses 5 Position 3rd
150 First Grade games: Kim Reid
300 Club games: Geoff Day
200 Club games: Frank Bright
150 Club games: Steve Boyd
100 Club games: Mick McVey
After consecutive Preliminary Final disappointments and 19 years since a Premiership, the Blues were confident of a successful campaign in the 2006 season, the club’s 25th. Danny Gregory was again in charge of First Grade, with Brendan Reid coach of Reserves, Dave Bryant coach of 17s and Kim Reid and Nikiya Moss looking after 14s.
The Blues took the bulk of the 2005 team into the season, only adding Ben Caines and Scott Parr.
In the opening round, the Blues set the scene for the season with a 156 point win over Premiers Bathurst to confirm their favouritism for the flag. They followed with a 150 point margin against Dubbo, and then a 330 point blowout against Orange, a record score for the club. Full-forward Matt Smith kicked 27 goals against the Tigers, and had already amassed 49 majors in the first three rounds.
It was a similar story for the remainder of the season with Bathurst doing the best coming within 57 points of the Blues in Round 7. Smith brought up 100 goals in this match.
It was another day out for Smith with 35 goals against Orange, and it wasn’t until the second last round against Dubbo where he was restricted to a bag of less than 10 goals. His 196 goals in the home and away series was at an average of 13 a game.
The Blues completed the home and away season undefeated, and entered the finals series as red-hot favourites.
Over the June Long Weekend, the club held a 25th Reunion with a big celebration on the Saturday night drawing close to 200. The team of the quarter century was announced no doubt causing plenty of arguments. The team selected was: FF: Jeff Michael Jason Norris Geoff Day HF: Graeme Clements Mick Boyd Matt Smith C: Mick Manning David Manning Andrew McFarlane HB: Kevin Siegert Ken McMurtrie Warren McKenzie FB: Jim Inglis Trevor Sanford Frank Bright R: Matt Corbett RR: Rod Michael R: Kenny Niki Interchange: Kim Reid Allan McVey Graham Bartlett Corey Kennedy Coach: Trevor Sanford Trainer: Kevin Harrison
In Reserve Grade, the Blues began slowly losing in Round 2 away to Mudgee by 18 points, but cruised through the rest of the season to take the minor Premiership. The Under 14s had an outstanding season as well, undefeated through the minor rounds.
The qualifying semifinals saw the Under 14s start the day well with a huge win over Bathurst to reach their first ever Grand Final. It was a closer contest in Reserve Grade as the Blues outlasted Mudgee to win by 20 points, while in First Grade, Cowra were never really headed and won comfortably by 90 points to reach just their fifth Grand Final. The Under 17s lost their elimination semifinal to finish 4th.
Grand Final day saw a bad start with the 14s beaten by just 5 points, but Reserve Grade continued their form for a 15 point victory, their second flag in 4 years, beating Mudgee 12-12-84 to 10-9-69. The team was: Brendan Reid (c-c) Marcus Sandry Justin Simpson Nathan Thorn Nathan Reid Richard Leary Kevin Webb Jamie O'Brien Willei Coe Matthew Reed Allan Lovett Blair Holgate Kenneth Webb Mark Cashion Nathan Worth Adam Munroe Steve Boyd Ronald Williams Brett McCormack Craig Reid Karl Lazanski Paul Birch Jason Newton David Newton Thomas Simpson Jeff Falconer
The Blues looked anything but unbeatable against Bathurst in First Grade, as they clung to just a 9 point lead at halftime. The Bushrangers had come prepared and an upset looked on the cards. However, a strong second half performance saw the Blues run out 75 point winners, 24-13-157 to 13-4-82. Cowra’s third Premiership team: David Manning (c) Allan McVey (v-c) Matthew Smith (v-c) Kim Reid Ricky Neels Ben Caines Jason Durden Marc Hyland Christopher Day Geoff Day Corey Kennedy Zachary Milne Brendan Reid Michael McLeish Frank Bright Aaron Thorn Andrew Falconer Scott Parr Michael McVey Geoff Ryan Coach: Danny Gregory
With finals and representative goals, Matt Smith’s final tally of 213 goals puts him about 8th on the all time all-Australia list of goals in a season.
Frank Bright won the Clements medal for League Best and Fairest in First Grade, Brendan Reid won the Byrne medal in Reserve Grade and Zac Milne took out the Clowry medal in U17s, and the club picked up its second Club Championship title.
First Grade: Wins 17 Losses 0 Position Premiers
300 First Grade games: Geoff Day
150 First Grade games: Frank Bright
100 First Grade games: David Manning, Mick McVey, Mick McLeish
100 Reserve Grade games: Richard Leary
50 First Grade games: Brendan Reid
150 Club games: Brendan Reid, Chris Day, Ricky Neels
100 Club games: Corey Kennedy
Major losses for the Blues for 2007 included spearhead Matt Smith, midfielders Dave Manning and Corey Kennedy, and other Premiership players Jason Durden, Scott Parr, Ricky Neels and Ben Caines. Frank Bright coached First Grade, while Brendan Reid, Dave Bryant and Kim Reid continued their roles with the lower grades.
An undefeated Premiership season was always going to be hard to follow up, but a hard-fought 1 point win first-up at Bathurst brought Cowra’s winning streak to 18 games. However, this came crashing down in round 2 at Dubbo with a resounding 90 point loss. Relatively easy wins over Mudgee, newly re-formed Young and Orange followed with Frank Bright at full forward kicking a total of 50 goals in these games.
A close win over Dubbo mid-season saw the Blues retain the Popeye Plate, but further losses to Dubbo and Bathurst meant second spot on the ladder at semifinal time.
Reserve Grade began the season slowly but big wins in the latter half of the season saw them finish second as well.
Both junior sides ended the home and away series in fourth position, with both bowing out in the elimination semis in the first week of the finals.
Cowra was no match for the Demons at Dubbo in the second semifinal, and again needed to progress to the decider via the Preliminary Final. A revved up Bathurst outfit kept pace with the Blues throughout in a nail-biting finish. The final quarter was goal for goal with the Bushrangers prevailing by a handful of points.
In Reserve Grade, Cowra lost to Bathurst in the Qualifying Semi, but easily accounted for Orange in the Preliminary Final to set up a rematch. However, Cowra weren’t able to field their strongest team, and were outplayed by the Bushrangers.
Frank Bright was First Grade League leading goalkicker, with Nathan Thorn winning the Reserve Grade title.
First Grade: Wins 12 Losses 5 Position 3rd
50 First Grade games: Marc Hyland
200 Club games: Kim Reid
150 Club games: Marc Hyland
100 Club games: Allan McVey, Matt Boyce, Zac Milne
The return of Dave Manning to the club for 2008 was a huge lift, while new recruit Irwin Burbage, former junior players Steve Hampton, Craig Reid and Shaun O’Brien, and new player Kurt Bryant were all gains.
Kim Reid was appointed First Grade coach, Ron Roe took over Under 14s, while Brendan Reid and Dave Bryant stayed on as Reserves and 17s coaches.
A tumultuous year for a whole range of reasons saw Bathurst down the Blues in round 1by 28 points in the ‘50 metre penalty game’. Orange started the season strongly and with plenty of recruits quickly assumed flag-favourites status.
The Cowra side plugged away and sat in second spot at mid-season. They played perhaps their best footy of the season in June accounting for Bathurst, and then inflicting Orange’s first loss a week later.
The return match against the Tigers was set to possibly decide the minor Premiership. The Cowra side were insipid in their first half efforts in a second rate game from both teams. Orange led well at halftime, but Cowra made all the running in the third quarter as they narrowed the margin. Late in the quarter, a very minor ’push-and-shove’ between two players saw a Cowra player sent off. As he left the field, a few other players got involved with one or two punches thrown and most players just milling around [as per clear video evidence]. With everyone back ready to play, one of the umpires called the game off and left the field. Most players were dumbfounded.
Later in the week, the CWAFL awarded the game to Orange, deducted Premiership points, called off their next encounter, and imposed sanctions on both clubs.
Further to this, the Cowra club was stripped of points from earlier games where they were found to have played an ineligible player, despite being advised by the CWAFL that the player was indeed eligible.
The side didn’t require much motivation for the remainder of the season.
As club administrators did the appeals paperwork, the team showed little mercy recording some sizable wins.
The appeals process fully vindicated Cowra’s actions with all the penalties rescinded. The Blues who could have finished as low as fourth due to the penalties, cruised to a strong minor Premiership on the back of 13 wins, with just the round 1 game at Bathurst and the abandoned game at Orange as losses.
The qualifying semifinal at Cowra saw the Blues out-last Orange with wayward kicking from the Tigers not helping their cause, Cowra into the Grand Final 21-8-134 to 13-15-93
Orange bowed out a week later, to see Bathurst into their 5th successive Grand Final.
Cowra’s Reserves again were outstanding with another minor Premiership, and a sensational semifinal performance against Bathurst put the side into its 5th Grand final in 6 seasons.
The Under 17s finished fourth on the ladder and played fantastic wet weather footy against Parkes in the elimination semi, but despite a strong last quarter comeback in the Preliminary Final lost by less than a kick against Orange a week later.
A young Under 14s team also finished fourth but bowed out in week one of the finals against Bathurst.
Another Grand Final day in Cowra started with the Blues adding Reserve Grade flag # 4 to the trophy cabinet, as Cowra led all day for a 32 point over the Mudgee Swans 11-12-78 to 7-4 -46. The team was: Nathan Thorn (c) Ronald Williams Chris Hampton Dusty Lee Thomas Simpson Mark Sandry David Newton Aaron Newton Cameron Williams Kevin Book Daniel Bedford Andrew Falconer Ron Roe Reece Starbuck Richard Leary Willei Coe Josh Kennedy Chris Bryant Jason Durden Allan Lovett Matthew Boyce Adam Munroe Brett McCormack Kevin Webb Jeff Falconer James Boyce James Reed Matt Reed Will Merritt Coach: Brendan Reid.
In the First Grade decider, Cowra were relentless with a stunning second quarter to set up a 41 point lead by half time from which they were never really headed. Final scores were Cowra 15-9-99 to Bathurst 8-8-56 to seal a fourth Premiership in a very turbulent season. The Premiership team was: Michael McVey (c) Michael McLeish (v-c) Kim Reid Shaun O'Brien Russell Manning David Manning Nathan Worth Marc Hyland Chris Day Kurt Bryant Craig Reid Stephen Hampton Frank Bright Aaron Thorn Karl Lazanski Allan McVey Irwin Burbage Michael Hayden Geoff Day Brendan Reid Coach: Kim Reid
Frank Bright was awarded the Clements medal for CWAFL First Grade Best & Fairest for the second time, while Nathan Thorn was CWAFL Reserve Grade leading goalkicker.
First Grade: Wins 15 Losses 2 Position Premiers
100 First Grade Games: Allan McVey
50 First Grade games: Aaron Thorn
250 Club games: Frank Bright
200 Club games: Brendan Reid, Richard Leary
150 Club games: Dave Manning, Mick McLeish, Mick McVey, Jeff Falconer
100 Club games: Nathan Thorn, Chris Hampton
- more to follow at a later date -