Six Illawarra teams in CRL-sanctioned knockout competition
He'll be wearing rival colours but Thirroul premiership winner Nathan Wynn will look to utilise the Butchers' match-winning blueprint when he leads Gymea into the inaugural Challenge Cup in March.
The Gorillas and reigning Sutherland Shire premiers Engadine will take on all six Illawarra teams in the CRL-sanctioned knockout competition that was launched at Panorama House on Thursday.
The tournament will kick off with two double-headers on consecutive weekends on March 21 and 28 with semi-finals to held in May ahead of the final on June 14.
The matches will played over four 20-minute quarters with a $7000 first prize courtesy of major sponsor The Cash Back App. Unlimited interchange will be in place for the pool games with finals matches to revert to the usual 10-4 system.
Wynn made a late-season return from a broken hand in the latter rounds last year and produced a match-winning cameo from the bench in the Butchers' nail-biting 18-16 grand final victory over Helensburgh.
Brother Mitch and James Spencer were also part of the Butchers line-up that day but all three have returned to their junior club for 2015 under Dragons great Graeme Wynn, father of Nathan and Mitch.
"I'd always wanted to go back and play for my local club," Wynn said.
"After being in France and then Thirroul, I wanted to give back to the club a little bit", he said.
"Finally, after months, me and my brother convinced dad to coach. It's something we'd never done and he finally said 'yes', so it's going to be a bit of fun and we're excited for the opportunity as well."
The premiership triumph ensured he left the Butchers on a high but Wynn said he's taken much more than just a premiership medal back to his home club.
"We learned so much from Thirroul," Wynn said.
"They're such a good family-orientated club and we've taken that culture into Gymea.
"We've been taking charge at training and getting all the young fellas up with the old fellas and doing things [Thirroul's] way, which is something Gymea have never had. Everyone's buying into it. We had 44 guys at training this week and last year they were getting 10, so that's awesome."
The draw means that the Gorillas can only meet the Butchers in the competition final. They have to navigate their first-up match with Corrimal and the winner of the powerhouse clash between Engadine and Helensburgh to get there but Wynn said he'd have no problem sharing a few old secrets with his current team.
"It'll be open slather I think - it's the toughest comp down here and we've got so much work to do to get to that level. We obviously want to be competitive, so it's a great opportunity to rip into training and try to keep up with them."
This article originally appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 12/2/2015