The Peter McDonald Premiership is the one many expected and some have even felt was deserved.
Dubbo CYMS and the Mudgee Dragons. No sides have played at as consistently high a level as these two in the past two years.
But how did they go about reaching this year's decider?
Here we take a lot at the two sides and their performances throughout the year as we prepare for a blockbuster ending to the 2023 season.
DUBBO CYMS: If anyone had any doubts about the quality of Dubbo CYMS heading into the new season they were quickly quashed as the Fishies ran rampant in round one and defeated a much-touted Bathurst Panthers side 60-0 in a match which featured the mercy rule.
The CYMS forwards were dominant, with Chanse Burgess scoring a hat-trick on debut and describing the win as "unreal", while Jeremy Thurston also chimed in with three tries.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: Mudgee got to play the first game of the year as their round one game was moved forward two weeks to act as an NRL curtain-raiser.
That early start didn't impact them, as they showed their quality by defeating defending premiers Forbes 26-18.
Hayden Carpenter slotted in seamlessly and scored a try while Nathan Orr bagged a double.
DUBBO CYMS: A 42-8 win over a rebuilding Lithgow side was the type of result many expected and was another early example of CYMS' strikepower.
Another hat-trick for Thurston was the highlight while coach Townsend said of his side's start: "We're just trying to tuck the ball under the wing and go forward in those first few rounds so we can get that rhythm and momentum and then don't have to tackle as much."
MUDGEE DRAGONS: Winning a close one 24-22 over Macquarie was a big plus, but a knee injury suffered by star forward and player-coach Clay Priest would be something that would linger over much of the Dragons' season.
Highlights from the Mudgee Dragons' thrilling win over the Macquarie Raiders at Apex Oval
Despite that, the early results had many talking up Mudgee as favourites but Priest wasn't having it.
"It's all talk and it means nothing. I'm worried about our side and each week and hopefully we can be that side at the end," he said.
DUBBO CYMS: "We started absolutely terrible," halfback Jordi Madden said of CYMS against Wellington after the Cowboys shot out to a 10-0 lead.
CYMS got better as the game went though and scored a 32-14 win to maintain their unbeaten start.
"The big thing we pride ourselves on is effort and giving that effort across the full 80," Madden added.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: Get in, get the win, get out. That's how Mudgee approached the match with Group 10 battlers Orange CYMS at a wet and cold Wade Park.
Mudgee trailed early before rallying to score a 34-18 win, with halfback Pacey Stockton bagging a double.
The Mudgee defence was made to work hard at a wet Wade Park in round three.
Priest - who was out due to his knee injury - was an honest man post-game and was happy just to get out of Orange with the points.
"Obviously in these sort of conditions no one likes going out and playing," he said.
DUBBO CYMS: Defeat at last. A fast-starting Parkes was far too good for a CYMS side missing key men Alex Bonham and Claude Gordon.
The performance in the 40-28 loss was one of the poorest produced by a CYMS side in some time, and Townsend didn't mince his words post-game.
"Outplayed, out-enthused, out-muscled. The whole lot. It got what it deserved in the end," he said.
Jayden Merritt and Dubbo CYMS copped a bit of a whack at Pioneer Oval.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: The Dragons sat as the only unbeaten side in the competition after a narrow 20-18 win over the Orange Hawks.
Not for the first time this season, the class of former NRL player Jack Littlejohn was decisive and his double was key in the result and, also not for the first time, Priest was not getting carried away.
"Being unbeaten four rounds in is pleasing however it's only early days. I'm really happy for the boys, there's a good vibe between the team and the club," the injured coach said.
DUBBO CYMS: Dubbo derbies haven't hit any great heights in recent years and it was the same again on May 21 as a scrappy CYMS defeated Macquarie 20-4.
Townsend labelled the match "frustrating to watch" and he was right, with stoppages and errors frequent througout.
It was win though and, while not perfect, a nice response after the Parkes loss.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: The Dragons were showing no signs of slowing down, with a 42-10 win over Lithgow strengthening their hold on top spot in the Group 10 pool.
Stockton again bagged a double while Littlejohn also crossed in a commanding six-try-to-two victory.
It was around this point many started saying everyone else in that pool was playing for second.
DUBBO CYMS: We recently crowned Alex Bonham our ACM Player of the Year and it was around this time of the season his influence at hooker really began to shine.
Bonham was labelled the best hooker in the competition after a commanding 54-6 win over Nyngan, while prop James Stanley was destructive off the bench and took his push for a starting spot in the front-row to another level.
Dubbo CYMS scored a convincing Peter McDonald Premiership win over the Nyngan Tigers at Apex Oval
"He's just a point of difference and, I could be wrong, but there's not many players around like him. That size, speed, agility, power, aggression and footy smarts," Townsend raved post-game.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: Much like CYMS winning and then producing a shocker earlier in the year, Mudgee was far from its best on May 28 and that resulted in a 42-10 hammering at the hands of Bathurst St Pat's.
The absences of Priest and captain and hooker Jake Beasley played a part in the Dragons' first loss of the campaign.
DUBBO CYMS: CYMS yet again wasn't perfect but the Fishies always play for the full 80 and that was the case here again, as a try for Troyden Dixon in the dying stages secured a 24-20 win over Forbes.
"They probably were the better side over 80 minutes if you look at it," Townsend admitted, but the result was enough to keep CYMS ahead of Parkes at the top of the Group 11 pool.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: The Dragons also weren't completely convincing but they got back to winning ways with a narrow 24-22 victory over Bathurst Panthers.
The big positive was the long-awaited return of Priest from injury while Luke Moody and Brad Hibberd started in the forwards, showcasing the club's depth up front.
DUBBO CYMS: For the second time this season, CYMS inflicted the mercy rule on an opposition.
This time Orange CYMS was beaten 60-0 but the most interesting aspect was Townsend's post-game quotes about mid-season changes he was making.
There was plenty of reason to cheer during a 60-0 mauling of Orange CYMS in round eight.
"We want to move the footy and that's the blueprint for us going forward. We want to change up the way we play," he said of a more expansive approach that was something to keep an eye on.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: The three-and-a-half-hour trek to Nyngan is a long and testing one but the Dragons returned home happy after a 36-20 win.
Star centre Corin Smith bagged a double while Priest returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the win over Macquarie back in round two.
CYMS AND MUDGEE: Match of the season? We thought so when we recently handed out our end-of-season awards.
This was a gruelling encounter but the defensive might of CYMS helped them score an 18-12 win at the home of the Dragons.
Dubbo CYMS defeated the Mudgee Dragons in a gripping battle between the Peter McDonald Premiership's top two
For Mudgee, the loss was made more painful by a season-ending injury to centre Smith.
"I know it sucks to lose and we expected to win but we definitely take a lot out of our attitude and how our middle stayed together," Beasley said, staying positive.
A few at the ground post-game were heard to say these two sides deserved to meet in the grand final.
DUBBO CYMS: Another slightly dour derby win. CYMS were 28-14 victors but poor handling was a problem for much of the match.
Macquarie led for much of the contest but one 15-minute period late on where the Fishies put it all together and piled on some points was decisive.
"You've got to win ugly sometimes, I guess," halfback Madden said.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: Lithgow is a tough place to win no matter how they're performing and Mudgee was made to work for a 24-10 victory.
This one was about their star duo, with Priest and Littlejohn again making a real difference and helping the Dragons stay well clear of the chasing pack in the Group 10 pool.
DUBBO CYMS: Defeat again for the Fishies and all of a sudden the Group 11 minor premiership wasn't a certainty given the pressure being applied by Parkes.
CYMS failed to take their chances at Wellington and it led to a 20-18 loss to a Cowboys side building real momentum.
"We might have had six chances and only scored a couple of tries. We just need to improve our attacking kicks a little bit," Townsend said.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: The Dragons were without a host of regulars but it mattered little as they bounced back by thumping Orange CYMS 44-4.
The backline was virtually completely different and Beasley didn't play either but it was a dominant win which moved Mudgee within touching distance of the Group 10 minor premiership.
DUBBO CYMS: The pressure was slightly on CYMS after the Wellington loss but they responded in style, downing Parkes 38-12.
The win all but secured the Group 11 minor premiership but knocking over another serious contender was the most pleasing aspect.
"It's been a tough week at training after the loss, we reassessed things and wanted to make a statement," five-eighth Claude Gordon said.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: Bye
DUBBO CYMS: Bye
MUDGEE DRAGONS: There was a bit of hype around the Mudgee-Hawks meeting given the Orange side had started to find top form and was now second in the Group 10 pool.
However, what we got was a show of the Dragons's strength as they powered to a 40-16 win during a special Old Boys' weekend.
Jack Beasley has enjoyed a strong season with Mudgee and a hat-trick against Hawks was a highlight.
Priest said it showed "what we can do when we put our minds on the job" while hat-trick hero Jack Beasley praised the coach and said "(Clay) has been talking about really getting the polish right in our game and not letting other teams get a sniff."
DUBBO CYMS: With finals looming, CYMS showed exactly what they were capable of by crushing defending premiers Forbes 52-4.
Tom Hughes, who missed much of last year due to injury but developed into a real star of 2023, scored a hat-trick as CYMS yet again got better the longer a match went on.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: A 28-16 win over a Pat's side which beat them earlier in the year was a positive, but the big talking point out of this game was Clay Priest's send-off.
A high shot from Priest resulted in him being put on report and, given his suspension history, he was later banned for the rest of the season in a huge blow to the Dragons' hopes.
On the field, the win over St Pat's wrapped up the minor premiership for Mudgee.
DUBBO CYMS: Townsend opted to rest a few players for the final round and that, combined with a motivated Nyngan side, resulted in a 22-14 loss at Larkin Oval.
There were a few worries to come out of the game. Billy Sing suffered an ankle injury which many expected would rule him out for the season and Troyden Dixon was put on report and later suspended for the rest of 2023.
MUDGEE DRAGONS: Something of a shock loss for Mudgee in the final round as they went down 20-12 to Bathurst Panthers.
The Dragons were virtually full-strength but were kept scoreless in the first half for the first time in 2023.
Finals, week one
DUBBO CYMS: The Fishies came under plenty of pressure at times but in the end they were simply too good for Orange Hawks and secured a week off by winning 28-6.
Given the scrappy nature of the performance Townsend was again frustrated but the big positive was his side's ability to keep getting it done when not at their best.
Dubbo CYMS defeat Orange Hawks in opening week of Peter McDonald Premiership finals
The coach said his side wasn't clinical enough but of hooker Alex Bonham, who was again a standout, he said "he's calm but he's explosive and he's smart and tough".
MUDGEE DRAGONS: One of the wildest games of the season played out at Glen Willow, as the Dragons rallied from 20-6 down with 15 minutes to go to defeat Parkes 28-20.
Jack Littlejohn, was took over in the final stages of the match, Littlejohn hailed his side for showing "a lot of fight and character to get back" but as pleasing as the win was, it wasn't the first time Mudgee had been made to work hard to fight back from an early deficit this season.
DUBBO CYMS: Having been blown off the field by Parkes early previously this season, CYMS turned the tables when it mattered.
A blistering start set-up a 38-20 win over the Spacemen and sent the Fishies through to a ninth successive grand final.
Key men Thurston, Bonham and Jarryn Powyer all stood up but late tries allowed Parkes a slight sniff and Townsend said his side's finish was "sloppy".
MUDGEE DRAGONS: It was more of the same for the Dragons. Start slow, fight back, win.
Mudgee secured its place in the grand final by downing Hawks 30-20 in a tense affair. The win was a satisfying one, especially after the Dragons were knocked out at the prelim stage last year.
"It hurt a lot last year because we knew we could have gone a lot further but we kind of messed up," Beasley said.
"We've gone one further now and I think we can do it."
Sunday's Peter McDonald Premiership grand final is scheduled to kick-off at 2.30pm at Apex Oval.