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NSWRL's Group 9 is celebrating 100 years in 2023, and it seems fitting that this season is shaping to be one of the closest on record.

After seven rounds, five first-grade sides are locked on 10 competition points, with for-and-against the only thing separating teams as they prepare for a well-earned June long weekend break.

In round seven, the Tumut Blues and Temora Dragons enjoyed the weekend off with a bye, and they moved to first and second respectively, with results going their way on Saturday and Sunday.

Young – now top-of-the-table after Round Four – bounced back from recent losses to Tumut and Gundagai with a decisive 50-22 win over Junee, when playing at Alfred Oval on Sunday.

Reigning premiers Gundagai made it three wins on the trot, with the Tigers holding off a dogged South City Bulls outfit to win 32-24 at Anzac Park on Saturday.

In the upset of the round, the previously top-of-the-table Wagga Kangaroos ventured to Albury's Greenfield Park, with the Thunder scoring a late try to beat the 'Roos 24-18.

As a result, Tumut (+83), Temora (+51), Kangaroos (+48), Young (0), and Albury (-10) make up the Group 9 top-five, with Gundagai (+16) only one game behind the quintet, while South City (-84) are seventh on six competition points, ahead of a winless Junee Diesels (-104).

"This is definitely the closest I've seen the competition," said Tumut Blues co-coach Zac Masters.

"Since I've been back, there have always been two or three sides at the top, with a massive gap back to the rest.

"This season, nothing separates everyone, and it's great for rugby league in the region because the bottom sides can beat the top sides on their day."

Masters, one of the premier forwards in Group 9 over the past five seasons, will likely miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

Still, the Blues coach is proud to see his Tumut outfit sitting on top after Albury and Temora dealt them back-to-back losses to open their 2023 campaign.

"To our standards, we started the season quite slow and lost those early games, but we had quite a few injuries and not much training together," Masters said.

"We knew it would take a little bit of time, but our combinations are a lot better, and that's starting to show in our results."

The 2022 grand finalists Young came into the season as red-hot favourites starting the season strongly before tough losses to heavyweights Tumut and Gundagai.

Still, Masters believes the Cherrypickers will bounce back, with the prop naming a handful of teams that can compete for the Group 9 title.

"Obviously, Young will be thereabouts at the end of the year. They have been through a bit of a slump the last few weeks, but they have a lot of class in their side, and they'll be hard to stop," Masters said.

"Gundagai will keep improving and get better and better, and we haven't played the Kangaroos yet, and it will be interesting to see how we match with them."

Young coach Nick Cornish was a little less forthcoming, when asked if there was a standout side in the competition. But he agreed with Masters in that this Group 9 season was as open as ever.

"There are usually that top three or four teams that are standouts, and a couple of teams a bit lower, then there is a gap back to the rest," Cornish said.

"Obviously this year it's a lot more even and on the weekend Albury beat Kangaroos, which was a bit of an upset, but that's just the type of season it is."

Round Seven results: Gundagai Tigers 32 def South City Bulls 24, Albury Thunder 24 def Wagga Kangaroos 18; Young Cherrypickers 50 def Junee Diesels 22

Round Eight draw: June 17 - Albury Thunder v Junee Diesels at Greenfield Park; June 18 - South City Bulls v Young Cherrypickers at Harris Park, Wagga Kangaroos v Temora Dragons at McDonald's Park.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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