Big minutes for young guns like Emrah Manning and Hannah Cullen have been the theme of West League's 2020 season.

Fourth-place won’t earn West League Balance a postseason playoff spot in 2020, with the shortened Newcastle season ending without finals next weekend, but Tracey Baggs’ three-time defending champs will enjoy their top-half finish all the same.

It’s been a young squad playing out Greater Club Championship for Wests in the top grade this time around. COVID concerns has seen Premier League clubs keep their top stars away from the regional league, and West Leagues is one such heavy-hitter lineup that has been stripped because of the safety move.

The young squad that has run out for West Leagues in the past months has still been “of the highest quality” though, Baggs told the Chronicle in the middle of the season. Young sensations like Emrah Manning and Tayla Winter in particular have been handed big minutes, in preparation for the 2021 season and beyond.

“We’re building well for the next couple of years, and I think that we’re going to look even stronger when these youngsters are in the mix in a full season,” Baggs said.

“The pressure has been on girls like Emrah in a lot of these top-grade games, as they settle in, but they know that they have my backing, and I want to see them push themselves. I’ll keep backing them, and that’s cause they keep delivering.

Read: ‘We’ve shown what the Lions can do’: young Souths shooting for big finish

“We’re very lucky here at West Leagues where I’ve been watching these girls for years and now I get to see how they do it in the top grade. I think this has been a good season for all the clubs for this, everyone’s having a good look at what they’ve got.”

Kate Love is another youngster that has cut her teeth in the Championship for Wests this season.

That doesn’t mean West Leagues hasn’t found success this year either. Baggs’ young stars chalked up their third straight win on the weekend, accounting for BNC 48–26.

The two sides stayed close in the clash early on Saturday afternoon. West Leagues, who played with their bare seven in the match, claimed a narrow 11–9 lead, before stretching the advantage to five in the second off their tight defence.

A massive 13–4 third quarter put the champs well out in the lead, and they drove home the advantage with another hefty 14 goals to six last quarter to clinch their fourth win.

West Leagues have been on a roll recently, and came into the catch-up round with big wins against Junction Stella (54–24) and Kotara South (41–23) under their belts.

Their red-hot form in the back end of the season has only been matched by two other top competitors in the league: Souths Lions, who fired 63 goals past Inner Glow on Saturday to stay second, and the undefeated championship leaders University.

University have been unstoppable so far in the staggered 2020 regular season.

UON made it eight straight in the top grade with their own 57–20 win over the Tigers on Saturday. The former Forsythes ladies have been unstoppable so far in 2020, with their closest contest coming in Round 5 when they beat Souths by six.

Finally, Nova got back to winning ways with a 58–21 win over Junction Stella to close out Round 8. The Thunder had lost their last two matches in a row at the hands of Uni and the Lions, but bounced back into third with the lopsided Saturday win.

Next weekend will see the Newcastle club championship sealed as well. Souths, West Leagues, University, and Nova are all duking it out at the top for the chance to claim 2020’s combined prize.

TOP-GRADE STANDINGS: University (21), Souths (19), Nova (17), West Leagues (15), Inner Glow (13), BNC (11), Kotara South (9), Junction (7).