From the brink of oblivion to front and centre of Australian rugby's future, Shute Shield officials have set themselves the ambitious new goal of getting a women's team into every club.
Sydney Rugby Union president David Begg told the Herald the Shute Shield, which kicks off this Saturday, was now a genuine pathway for professional rugby and would next focus on widening the reach of the women's game beyond the existing handful of clubs.
"The quality of everything, from club management to strength and conditioning to the general look and feel of all the clubs is infinitely superior to five or seven years ago," Begg said. "It now truly is a semi-professional competition where we are getting players ready for professional rugby.
"The one remaining aim that we are going to address this year is that every club has a women's 15s team in the competition by 2020. That's the missing piece. We've got so much a better product than the other football codes and I think we also have the best story to tell in women's rugby.
"There are five clubs with women's teams now, but we don't want there to be men's and women's rugby, we just want there to be rugby. The time of the artificial distinction is over."
With 11 teams across four senior grades and three colts competitions, club rugby is not without its headaches. Western Sydney (formerly Parramatta) and West Harbour have limped to the starting line and there are fears first grade will still turn into a two-speed competition, even after Penrith was cut last year.