The Cessnock Goannas will be vying for their first premiership since 2003 when they take on Western Suburbs in the Newcastle Rugby League grand final at No. 1 Sportsground on Sunday.
The Goannas have lost two grand finals to the Rosellas in the ensuing years (12-10 in 2008 and 16-14 in 2012), and also went down to Wyong in the 2009 decider and Maitland the following year.
The Cessnock side – featuring eight local juniors – will be out to deny Wests their third straight premiership.
The first grade clash will kick-off at 3pm.
Fans can show their support for the Goannas at a meet-and-greet with the players at Cessnock Leagues Club on Thursday night.
From around 6.30pm there will be grand final merchandise available for the players to sign and autographs and photos available for people of all ages.
As well, the players hope to be able to catch up with all their supporters back at the club after the game on Sunday.
They will be presented on stage where the prestigious Don Schofield medal will be awarded and hopefully the team will be able to show off the premiership trophy.
Local businesses are encouraged to get behind the Goannas this week by decorating their shop windows in black and gold.
The club will be running buses to the game, departing Cessnock Leagues Club at 12pm Sunday. Tickets are $15 return and can be bought at the club or online here.
1. Kerrod Holland
Fullback. First year at club, coming from Singleton where he was highly regarded as a halfback. Has been a sensation this season, giving the club great attacking option.
2. Brendan Williams
Wing. Played in last season’s under-18 team but has handled the step up to first grade easily. Outstanding defender and powerful ball runner.
3. Geordie Connelly
Can play centre or five-eighth. Brilliant junior career playing with Knights and Panthers, first year at the club but has proved to be a real X-factor. If the team is to win he could have a lot to do with it.
4. Shaun Metcalf
Centre. At the club for three years now since coming over from New Zealand, this has been his best season. Hammers them in defence and is a real handful with the ball.
5. Chris Pyne
Wing. Club legend, member of the local Team of the Century. Came out of retirement for one last crack at the elusive first grade premiership. Still playing good footy and deserves to go to a winner.
6. Riley Brown
Five-eighth. Although nearing the end of his career is still regarded as one of the best players in the competition. Reads the game brilliantly and is the Goeys’ go-to man.
7. Joel Brown
Halfback. Great foil for Riley, outstanding competitor who will never stop challenging the opposition. Sides underestimate his pace and good link to outside back.
8. Alec Fata
Front row. First season in the front row and his game had really developed in the second half of the year. Has been at the Goannas a number of seasons now and is well respected throughout the club.
9. Chris Adams
Hooker. First year back at the club after three seasons with the Knights, chosen in the Country team and selected Newcastle rep player of the year. Best defender in the competition and if he gets quick play the balls can destroy opposing defences.
10. Brendan Hlad
Front row. Great servant for the club since returning home from seasons with Penrith and English Super League. Never stops during a match and does lots of the unnoticed work that is required. Great club man, shows interest in all juniors coming through ranks.
11. Kori Barber
Second row. Another local junior who returned to the club after going through the Knights program, this has been his best season and has formed a great combination with Joel Brown on the right edge. His defence in the past month has been bone-jarring.
12. Jacob McKendry
Second row. Came through the local juniors always looking as though he could develop into a top first-grader. Has been given the opportunity this seas and has not let anyone down. Playing with great confidence and has surprising speed for such a big man.
13. Al Lantry
Lock. Another Singleton junior who came to the Goannas many seasons back, has been a tremendous player for the club over a number of years, this has been his best year of footy for the club. A real leader on and off the field.
14. Gene Brown
Utility. Younger brother to Riley and Joel, highly regarded right through his junior days representing the state in different age groups, can cover many positions and has great footwork at the defence line.
15. Mark White
Front row. Local stalwart for the club who along with Chris Pyne came out of retirement for this season. Has played his best football in years and really playing a leader’s role when he gets on field. An outstanding clubman who shows great interest in all of the youngsters coming through the grades. His father David played in 1972 winning team and grandfather Jack in the 1950 winning team.
16. Jacob Garland
Outside back. Another who has progressed from last season under-18 team. Has had a good season although dogged by injury in the back half of the year. Is a tremendous catcher of the high ball and would have the safest hands in the competition.
17. Brett Stevens
Utility. Has black and gold flowing through his veins, his father Neil was a member of the Goannas’ 1977 winning team. Can play numerous positions on the field and is a great asset for coach Steve Kidd. Playing the best footy of his career since entering grade.
COACH: Steve Kidd
Played most of his career at Kurri (but the Goannas won’t hold that against him), has had a good grounding coaching lower grades in recent years. Rookie year as a first grade coach and has handled it all well. Got the team through a terrible mid-season slump and they have now gone eight weeks without defeat.