Cessnock's second win this season against competition heavyweights Western Suburbs has put them back in the hunt for the Newcastle Rugby League finals.
The Goannas’ 25-12 win at home on Saturday lifts them off the bottom of the table and with four wins they are just two wins out of the top five.
Cessnock led 13-12 at half-time and put in one of their best halves of the year to hold the Rosellas scoreless and run in two converted tries.
“We had our 2003 grand final team there and had a jumper presentation with them before the game,” Cessnock coach Al Lantry said of a powerful motivator going into the game.
“It felt like the win was really destined to happen. Bringing the 2003 team in brought real energy to the boys and I hope it is the spark to get them going for the rest of the year.”
While the win has not prompted Lantry to change his mind about stepping down as coach at the end of the season, he did reveal that he may be back playing sooner than expected.
“Things are progressing a bit quicker than I thought in my recovery. I’m hoping I should be right to play the last few games,” he said.
“I was just so proud of the whole team on Saturday. They worked so incredibly hard for each other and I’d like to get back and contribute.”
The Goannas’ young brigade got the score on the board with Joe Woodbury scoring a double, Sam Apthorpe crossing for a try and kicking four goals, and fullback Harry O’Brien finishing with a try and a field goal in a man of the match performance.
While it was a superb effort across the whole squad, Lantry said they needed to back it up this Sunday when they face top of the table Lakes United at Cahill Oval.
“We need to take this week into next week and let’s get a roll on towards the end of the year,” he said.
Lantry said O’Brien continues to amaze him.
“I can’t give the kid a big enough wrap, because he was outstanding,” Lantry said of O’Brien.
“Every time he gets the ball he is a threat. I’d just love to see him get the ball in hand more as he just creates so much.
“If he is not putting someone else through a hole, he is putting himself through one.
“All in all it was a good performance. We had blokes playing in positions they had never played before because of injury.
“Everyone really earned their spot. I was pretty happy.”
At the other end of the experience scale from O’Brien, skipper Brendan Hlad had another fine game leading by example.
“Brendan has probably been one of our most consistent players all year, and it can go unnoticed as I just expect that from him.
“He deserves a wrap and to be told how good he is going, but he is not a big one for being centre of attention.
“He is a good leader and a good bloke for the young blokes to look up to.”
Cessnock are away to Lakes United on Saturday. Kick off in first grade is at 3pm.