Kurri Kurri Bulldogs have advanced to the elimination final beating Maitland 39-12 on the day stars Luke Dorn and Dane Tilse's illustrious playing careers came to an end.
Both teams formed a guard of honour for the duo who were joined by their children for their last exit as players.
It was a fitting tribute and memorable moment for Dorn and Tilse on an otherwise disappointing day for the Pickers.
The Bulldogs jumped out of the gates early scoring the first try within three minutes and never relinquished control of the game.
Kurri had winners across the park, but hooker Tom McKenzie was the best scoring an outstanding individual try after half-time to silence the Pickers crowd and give full-voice to the Bulldogs faithful who travelled to Maitland in droves.
The “Kurri” chant echoed around the Maitland Sportsground followed by the Bulldogs “Woof” war cry when the final siren sounded.
Both sets of fans then joined together to farewell Dorn and Tilse from the field.
The only sour note for the Bulldogs was a serious leg injury to star fullback Kade Hardy, shortly before half-time. Hardy was taken to hospital by ambulance with a suspected broken leg.
The Kurri Kurri Bulldogs opened the scoring within the first three minutes and maintained control of the first half to go into the sheds 18-4 leaders.
The Bulldogs received some terrible news just before the break with star fullback Kade Hardy stretchered off with a leg injury.
Hardy and halfback Jarom Haines had tremendous starts to the game, with Bulldogs forward Brock Gilmour and centre Zeb Dunstan both doing a tower of work in defence and carrying the ball forward with real impact.
One of the biggest days in Coalfields footy for years has kicked off with the Maitland Pickers and Kurri Kurri Bulldogs doing battle in the elimination final at Maitland Sportsground.
At the end of 80 minutes of footy the season will be over for one of the Coalfields arch rivals.
There was plenty of nervous tension across the sportsground with players and supporters anxiiously awaiting the big game.
Pickers and Bulldogs players watched parts of the open grade grade before going downstairs to prepare for the game.
Pre-game rituals kicked in, some players listened to music others waited for their turn to be strapped and rubbed down for the match.
Once everyone was finished in the trainers’ room, the familiar routines kicked in with the backs heading out for kicking and catching practice, before the forwards left the rooms for a joint warm-up session.
Pickers fall short in LLT
The Coalfields spirit was on display in the first game of the day when Maitland’s Ladies League Tag team narrowly fell short of advancing to week two of the finals losing 14-10 to Lakes United.
Lakes led 6-0 at half-time courtesy with an against the play try from a Pickers error.
The Seagulls scored first after the break but the Maitland girls refused to give in and scored next to trail 4-10.
Lakes got the next try, but the Pickers returned fire with a brilliant converted try under the posts with four minutes left on the clock.
The Seagulls were able to hold on and advance to the minor semi-final against the loser of Sunday’s qualifying final between Wests and Souths.
Macquarie Scorpions defeate Central Newcastle 30-10 in the under-19 elimination final. It was the same result in open grade. South Newcastle led Western suburbs 22-4 early in the second half of the reserve grade elimination final.
The Pickers under-19s and reserve teams and the Kurri Kurri opens side are in action in qualifying finals at St John Oval, Charlestown on Sunday.