It's no substitute for last year's grand final loss, but Cessnock's try-on-the-bell win over premiers Western Suburbs was extra sweet for the Goannas faithful at Cessnock Sportsground on Saturday.
Fittingly, man-of-the-match Liam Foran provided the grubber kick for centre Josh Griffiths to dive on and turn a 16-18 deficit into a 20-18 lead with a kick to come.
Tom Baker duly converted the goal, the first successful kick from the past two weeks, to secure what coach Todd Edwards described as a "character-filled" win.
"It was great, a lot of character was shown against a pretty good footy team," Edwards said.
"We probably got a bit of luck today in that last minute that we didn't get last week.
"In saying that it was four tries to three and we were behind 16-18. The kids deserved that win, it was a huge effort."
While Foran was best afield, it was a close thing with former Newcastle Knight Brayden Musgrove starring in his return home and first game in 18 months since injuring his knee.
"Foran was outstanding, he was probably the difference," Edwards said.
"Liam Foran's game management is second to none and he is so under-done because he hasn't played any footy.
"He is just a good bloke to coach, he is a footballer, he is a winner, he makes my job very easy.
"I'd love to work with him long-term, but we'll see at the end of the year how it works out.
"Liam and Brayden Musgrove were ridiculous. Considering Brayden hasn't played for a long while and is coming off a knee injury he was enormous."
Edwards believes Musgrove still belongs in the NRL and will come to the attention of a club.
"From what he dished up today I'm sure there's a few NRL clubs out there who should look at him. I think he could play on the wing or at centre at NRL level, he is that good," Edwards said.
Musgrove was one of five try scorers with Ngangarra Barker, Jordan Schofield, Jesse Hourn and Griffiths crossing for four-pointers as well.
Edwards is keen to sign former Pickers centre Griffiths and Bulldogs back Barker for the 2021 season.
"Josh Griffiths is just a winner, he had a year out at Wellington last year and they won the title. He is in his late 20s and knows what it takes to win.
"We picked up Ngangarra Barker and he played at fullback and was really good for us. I coached him as a teenager in SG Ball with Knights. Like Josh he is a hugely talented player."
The Goannas will be further strengthened by the return of Tyler Randall, who missed Saturday because of work commitments.
"There is a good vibe at the club. We've won two from three and probably should have beaten Souths.
"We're not far away. I'm really happy where we are.
"Again, this year is not about winning comps, it's about development of some kids who are probably getting exposed 12 months earlier than expected. They are holding their gloves up and that's all you can ask."
Cessnock first grade has the bye this weekend.
Wests were too strong for Cessnock in Ladies Blues Tag winning 56-4. The Rosellas had a 42-8 win in reserve grade.
Kurri Kurri Bulldogs will look to secure local bragging rights when they host Cessnock in reserve grade and Ladies Blues Tag on Saturday.
Blues Tag kicks off at 12.30pm, reserve grade is at 3pm and the Bulldogs under-19s play Macquarie at 1.45pm.
The Bulldogs had a bye in reserve grade and 22-12 and 20-14 losses in under-19s and LBT respectively against Nelson Bay on Saturday.
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