FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Cessnock Goannas win 2003 grand final

The Cessnock Goannas will be vying for their first grand final win in 17 years when they take on South Newcastle in the Newcastle Rugby League decider on Sunday.

Cessnock won the 2003 decider with a drama-filled 22-20 victory over Raymond Terrace, breaking a 26-year premiership drought (read the match report below).

The Goannas have appeared in six grand finals since - 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2019 - but were defeated each time.

Meanwhile, pre-sale tickets to Sunday's grand final have sold out. If you can't make it to the game, register to watch the livestream at bartvsports.com.au.

MATCH REPORT: Goannas, they're the champions

The Advertiser, September 10, 2003

WE DID IT: The Goannas soaking up the atmosphere after their grand final win in 2003.

WE DID IT: The Goannas soaking up the atmosphere after their grand final win in 2003.

Cessnock became the Newcastle Rugby League champions after an absence of 26 years when they defeated Raymond Terrace 22-20 in a drama-filled match at No. 1 Sportsground on Saturday.

Going into the match with the whole town willing them to win, the Goannas hoisted the premiership trophy high above their heads when they arrived back at the Supporters' Club packed to the rafters with delirious fans.

Many of the fans had endured that long wait since Henry Tatana's team claimed the trophy 26 years ago.

The match had everything a grand final should have, attracting an enormous crowd that had Newcastle officials over the moon with the turnout of two blue-collar teams whose supporters turned up in the thousands.

First it was the Goannas who had a stranglehold on the match, with an 12-0 scoreline after tries to wingers Daniel Forder and Daniel Spiteri from ill-directed passes from the Terrace.

Another blunder by a Magpies winger, who lost possession in a tackle, saw evergreen pivot Steve Storrie pick up the ball and dive over for a handy half-time lead of 18-4.

But memories of the previous week's fightback by the Goannas after a similar scoreline were in the minds of many when Raymond Terrace commenced their fightback with three unanswered tries.

The Magpies then went into the lead 20-18 with only minutes on the clock.

But a truly inspiring 40-metre run from his own line by Andrew Taylor lifted Cessnock for one last effort that resulted in the fullback Lance Lennard crashing over for a memorable 22-20 victory that will be talked about for years to come.

AWARDS: Andrew Taylor, who won the man of the match award and the prestigious Don Schofield medal in 2003.

AWARDS: Andrew Taylor, who won the man of the match award and the prestigious Don Schofield medal in 2003.

In a fantastic team performance, this Goanna outfit showed what sticking together and mateship can achieve, and the importance of the contribution captain-coach Daniel Smailes made in this area can't be underestimated.

He has moulded together a great team of youth and experience, local junior talent with a sprinkling of imports into a happy championship team for years to come.

Cessnock's major award of the Don Schofield Medal for player of the match in a grand final was presented to Andrew Taylor, who was extremely proud to receive this award.

Andrew is a classic example of a new face coming to the club, who with Clint Tallon, Steve Storrie and Daniel Spiteri fitting in perfectly and being a major contributing factor to the success of the club.

Club officials would like to thank all of their wonderful volunteers who worked tirelessly on the day and the whole year.

AT LAST: Goannas captain-coach Daniel Smailes holds the trophies high after the 2003 win, the club's first premiership in 26 years.

AT LAST: Goannas captain-coach Daniel Smailes holds the trophies high after the 2003 win, the club's first premiership in 26 years.