Back-rower Wyatt Shaw starred as the Cessnock Goannas pulled off their best and most important win of the season to date, demolishing Central Newcastle 32-10 at home on Saturday.
The win leaves the Goannas in third spot, just one point behind Central in second and one point ahead of the fast-chasing Macquarie Scorpions who smashed Lakes United 48-6.
The Goannas face the Scorpions on Saturday and if they win, and the Maitland Pickers defeat Central, Cessnock will jump to second on the ladder with two rounds to go including a Covid-draw against The Entrance and the local derby against Kurri Kurri at The Graveyard.
Goannas coach Todd Edwards said while he was still upset by the introduction of Covid-draws, Saturday's win had ensured his side's fate was back in their own hands.
"It's up to us now whether we finish second, third, fourth or fifth," he said.
The win in tough conditions after a four-week break from play sounds an ominous warning to the Goannas' opponents.
"It was wet and windy and a really good win," Edwards said.
"We had a lot of footy in the first 35 minutes, we built a lot of pressure on them offensively and we capitalised throughout the game.
"It was a good week to get them as they didn't have Walshy (halfback Luke Walsh), but we performed well."
Wyatt Shaw continued his outstanding form with another man of the match performance.
"Wyatt was enormous, he had a really good game again. He has been so consistent all year," Edwards said.
"Billy Gilbert was strong again, Scotty Briggs performed well and kicked well and Jayden Young had a good game."
The Goannas have also signed former Penrith Panthers playmaker Harry Siejka as captain-coach for the next two seasons following his appointment by the club on Thursday.
Siejka will take the reins from Edwards, who played a key role in recruiting him to the Goannas.
Edwards said he believed Siejka was an outstanding candidate and would have real success with proper support from the sidelines.
"It's a difficult role as captain-coach in a quality competition like Newcastle, but I think Harry has what it takes if he gets the right support and people around him."