Everyone involved with the Geurie Goats knew the club’s story heading into Saturday’s Graincorp Cup Northern Division grand final.
They knew all too well the years of suffering and the seemingly continuous run of losses and wooden spoons endured in Central West Rugby Union.
But in recent times they’ve also known something else.
They’ve known the club was building.
After a horror run of just two wins in six seasons, the club changed its tune in late 2016 and when president Matt Dowell recruited Paul Hausia to coach, together they set the goal of hosting a grand final within the next few years.
That might have seemed ludicrous at the time but on Saturday afternoon the Geurie Goats not only hosted the GrainCorp Cup decider, they capped off an undefeated season by claiming the title with a 28-12 win over the Wellington Redbacks.
FT | Years of pain ends for Geurie!! They’ve won the GrainCorp Cup Northern Division title after defeating the Wellington Redbacks 28-12 in the decider.— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) August 11, 2018
Three years ago after a string of wooden spoons the Goats set a goal of winning a title at home. They’ve done it. #CWRU18pic.twitter.com/3gujvFtuvf
Cars were lined up long before kick-off in Saturday’s decider and by the time the game between the two fierce local rivals started it was absolutely jam-packed in Geurie Sports Ground.
Those there got to witness history, as the Geurie club won its first title since being founded 16 years ago.
“We said the only way we would create history was if we worked until the whistle in the 80th minute and credit to the community, they came out and supported the guys, Hausia said.
“It’s not about the game in itself, it’s about achieving a goal everyone wanted and we’ve done that.
“Two years ago people said the dream was to have a Wellington and Geurie grand final and here we are. I can now relax.”
The Goats had one hand on the silverware after a blistering opening to Saturday’s game.
The Redbacks made an error from the kick-off and after that they barely touched the ball in the first 10 minutes.
The Goats opened the scoring in just the third minute when a hard-running Demesio Elia scored next to the uprights to set-up a 7-0 lead.
Less than five minutes later the Goats led by 14 after Filisione Pauta, the former Country Cockatoo and one of the major driving forces behind the Goats’ turnaround, scored a fine individual try after starting a jinking run 25m out from the line.
Despite the ease at which they were slicing through the Redbacks defence, the Goats opted against running the ball and took the points when offered after that.
Hugh Edwards had a fine day with the boot and three successful penalty goals saw the hosts lead 23-0 after an utterly dominant first half.
The Redbacks half-time team talk was a positive one and it worked wonders as barnstorming prop Kym Dorin scored within two minutes of the restart and Brad McCarroll’s conversion made it 23-7.
The Redbacks dominated proceedings then, the Goats also had a player sin-binned, but they failed to make an impact and then there was a long delay following a worrying head knock to Wellington scrumhalf Darcy Tierney.
There was serious concern about Tierney but after some time on the turf he was eventually helped back to his feet and off the ground to much applause.
The loss of the number nine saw the Redbacks lose a little momentum but they stayed in the game courtesy of a strong forward pack and sheer determination.
Zac McManus scored for Wellington with 11 minutes left to have the Redbacks fans in full voice but Geurie’s Moa Kavauka scored a fine try after slicing back in on the angle off his wing inside the final 10 minutes to seal victory for the Goats.
“We always knew we had the ability. We just had to make sure we finished off and we did that today,” Hausia said, before talking about his side’s fast start.
“We had to make a point and we said that. We had to make it from the very beginning and unfortunately in the second half for us, Wellington did exactly the same thing as we had done.
“I said we needed to switch on and go back to basics, and we did that.”
The Wellington players, who had been part of their own turnaround after finishing seventh last season, were understandably dejected at full-time.
Coach Greg ‘Snow’ Brien lamented his side’s poor start but remained incredibly proud of his gallant troops.
“We put ourselves under pressure and made too many mistakes and Geurie capitalised,” he said.
“They got away to a good early lead and you can’t peg them back.
“That (start) set the tone for us. We needed to retain the ball and we didn’t, so it was just one of those frustrating days for us.
“But I can’t speak highly enough about them (Redbacks players). They’re all local boys and Wellington born-and-bred and they played junior footy for Wello.
“They’re deadset champions.”
Both coaches had nothing but praise for the massive and vocal crowd on hand while Hausia and Goats captain Josh Sinisa made special mention of the club’s passionate and faithful water boy, Justin Fettell, who savoured the win more than most.
Hausia also joked seeing so many Geurie supporters appear this year was like spotting long-forgotten silverback gorillas in the wild, but he was thrilled to see so many fans in attendance and enjoying the moment.
“It’s good to see the old fellas back and they’ll go out and enjoy tonight. We’ll worry about tomorrow when we get there,” he smiled.
- GEURIE GOATS 28 (Demesio Elia, Filisione Pauta, Moa Kavauka tries; Hugh Edwards 2 conversions, 3 penalties) def WELLINGTON REDBACKS 12 (Kym Dorin, Zac McManus tries; Brad McCarroll conversion)