You often hear about Manildra being a family club.
Gibsons run the gate, man the bar, cook the barbie and work the canteen, or so it seems.
But it’s not until you delve into this year’s first grade outfit you realise just how important family is to the Rhinos boys.
Mitch Gallagher is born and bred Manildra. Lives in the town, works in the town, plays footy for the town.
His first cousin, Harry Gersbach, packs down in the back-row alongside the 23-year-old Gallagher.
The fathers of both of those boys won premierships while in the red and white during the 1990s.
And all of their families will be at Jack Huxley Oval when the Rhinos take on Trundle in Sunday’s Woodbridge Cup grand final.
If footy isn’t everything for these boys, family certainly is.
“It’s a pretty big family club,” Gallagher said.
“There’s lots of relatives mixed in there, across both grades, and we’re all pretty close.
“There’s a good bond there among all the boys and it’s great to be part of.”
That bond has helped lift Manildra to the club’s first top grade decider in a decade.
Sunday’s grand final at Jack Huxley Oval will be the club’s first home decider since 1999, when the Rhinos knocked off Cobar 18-8 in Group 11.
Manildra finished the regular season in fifth spot and, to the untrained eye, emerging out the other end of three straight-weeks of sudden death footy to play in a grand final seems nigh on impossible.
It’s going to be tough, but I love tough games.Rhinos back-rower Mitch Gallagher
“We’ve been pretty confident all year, though,” Gallagher said.
“We’ve had a good side and we were pretty successful at the start of the year. Come mid-year, we had a few games where we weren’t at our best.”
And then Woodbridge Cup officials announced Jack Huxley Oval would host this year’s deciders.
It lit a fire in the bellies of all the Rhinos boys.
“We were in second when we found out we were hosting the grand final and then dropped a couple of games ... we thought to ourselves we better pull our fingers out here, we’ve got a home grand final and we all want to make it,” Gallagher said.
They’ve made it, and will be joined by the Rhinos’ youth league boys, too, a side that will be gunning for a third straight title.
Gerbach is a product of that Rhinos production line having led Manildra to the 2016 youth league title that season and will run out in first grade on Sunday as one of a handful of home-grown players that’s already tasted premiership success as a young Rhino.
“We’ve had a strong side coming through for a while and there’s a few in first grade now,” Gersbach added.
“There’s a few Manildra guys, Molong blokes and Orange guys. When I played a few years ago there was a heap of Manildra and the first grade side is that way now.”
Both young forwards praised the influence of coach Simon Osborne in 2018, the ex-NSW Country prop leading the club’s charge to the decider.
Both know, too, Trundle will be far from easy-beats, although a 24-10 result in Manildra’s favour earlier in the season serves as a indicator Sunday’s grand final will be incredibly tight.
“They’re the top team for a reason, they’re a good side,” Gallagher said.
“It’s going to be tough, but I love tough games.”
“I can’t wait,” Gersbach added, looking forward to running out in front of what is expected to be a Woodbridge Cup record crown.
“It should be the best feeling ever, in front of a home crowd.
“We’ve got heaps of family there. My dad and Mitch’s dad have both won grand finals there and to have them there watching, too, it’s going to be incredible.”
Manildra’s youth league boys take on Canowindra from 10.45pm while first grade is scheduled to kick-off at 2.30pm.