"I thought we had it".
He was quick to highlight how proud he was of his side's brave effort in Sunday's one-point, extra-time, grand final loss to Bathurst Panthers, but Mudgee captain-coach Jack Littlejohn still suggested his Dragons might have let the title slip through their fingers.
After a perfect defensive effort in their preliminary final win over Orange Hawks Mudgee looked as they might hold Panthers out completely at Carrington Park on Sunday as well, for the first 69 minutes of the game they'd only conceded a penalty goal after all.
I thought we had it ... I can't believe we let it slip like that.Mudgee captain-coach Jack Littlejohn
They'd managed to break Panthers' line twice and led 8-2 at that point, after being of the right side of a 4-2 scoreline at half-time as well.
But finally, 10 minutes out from full-time, Mudgee faltered defensively. Granted Panthers had chipped away to create chances before that too, which Littlejohn also acknowledged before admitting Jack Siejka's 70th minute try was where momentum swung.
The rest, of course, is history. Panthers' Willie Wright missed two opportunities to seal the title in regular time - a field goal attempt and a shot at a long-range penalty goal - before Doug Hewitt's 82nd minute field goal eventually proved the deciding blow.
"Credit to the Panthers, they're a good, strong side and don't give you anything (but) I'm disappointed, I thought we had it," Littlejohn said.
"Our defence was so good all game. It's hard because we dug deep all game (but) I can't believe we let it slip like that. We lost it ourselves in that extra time and with that one try underneath the posts."
Littlejohn still found plenty of positives in the grand final performance and the 2019 season itself too, with good reason too.
The Dragons had their fair share of injury woes and after being hammered 40-18 by the eventual champions in the qualifying final, also at Carrington Park, there was the obvious risk they'd fall by the wayside.
"I'm that proud of the boys. Everyone expected us to come here and get a flogging," he said.
"We're down on troops, we've got five who would have been in our starting side out and (halfback) Timmy Condon, who played 80 minutes with a torn hamstring.
"There's been ups and downs, we won a lot of games in the start then we dropped a few and then we came good at the end of the year to make the (grand final).
"It's our first year together and we will be bigger and better next year."
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