It was an emotional Bernard Wilson who stood on stage to speak after seeing his St John’s under-16s side take out Saturday evening’s Dubbo and District Junior League grand final.
The bulk of Wilson’s side has been together all the way through juniors and they departed junior footy as champions following a 22-12 win over a valiant Wellington Cowboys.
“It’s fantastic,” Wilson said after the win.
“They’ve been together a long time and this is the one we wanted to win through all the years so I’m really happy for them.
“They can move on to bigger and better things now. They’ll probably never get the chance to play all together again so it’s a nice way to remember it.”
The Cowboys came into the match dealing with a major injury crisis but still stuck into the eventual premiers for long periods of the match.
After starting the better, St John’s led 10-8 at the break and as the undermanned Wellington tired late on the minor premiers went on to score a 10-point victory.
“I think we counted the other day after training that we had 11 of our boys injured this year and some were still carrying injuries today,” Cowboys coach Ben Bruce said.
“I’m extremely proud and to have 11 injured and still make the grand final and still put on a good show and nearly beating St John’s is not a bad effort from the boys.”
St John’s started the match in dominant fashion and capitalised on early possession to open the scoring through winger Harrison Carlow.
Wellington soon began to work its way into the match but St John’s extended its lead after 15 minutes when fellow winger Will Morris planted the ball down out wide.
NSW Country under-16s representative Matt Burton slotted the sideline conversion to make it 10-0.
The Cowboys lifted again and in the final nine minutes before the break scored through Bradley Fardell and the impressive Tristan Thompson to trail by just two.
The second was began with great quality and neither side could breach the other’s defence for 15 minutes.
Eventually a rampaging Joseph Clarke powered across for St John’s and then a try to fullback Toby O’Leary made it 20-8.
It was too hard an ask for the Cowboys from there, although they never gave up and Jye Riley scored a consolation four minutes from full time.
But that was as close as the Cowboys got and a Burton penalty goal on full time put the icing on the cake for St John’s.
“St John’s as a club hasn’t won a 16s competition in a long time so we’re pretty happy about it,” Wilson said as his side celebrated. “We didn’t have the rub of the green so we were pretty disciplined in how we played and the boys deserve the win.”