Those involved with Walgett Aboriginal Connection (WAC) won't rush any decision about where the 2024 Koori Knockout will be hosted after a memorable tournament win on Monday.
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WAC coach Matt Rose - someone who has been playing for the side for more than two decades - described the club's seventh Knockout win as possibly the greatest yet after watching the men in red rally after trailing a star-studded Wiradjuri Aboriginal Rivers (WAR) 12-0 early on.
WAC won the final 22-12 in front of another great Knockout crowd at Tuggerah to earn hosting rights for next year.
Dubbo was quickly installed as the favourite to host the event WAC successfully took the Knockout there in 2015 while a return to Tuggerah was also rumoured given the success of this year's carnival.
Walgett has previously also hosted the Koori Knockout in Bathurst in 2011.
"We'll celebrate first and then have a look at what options are on the table," Rose said after Monday's triumph.
"Knockouts are a huge event to run and we need to look at what's going to be best so we'l wait and see.
"Dubbo will definitely be on the radar but we'll wait and see what happens in the weeks and months ahead."
It was estimated more than 30,000 people attended the 2023 edition of the Koori Knockout, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
The first Knockout was held in 1971 and it has previously only ever been cancelled because of the COVID pandemic.
Walgett is one of just four sides which has competed in every Koori Knockout and that history and the connection to the jersey made Monday's stirring win in the final so special.
WAR were worthy adversaries in the final and the western area side led by Bathurst's Ben Gunn featured a roster loaded with big names like Blake Ferguson, Braydon Trindall, Tyrone Roberts, Brian Kelly and Jesse Ramien.
"The standard of the opposition, they were of a very high standard and our boys dug so deep," Rose said of what made the win so emotional.
"The resilience, to come back against a team like that was really gutsy and that game will go down in the history books."
WAC has been in its fair share of memorable Knockout finals.
In 2014 Player of the Tournament George Rose starred as Walgett fought back from 16-4 down to defeat a Newcastle All Blacks side featuring NRL players Timana Tahu, Dane Gagai, Travis Waddell and Maurice Blair.
That was WAC's first title since doing the double in 2009 and 2010, with the first of those won in a double extra-time thriller.
"This one probably tops that or is very much on par with the greatest wins in Knockout history," Rose said.
"This will go down as an exceptional performance from WAC."
Joel Thompson captained WAC at Tuggerah and despite having played more than 200 NRL matches and represented NSW Country and the Indigenous All Stars during his career, he rated the Knockout victory one of his greatest moments.
Rose said there was "nothing like it" when speaking about the feeling at full-time when players, family members and fans streamed onto the field to celebrate another victory.
"It's a war of attrition. You play six games over three days and it all comes down 40 minutes each way and winner takes all," he said.
"But that connection and family we have that comes together is so special and something we've created over many years.
"It was evident (in the final) if you can come together and play from the heart it's something which means everything."
Players in the WAC side of 2023 ranged from NRL greats like Thompson, the electric Ben Barba and South Sydney-bound Jack Wighton, as well as players on the fringes of NRL selection, the long-serving Rose brothers and bush footy players like Nathan Rose and Player of the Tournament Latrell Siegwalt.
"The way we come together is the feeling we have towards each other and the closeness in the team and the willingness to stand next to each other as brothers and turn up every year and play is something I think is very special for WAC and I don't think every team has it," Rose said.
"Players come to play for the jersey and play for the heart.
"They can represent their families and where they're from through our team. And they've now become part of the WAC family and that WAC family is something that can't be underestimated at a Knockout."
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