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Sam Debenham

THEY have already ‘won’ in their own way, but the job isn’t done yet according to Goodooga Magpies committee member and front-rower Bhiamie Williamson.

The Magpies stand just one win away from hosting the Barwon Darling Rugby League Grand Final after a big 64-14 win over the Newtown Wanderers at Magpie Park on Saturday in the only completed match of the weekend, ending their opponents’ slim finals hopes in the process.

The Wanderers needed to win to have a realistic chance of scraping into third and brought some improved form into the game, but their hopes evaporated relatively quickly in the face of a Magpie onslaught. The withdrawal of Walgett from the men’s competition due to issues with player numbers means that Brewarrina will claim third spot regardless of this weekend’s results. 

The Magpies started strongly before Newtown steadied, but went on with the job in the second half and ran in 12 tries in total, including two apiece to Isaac Hooper, Michael Lake and Kaiden Hilt. Edward Dodd scored two of Newtown’s three tries while Edward Shepherd put in a gutsy shift in the front-row as well for the vanquished Wanderers.

The result means now that Goodooga play Bourke this weekend, with the winner to claim the Minor Premiership and earn the right to host the Grand Final.

Williamson, who scored a try himself on Saturday, couldn’t be more excited with how things sit for his side.

“There was definitely not an expectation that we’d be this strong in our first season back,” he said.

“It was a bit of an unknown, we knew we had some good players around.

“Because Lightning Ridge and Collarenebri weren’t putting a team in, we had a bigger pool of players to draw from which has helped.

“Obviously we are really happy with how it is all going. A lot of guys just want to play footy, with few teams around it is great to be able to give guys that opportunity. Being a bit out of the way here in Goodooga it actually works in trying to draw players.”

Williamson said the match with Newtown was a good way to warm up for what is their most important match of the season this weekend against Bourke.

“We played really well in the first 15 minutes, supported each other well,” he said.

“It’s one thing to score tries, another thing to play well.

“We dropped the bundle for a little while after that, we lost our way. But we regrouped at half-time, came back out and clicked into gear in the second half.

“There was a few important lessons there, we know we are a good footy outfit, we are playing well together but we need to be careful and police ourselves and make sure we aren’t squandering opportunities.”

The prop admitted there will be a few nerves among the team before taking on the perennially strong Warriors.

“I think there will be a few nerves, nerves are good – it means they care,” he said.

“Everyone is looking forward to having a crack at them, they got us by a try in the last five minutes the first time we met. We felt we were pretty evenly matched – we are better for the run we had on Saturday and also better for having played that first game against Bourke.

“We are really excited for it, if we play well we are going to be tough to beat.”

After the impact of COVID-19 on bush footy in general over the last two years, just having a competition has been a major success for the BDRL.

The narrative of a new side like Goodooga mixing it up with the likes of Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett has been one of the storylines of the season – a fact that is not lost on Williamson.

“It means a lot to Goodooga to be involved, the Magpies have been out for 12 years, for most of us this is first time we’ve been able to get into the swing of things,” he said.

“And honestly regardless of what happens whether we host the Grand Final or make it, or whether we are successful, just having the team has meant the world to the community.

“The Magpies are the heart of the town. It’s great to play with the local lads and also to meet the guys that have joined from the other communities. We have a really good feeling in the group, the community is really excited for what’s to come.

“The community has already won, in a way. But as a team we aren’t saying our job is done yet, it would mean a lot to bring it home for the whole community.

“We have the team to do it, we just want to make sure we give ourselves the best chance possible.”

Bourke Warriors will double up this weekend, hosting Goodooga on Saturday in a match that was deferred from earlier in the season before heading to Walgett on Sunday to meet the Wanderers.

Brewarrina host Walgett in the women’s and junior grades.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.