Goodooga Magpies’ fairy tale run in their return to the Barwon Darling Rugby League will continue through to the final week of the competition after they set up a showdown with the Bourke Warriors in this weekend’s Grand Final.
But boy, did they have to work for it. Already with three sides pencilled in for Grand Final action courtesy of their powerful juniors, Brewarrina’s men’s Golden Googars went within a whisker of their own dream as they pushed the Magpies to extra time.
A week earlier Goodooga had drawn with Bourke, and again at the end of 80 minutes scores were level after Robert Lane scored with only minutes on the clock to equalise.
Kayden Hewitt in extra time was the game-breaker, sealing the Magpies’ come-from-behind win and ending a huge effort from Brewarrina.
“We had to come from behind; with two or three minutes left, a kick of ours went dead, Bree took a 20m restart but they turned the ball over and a few plays later Robert Lane scored,” Goodooga coach Kevin Hooper said.
“It was amazing to watch, there was a good home crowd, the boys lifted a bit more on the back of the support especially when Robert scored that try to level things up.
“Brewarrina were excellent, we knew they wanted it as bad as we did, they got off to a good start. There was some good play back and forward in that first 10 or 15 minutes and we had to work very hard to stay in the game.”
The challenge now lies in finding a way to defeat Bourke – something no one has managed this season.
“We have to slow them down to beat them, we have to be up and in the face of the quicker fellas,” Hooper said.
“I’m incredibly proud of what we have already achieved, my son is in the side so that makes it extra special. We put this into plan last year to re-enter the competition. We never thought we would get this far.”
Brewarrina went into the game as underdogs, and while they were still disappointed after coming so close to an upset, the overwhelming feeling in the wake of their defeat was pride according to club secretary Rebekah Gordon.
“It wasn’t a total surprise that we played as well as we did, when our boys are determined they put that work in on the field and can play as well as anyone, they’ve shown that in finals before,” she said.
“It wasn’t a complete disappointment to lose even though we got as close as we did because it was such a good game of footy for them to be involved in.”
After the interruptions to the on-field action in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bourke club official Tina Sharpley says the town is buzzing at the prospect of hosting five Grand Finals, and featuring in the men’s game, even if the weather has been a little wet in the lead-up to the game.
“We are all very excited – it is pouring down today but we think we will be good to go by the weekend and that it will clear up a bit,” she said.
Sharpley was happy to see Goodooga end up in the Grand Final but had some sympathy for the Golden Googars given the circumstances of their exit.
“To be honest I thought Bree would get up, they have a bit of a habit of getting up in the finals even if their form before it hasn’t been the best, they’ve done that quite a few times,” she said.
“They missed out last year because of COVID so I would have liked to have seen them get up, but it is great to see Goodooga do so well coming back into the competition.”
Bourke will be at full strength for the decider and have had the luxury of having to leave a couple of players out given the numbers available.
Sharpley says that there are a couple of gamebreakers who could prove the difference for the Warriors.
“Our fullback is probably a player to watch, Mervyn Powell,” she said.
“Keenan Elwood has been a Warrior the last few years, he’s been unstoppable in the forwards. They’re probably the two I’d look towards.
“There’ll be a lot of hostility on the field given that all the teams are playing for premierships, but we’d love everyone to celebrate the season afterwards and enjoy themselves, hopefully the other clubs can stick around for the post-game.”