THE 2017 season marked the first since 2009 that Mount Warrigal have had a team in Group 7 rugby league.
And now the Kooris are just one win away from making it an historic first year back in the competition.
“It’s been a really good and challenging first year back in the group,” said co-captain Nathan Austin.
“It was tough with no home ground but we are thankful for all the clubs that allowed us to play at theirs – an aspect that has made the playing group and big supporter base even closer.”
But their task isn’t easy on Sunday – take on minor premiers Sussex Inlet, a side they haven’t beaten all year.
“We have been thereabouts in all our matches against Sussex, losing the first two by just two points before drawing the third,” Austin said.
“Then we again lost by two points two weeks ago but we bounced back with a gritty, hard fought against Culburra last week.
“We know though, if we are going to finally defeat the Panthers, we are going to have to take our game to another gear.
“That all starts with discipline – we can’t afford to do anything silly as they have strike weapons all over the park and will hurt us if we aren’t disciplined.”
Austin, who will be counting on big games from fellow co-captain Nathan Marsden, fullback Dylan Riggs, second-rower Jared Stewart and winger Taren Parsons, admitted that victory on Sunday will be the ultimate icing on the cake and springboard for the future for the club.
“Winning on Sunday would be inexplainable,” Austin said.
“It’s been 10 years since our last grand final win and victory would be a reward for all those supporters who have stuck by us all those years.
“The premiership would also help as build as a club and eventually expand to having more teams in the competition in the future.”
Sussex Inlet’s story is just as remarkable, going from wooden spooners in 2016 to minor premiers and grand finalists 12 months later.
“It’s been an incredible year for the club – a number of local juniors and players have returned to the area and bought into the culture we have here, which has been the catalyst of our success,” Panthers coach Dale Blayden said.
“Every single one of our squad of 24 players, which is a mixture of youth and experience, have turned up for each other on the field and dug deep.”
This culture isn’t limited to on the field, with the whole town of Sussex behind the team, as the aim to end their own premiership drought.
“Winning on Sunday would mean a lot to the town, with a supporters bus going up,” Blayden said.
“The key to winning, and rewarding those travelling fans, against the Kooris is making the least amount of mistakes and wanting it that little bit more than them.
“Hopefully Sunday can be the start of something special for this club, with plenty of young players in the squad, who can hopefully build for years to come.”
Coach Blayden pin-pointed centre Dale Hammond, lock James Presland, prop Tristan Murrell, five-eighth Jarrod Hammond and goal-kicking fullback Nathan Dobeson as players he’ll be counting on to continue their strong campaigns on Sunday.
Kick-off is at 9.50am at the Collegians Sporting Complex.