Another Houdini act by Macksville
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
IT'S highly unlikely that it will ever happen but if Macksville decide to change their club symbol from the Sea Eagles to something else, then the Houdinis might be a fitting moniker.
So many times in Macksville's golden era, opposition clubs felt that they had the hangman's noose around the great team's neck, only to see the Sea Eagles steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
Only 25 minutes into yesterday's grand final, Macksville again found themselves a long way behind on the scoreboard.
Trailing 24-4 and with storm clouds hovering above, things didn't look rosy for Macksville as Orara Valley were running rampant with the mercurial Brett Davis and Matt Donovan putting on one last virtuoso performance down the left side to end their careers.
But Macksville proved why yesterday was their fifth Group 2 title in six years when they dragged themselves up off the canvas to grab glory from an Orara Valley team that had the match for the taking.
Practically denied of the football for the opening 30 minutes, Macksville finally managed to get their hands on the pill to score two tries close to the half time cow bell through Chris Morecombe and a worthy inaugural John Mackay Medallist Troy Grace to bring themselves within striking distance.
"When we got those two tries it was awesome, we knew we were back in it," a beaming Macksville captain-coach Max McGovern said.
"Looking back, they were very important because if we didn't score them then we don't win."
When the 66th minute came around, Macksville had scored 24 unanswered points in the space of 32 minutes to finally edge ahead on the scoreboard.
The tension within the next 10 minutes was close to unbearable as every little error became magnified under the intense spotlight that a close grand final brings before Sea Eagles' centre Duane Button showed more speed than a backstage party at a rock concert to put the result beyond doubt.
The Axemen were a devastated group when the final whistle blew to call time as the realisation that a golden opportunity to grab a premiership title had just slipped through their fingers ... literally.
As courageous as Macksville's fight back was, the fact was that Orara handed them the ball three times with knock-ons in their own half, letting the premiers start their attacking thrusts from prime real estate positions.
Captain-coach Darryl Fisher was feeling the loss as badly as anyone and he knew that the club's chance at winning their first Group 2 crown in 10 years had just washed down the drain with the rain that fell throughout the match.
"We knew we needed to control the ball and play down their end as much as possible," he said.
"We knew it but we couldn't quite execute it."
Then again, as hard as many tried, it was always difficult to trap Houdini.