By MITCHELL DALE
COFFS Harbour reserve grade buried the ghosts of two successive VB Group 2 grand final losses on Sunday, burning four-time premiers Port Macquarie 17-14.
The Comets have fallen victim to Port twice in the last two years, but proved too strong for the Sharks despite coughing up a wealth of possession.
While much of the pre-game focus centred around Comets' young guns like Tyler Corfe, Luke Kelleher, Jamie Harth and Paul Spence, it was the old brigade who led from the front.
Veteran forwards Jeff Burrows, Brad Stevens, Andrew Mifsud and Grant Vincent all turned in tireless performances to outshine their younger team mates.
But that is not to say the younger troops were not impressive. Corfe, Spence and Kelleher were a constant danger in attack, while Harth turned the game in the 50th minute with a brilliant solo try.
Harth beat half a dozen Port defenders in a 50m effort which gave the Comets the lead for the first time since the 10th minute.
Port led 14-10 at half time, but like they did in the major semi-final, the Comets came home strongly in the second half.
"To keep them scoreless in the second half is a credit to all the players, I am proud of them," ecstatic Coffs coach Geoff Bushby said minutes after full time.
"We dropped a bit too much ball, but our defence was awesome.
"We have worked hard on our defence all year and it paid off today."
Bushby was full of praise for his old campaigners.
"They really stepped up, but I expected that," he said.
"I had a quiet talk in the ear of all the older guys before the game and told them the job I wanted them to do.
"They did exactly what I wanted, they led the young blokes around the paddock and kept a lid on things."
Bushby said his side had everything to prove on Sunday.
"All the pressure was on us," he said.
"Port had won four in a row, they had nothing to prove."
Coffs trounced Port 42-10 in the major semi-final, but Bushby knew the decider would always go down to the wire.
"Port were a lot more committed than in the semi-final," he said.
"In the second half of that game, we got a roll on and their heads dropped.
"I knew that wouldn't happen today."