Macksville first grade players and supporters celebrate their win over Port Macquarie. Photo: PORT MACQUARIE NEWS
Macksville first grade players and supporters celebrate their win over Port Macquarie. Photo: PORT MACQUARIE NEWS

Eagles rock

By STEVE ARCHBOLD

IT was a script from a Hollywood blockbuster, directed by half back Neville Donovan.

Only the classy Macksville Sea Eagles could have dug themselves out of the hole they created for themselves to snatch a dramatic 34-23 VB Group 2 Rugby League grand final victory against a devastated Port Macquarie at the Hastings Regional Stadium on Sunday.

Down 23-0 at half time, Macksville knew they only had themselves to blame after 40 minutes of sloppy handling, uncommitted defence and a series of indiscretions which had them well and truly on the back foot.

In the dressing sheds at half time, many other sides would have mentally crumbled, unable to lift themselves against a Port Macquarie opponent primed to end three years of frustration since their previous premiership win in 2001.

Macksville, though, are a side who are never beaten, they knew if they could score first and get on a roll, the tide would turn, and it did.

Sea Eagles' captain-coach Paul Davis stressed to his side that with only one game in a month behind them the Sharks would have to tire in the second half and he was right.

Moments of individual brilliance and a five-star performance from the evergreen Neville Donovan saw Hurricane Macksville blow the shell-shocked Sharks off the park.

The Port Macquarie players who had started the match like super-charged V8s were now starting to run out of petrol and the Sea Eagles swooped to seize their opportunity.

As their attack gathered momentum, the suspect defence of the first half started gaining in confidence, where tackles were missed in the opening stanza there were three and four there to stifle the Sharks attack in the second 40 minutes.

Leading 32-23 in the dying stages, five-eighth Gary Jarrett who had battled injuries all week to take his place in the grand final, added icing to the cake, cooly potting two field goals to reinforce the authority of their win.

Against any other opponent, Port Macquarie would have been premiers.

But Macksville aren't an ordinary side, you have to expect the unexpected and then some.

They have a never-say-die attitude, a strong belief in their own ability and an uncanny knack of scoring points quickly to mentally destroy their opponents.

For youngsters like Luke Cartwright, Jim Toby, Jono Freeman and Troy Grace it was an unbelievable experience winning a first grade premiership for the first time.

Even those who had been there and done that before were finding it hard to believe they had won another grand final.

Mitch Walker and youngster Cameron Blair, such an integral part of the team's success this year, put club rather than individual interests first withdrawing from the side with injuries so fitter players could do the job.

The spirit of the Macksville club was typified by a young girl carrying blue and white streamers and wearing a T-shirt with the words 'I am a Paul Davis fan' on the back.

Davis is the first person in Macksville league history to captain-coach teams to back-to-back premierships and the Eagles are now hell bent on equalling Bellingen's record of four straight.

At the presentations Davis said it was a day when rugby league was the winner and he vowed to be back next year to defend their title.

It would be a brave man to say they can't do it.

Player comments, minor grade grand finals and how the match unfolded pages 34-35.



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