By GREG WHITE
THREE years ago they were spare-parts players who didn't have much idea about footy. Last Saturday on the wide open spaces of Coffs Coast International Stadium they became the toast of Group 2 rugby league - and made history. Orara Valley under-16's won the final premiership decided for the 2006 season with a powerful 38-14 defeat of Bowraville, giving Warren Roberts the distinction of first coach to take a title for the Tomahawks under international rules. "We won the under 10's in Mod League a few years back but after years of trying, this is our first in the main competition," Roberts said, grinning with pleasure. "It's a wonderful feeling for the boys and I'm really pleased they've reached the heights they have." Despite being jumpy with nerves before the game, Roberts was quietly confident his charges could win. "They won the minor premiership and beat Bowra three times during the year," he had told the Coffs Coast Advocate as his squad began warming up. "Make sure you have a real good look at how much they've learned after starting with nothing. "I've got a good feeling about how it will go and think we can win." And that was exactly what happened. Coming out of the blocks at breakneck speed, the soon to be fully-fledged Axemen gave the Tigers no quarter. Within 23 minutes the Tomahawks had scored three converted tries and the game was as good as over. But they did stargaze for a moment when opposing fullback Dean Buchanan was escorted from the field after being injured in a dive for the try-line and the Tigers managed to cross when play resumed. "We went to sleep for a moment and let them put that soft try on us," Roberts admitted. "They normally lapse more than once in a game so I guess I have to forgive that one." By the break the Orara forwards - led superbly by back-rower Vikram Atwal - were clearly on top, but it was star halfback Euston Robertson who stole the show in the latter stages. He finished with a hat-trick of touchdowns and the grudging respect of his rivals. "Gee, I wish he wasn't out there," sin-binned Bowra centre Jesse McEwan muttered in a backhanded compliment from the sideline while watching the little number seven scoot past. On the other side of the field, Bowraville coach Max McGovern was cursing his luck. "Can't take a trick in grand finals," he groaned. McGovern had also been in charge of the Macksville under-18's who'd gone down on judgement day to Gimbisi Valley. "I can win when I play," he joked grimly, "but I might be a bit old to qualify with these lads." "Really, the Orara boys were a lot hungrier than we were and they didn't give us much opportunity to get into the game." Proudly watching the winners were Orara legends Matt Donovan and Brett Davis, along with club president Glenn Soper who couldn't keep the smile off his face." "After all the years at the bottom, aren't these kids going to fun next year when they graduate from Tomahawks to Axemen," he laughed. "This win will put enormous confidence right through the ranks of the club." Coach Roberts was also full of enthusiasm for the future. "Just look at them," he said as his players prepared for their lap of honour. "They share everything and they're all good mates. "That's what it's all been about from the first time they got together." It wasn't just Orara Valley creating a piece of history. Dunghutti Broncos whiz-kid Mal Webster Jr was named 'best and fairest' for the competition, two weeks after capturing the same award at under-18 level with premiers Gimbisi Valley. In 1986, father Mal Senior also completed the Beautizone/Group 2 double.