Pioneers are champs
Playing in the final against the Western Rams as a curtain-raiser to the City-Country origin clash, the Oxley team outclassed their opponents to record a memorable 32-20 win at Wollongong's WIN Stadium.
Dunghutti Broncos centre Ray Marshall opened the scoring when he crossed in the 11th minute but that was about all the joy the Pioneers would have for nearly half an hour.
Costly handling errors saw the Rams run in three tries in six minutes and suddenly the green and whites from out West were enjoying a 16-4 lead.
"We didn't play that well to start with and we were down 16-4 I thought we're in a bit of trouble here," victoriuos coach Peter Barrett said.
"I think they were a bit overawed by it all and we weren't going so well but they showed plenty of character."
Just before half time Western looked in control until a superb cut-out pass by Orara Valley half Jason McGrady Jr put Macksville winger Jesse McEwan over to have scores at 16-10 at the break.
Barrett couldn't wait to get his boys into the sheds for the break so he could steer them in the right direction for the second half.
What he said should be bottled and used by all coaches facing a football emergency as the Pioneers put on four unanswered tries in the quarter of an hour after the break.
McGrady scored a try himslef almost immediately after the half began before Kenny Allison scored then Marshall and McEwan snared their doubles.
"I told them I wasn't going to rant and rave but the number of errors were sky high," Barrett said of his half time address.
"We turned it over on the first tackle five times in the one half so you have to be Einstein to work out what was wrong.
"After half time they took control of the game a bit more."
Only an off evening with the boot for Oxley goal kicker Matt Nean kept the Rams in the hunt as Oxley led 28-16.
Western had some faint hopes of a revival with 15 minutes remaining when replacement Cain Henry crossed but it wasn't their night.
Jay Chatfield sealed the deal for Oxley with 15 minutes remaining to stretch the lead to an unassailable two converted tries and the Tom Nelson Shield was heding north.
"The emotion after the game was great," Barrett recalled.
"They'd forgotten about getting picked in country sides or anything like that, they were just so happy.
"The boys took the Shield and did the lap of honour and shook hands with nearly everyone in the Stadium I reckon over the fence."
Seven members of the Oxley team received an additional honour on top of the championship when they were selected in the NSW Country team.
One of those seven was Jason McGrady who can now look forward to playing against arch enemy Queensland up north.