Sawtell Group 2 Premiers
COURAGE in adversity and a never-say-die attitude are reasons why Sawtell is the toast of VB Gold Group 2 rugby league.
The Panthers snatched a 29-28 victory in the last few minutes of yesterday's grand final against Nambucca Heads by ignoring a horrific injury toll and pushing through the pain barrier.
The Panthers trailed by six points at the break and it could have been a dozen had the Roosters not been recalled for a forward pass as the bell sounded.
David Buttriss had been stretchered off in the 23rd minute and the side lost Josh Lewis three minutes after the resumption, leaving two semi-fit warriors - Rohan Loudon and Brad Hart - to enter the fray.
Loudon spent a few moments to assess the situation after Lewis departed and Nambucca increased the lead through a Garry Jarrett try.
When Rohan played a hand in creating a try for his brother Adam, there was a feeling the visitors still had a sniff, especially when Nambucca started to get the wobbles as the fuel gauge neared empty.
"We knew the fitness would be better at the end," Loudon said.
"It was do or die there for a long while but the boys found something at the right time.
"The Heads put us under a bit of pressure at the start when the defence wasn't quite getting it right ... and the heat played a big part.
"But for the last few weeks I've felt the change and knew we'd be strong at the end."
Dale Middleton opened the scoring early but the Roosters reeled off two tries in succession and bombed another pair.
Again the sides traded four-pointers but even with a lead, home side coach Garren Stig felt it wouldn't be enough in the long run. I could feel it then, I knew we needed more points as with one game in five weeks we'd have to be short on match fitness," he said.
"We had our chance but it just wasn't to be."
In the last few minutes, Middleton scored the equaliser and Nambucca winger Austen was recalled after a forward pass.
Cool, calm Danny Russell created the magic moment and, while Cameron Blair tried the same thing not long after, the pendulum had swung firmly in the direction of the Panthers.
It will be celebrated as one of the bravest wins in their history.
SAWTELL PANTHERS 29 (Dale Middleton 2, Josh Bryant, Adam Loudon, Danny Russell tries; Russell 4 goals; Russell field goal) def NAMBUCCA HEADS ROOSTERS (Cameron Blair 2, Tristan Hamilton- Giggins, Aaron Clarke, Garry Jarrett; Michael Ronan 4 goals)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Scheming and creating opportunities until the last, Nambucca veteran Geoff Batten was the winner of the John Mackay Medal.
HIGHLIGHT:Couldn't be anything else but Danny Russell's one-pointer with three minutes left on the clock.
LOWLIGHT: One Nambucca reserve grader's unexpected disrespect for players and coaching staff on both sides when he confronted Garren Stig in the aftermath.