The Maitland Pickers celebrated the end of a seven-year drought beating Western Suburbs for the first time since their thrilling win in the 2011 grand final.
The only thing missing from the Maitland Sportsground was the sky opening above and delivering the Hunter with a much-needed downpour.
“It’s an important win for the club as we haven’t beaten them anywhere for seven years,” an elated Pickers captain-coach Luke Dorn said of the 24-22 win sealed with five minutes remaining.
Dorn said he remained confident of the win despite being denied four golden opportunities with passes going forward, a penalty for obstruction and a strip by Wests’ defence in the try zone.
“We showed real character today, each time we were denied a try we just maintained patience put in a strong defensive set and had another try,” Dorn said.
Wests led 22-10 at half-time scoring from a successful 40-20 with two minutes left of the clock.
“We knew we didn’t have to in the first five minutes and kept on sticking to our game plan, putting in a strong defence and building pressure in attack,” Dorn said.
“It was an important team win for us and you are not going to put on 40 points every game, we fought it out.
“I was always confident we could get home in the end.”
Pickers front-rower Brenton Horwood was the only player left from the 2011 premiership team to take the field on Saturday, but his teammates from that memorable win Jacob Sinclair and Rob Mason were amid the packed change rooms for the celebrations afterwards and remain key parts of the Pickers’ plans for 2018.
The quiet achiever of the Pickers 2018 side fullback Ryan Walsh lapped up the celebrations which also meant he had family bragging rights over brother Luke, who was a late inclusion in the Wests side after arriving back in the country from the UK this week.
“There was a bit of pressure out there as I had played with Wests in a few reserve grade premierships and was lining up against my brother,” said Walsh who was only shaded by Pickers hooker Adam Clydsdale for man of the match honours.
Walsh has been a revelation at fullback sending fear into opposition with his elusive running and pulling off two try-saving tackles on Saturday.
“It’s a great club, great boys and a good oval to play on,” Walsh said of his decision to join the Pickers this year.
Walsh has enjoyed the move to fullback and enjoys running off Dorn into gaps.
“It’s been good,” Walsh said of the move to fullback. “The first time I played there was against Lakes and I’ve been enjoying it.”
“It’s good getting early ball out the back, there’s a lot more room to move.
“It helps with Dorny going to the line, it opens it up a lot for me.”
Walsh is not looking beyond this year, concentrating on his goal of achieving a first grade premiership.
“Worry about this year and try and win the GF. I haven’t had won a first grade grand final yet so that’s one of my goals.”
As for playing against his brother and former teammates.
“There was a little bit of banter from my brother and a few of the boys I know there, but all good fun.”