When Cessnock back-rower Harvey Neville flew high to catch a bomb, pivoted mid-air, landed on his feet and then ran 15-metres to score under the posts, it was party time for the Goannas against 2019 grand final conqueror Western Suburbs at Maitland Sportsground on Saturday.
Back-rowers aren't supposed to be doing those sorts of things. Nor are former five-eighths and wings scripted to lead the forward assault which eventually broke the back of Wests defence - but no one told Neville or man-of-the-match and former back Connor Kirkwood as they helped Cessnock to a 38-14 win over Wests after trailing 8-0 at half-time.
The win books Cessnock a spot in their second Newcastle Rugby League grand final in a row and while it will not erase the memories of last year's loss, it gives Goannas fans a whole new reference point to proudly hold over the Rosellas.
Any comprehensive win over Wests in the finals is memorable, but when you do it after losing your key playmaker in Liam Foran and front-row giant Tom Baker midway through the first half in hot, draining conditions then it really is one for the history books - Covid-asterisked or not.
"I am so proud of them," an elated Goannas coach Todd Edwards said after the game. "We had a lot go against us losing arguably our best front-rower and our main playmaker in the first 20 minutes.
"Eight-nil down we were probably a touch lucky, but we showed a fair bit of resilience in that second half and they were just enormous."
There were plenty of heroes, Kirkwood and Neville were joined by skipper Reed Hugo and centre Josh Griffiths in the Goannas' best. The effort was typified by Joe Bromage who was coming back from glandular fever and played huge minutes in the heat.
"Connor Kirkwood was just ridiculous what he dished up today. That's representative stuff. He'll be pushing for rep footy in 2021 in my opinion of what he has dished up for me in the last month," Edwards said.
"Joshy Giffiths what a player. He is a ridiculously talented bloke. The ship has sailed at NRL level but he could have been anything."
Harrison Spruce opened the scoring for the Goannas in the 45th minute and then successive tries by Griffiths, punctuated by a penalty goal, had erased the deficit and given Cessnock a 20-8 lead just before the mid-term break.
Seaton Reid's kicking was on song and he finished with seven goals from seven shots.
The Goannas were not going to chance allowing Wests back into the game and converted tries followed from Brayden Musgrove, Ngangarra Barker and Neville.
Wests scored a consolation try in the dying seconds.
The Goannas face the winner of Sunday's preliminary final between Wyong Roos and South Newcastle.
In other results yesterday, Maitland defeated Central Newcastle 8-2 in Blues Tag to advance to the grand final. Central reversed the result in the under-19s beating Maitland 12-6 after a scoreless second half and Wyong 8 defeat Lakes 0 in reserve grade.
In game so far today: South Newcastle 18 defeated Western Suburbs 4 in Blues Tag and minor premiers Lakes United defeated Souths 32-10 in under 19s.
In reserve grade, Wests scored a 13-12 overtime win against Souths.
In the remaining game today: Souths play Wyong Roos in first grade