SEVEN weeks ago, the Port Macquarie Sharks were on the canvas – their season on life support.
But they then went on a six-game unbeaten run to steal the 2018 Group 3 first grade title off Port City.
The Sharks fighting spirit was there for all to see in the season decider as they claimed a famous 18-10 victory.
It had been 20 years since they last won the competition from fifth spot – and 20 years later, history repeated.
Port Macquarie’s never-say-die attitude again came to the fore as they inflicted their first defeat on their cross-town rivals in almost two years.
And what a match to do it in.
Matt Shipway was best on ground, while Kurt Molony and Ben Kirkland carted the ball up all day and Corey Murphy was impressive at five-eighth.
Captain Jake Hawkins said his team prided themselves on defence and it was that defensive effort that won them the title.
“We knew we had to not buy into that niggly stuff that we’ve fallen into in the last few weeks and we did that and it paid dividends,” he said.
Hawkins admitted the six-point punishment handed down to the club by Group 3 for failing to provide match footage for two matches earlier in the season had contributed to their motivation.
“You can’t roll over and say poor me, or why me or why us,” he said.
“We took every game as it came and won seven in a row and every win we had that more belief and look where we are.
“We were a bit shattered at the start, but we came together and knew you can’t lay there and cry about it. We knew what we had to do and we’ve done it.”
Breakers coach Dan Kemp lamented a lack of composure from his side in the important moments.
“We were below average and once they felt like it, they weren’t disciplined enough to know we could grind our way out of it and then started to take chances,” he said.
“I saw them do things today that I haven’t seen in two years.
“That’s a pretty good sign they felt like they were under pressure and had to make things happen. That’s grand finals.”
He didn’t believe the week off had played a negative role in their preparation.
“You don’t forget how to play football in a week and how to deal with those situations,” he said.
“They didn’t deal with them very well.
“(Our) preparation was perfect until the moment we walked out there.
“We worked very hard for this for a very long time, but that’s sport isn’t it, we didn’t get it today. They were better than us.”
The Breakers fumbled their way through the majority of the match with players who rarely make errors putting the ball down.
“You’ve got to produce something near your best and we weren’t anywhere near there,” Kemp said.
“Port were a lot closer to their best than what we were to ours so they got the chocolates.”