'Beside themselves:' How the underdogs finished on top
IT WAS a premiership two years in the making.
Proserpine-Whitsunday went one step better than 12 months earlier to defeat Mackay City 22-20 in a pulsating Mackay District Rugby Union A-grade grand final.
With scores locked at 17-all after 80 minutes, the decider went to extra time.
City had all the momentum, chipping away at a 12-point deficit in regulation and then hit the front in added time courtesy of a penalty goal.
But with 2018 at the forefront of their minds, the Raiders would not be denied.
With two minutes remaining on the clock, Proserpine-Whitsunday's youngest player Hone Casey-Bloomer powered his way over the try line, a moment that ultimately sealed the club's first title since 2014.
The final siren sparked scenes of jubilation at BB Print Stadium for the Raiders and offered a moment of reflection for delighted coach Andre Houston.
"The game had everything,” Houston said.
"Every emotion - happy, frustration, stress.
"At that final siren I had to pull myself away from everyone for a moment and just take it all in because it was a such a relief to have made it.
"I was so excited for the team.
"The energy was huge, the boys were beside themselves, the supporters came running out on to the field, there was just heaps of energy.”
Houston praised his team's maturity, especially during the 20 minutes of extra time.
"City started to get their momentum and I didn't really like it all,” he said.
"The nerves started to kick in then.
"But we were able to stop their momentum, our bigger players started pushing around more and they couldn't get through us or around us.
"We were putting them down tackle after tackle.”
Proserpine-Whitsunday was first to put points on the board with a Reagan Broughton try converted by Damon Tonnet.
A second Raiders try through Chad Stockings saw the score 12-5 at the main break.
Houston said he was feeling confident at half-time.
Come the second half, and down one player due to a red card, the Raiders added a third try through Tonnet.
But the Redmen, chasing back-to-back premierships for the first time in club history, responded to claw their way back from a 17-5 deficit and set the scene for a fantastic finish.
Dean Simpson got the three points in the players player, with Stockings two and Tonnet one.
The title is the sixth won by Proserpine-Whitsunday throughout their proud history, with 2019 now sitting alongside 1985, 1993, 1995, 2013 and 2014 on the honour roll.
City coach James Heron said it was a tough loss for his side, but paid tribute to the Raiders.
"I've got to give credit where it's due and Whitsunday were just a little bit better at defence,” he said.
"I think everyone did their job, but at the end of the day Whitsunday wanted the win just that little bit more.”