Goondiwindi ends 19-year grand final drought with miracle win at Rockville

The 2019 premiers, the Goondiwindi Hawks.
The 2019 premiers, the Goondiwindi Hawks.

After 19 long years the Goondiwindi AFL Hawks have finally bought home the Darling Downs' Premiership Cup after downing Coolaroo 7.9-51 to 5.17-47.

Five years ago Goondiwindi ended 14 years of being in the wilderness when they made their way into their first grand final since 2000.

The occasion got to them.

Two years later they were back, and once more whatever gives premiership winners a sense of self-belief deserted them.

But that began to change last year when they lost a nailbiter, undone by a good side and some dubious late penalties.

And then there was 2019. Some record-wins certainly had Goondiwindi and the Darling Downs talking. But grand finals can never be taken for granted. Goondiwindi learnt that the easy way by, ironically, the team they beat on Saturday, Coolaroo.

Way back in 2000 the Toowoomba team dominated the DDAFL. They went into the grand final undefeated. The Hawks had surprised themselves to somehow scrape and fight their way into the last game in September.

And against the odds the Hawks won. Leaving the Roos with boxes of t-shirts which said "Coolaroo 2000 Premiers". The football Gods had spoken. And they did again on Sunday.

Fours years ago losing the Downs' best full-forward Dave "Tassie" O'Toole through injury four weeks before the grand final would have signalled the end of Goondiwindi's hope.

It's ours. Assistant Coach Dave O'Toole who missed the match through injury holds up the Cup with Hawks' Captain Brent "Axe" Townsend.

It's ours. Assistant Coach Dave O'Toole who missed the match through injury holds up the Cup with Hawks' Captain Brent "Axe" Townsend.

Singing the Hawks' song loud and proud are, from left ,Charlie Youngman, Jack Martin, Jeremy Leahy, coach Scott Grigg and Sam Dunmill.

Singing the Hawks' song loud and proud are, from left ,Charlie Youngman, Jack Martin, Jeremy Leahy, coach Scott Grigg and Sam Dunmill.

Last game out they lost promising ruckman Aidan Doolan who played a vital role in the Hawks' semi-final win against Coolaroo.

Earlier they had lost prodigal son Corbin Sellen who retired mid-season through concussion concerns. The backline rock, Brenton Jardine was also under an injury cloud.

But coach Scott Grigg with the assistance of Dave O'Toole were guiding a different ship....Weren't they? From the first bounce on Saturday Coolaroo dominated using a wind advantage to perfection.

And the nervous Hawks were back. Kicks went astray, handballs missed targets, players looked for second or third options and were caught and the scoreboard ticked over, but only on one side.

The first quarter hoodoo had seemingly come back to haunt them once more. The Roos went into the first quarter with a four goal advantage, and Goondiwindi had failed to score a major.

Was it nerves, a lack of games or maybe that wind was stronger than the crowd thought? Possibly it was all three. None of which Coach Scott Grigg was taking as an excuse.

The usually calm, soft-spoken demeanor was cast aside as he tore the Hawks a proverbial new one. And they responded. Goondiwindi came out hit and ran harder and finally the bounce of the ball began to go their way. However it was still 10 minutes before they scored their first goal but it was the incentive they needed. They clawed their way back going into the third quarter less than two goals down. They had been aided by some great defence and some indifferent goal-kicking from the Roos.

The third quarter was the Hawks, the run and fitness which had been a highlight of their season began to take a toll on the Roos and on more than one occasion it appeared as if the Hawks could run away with the match. But grand finals, mostly, especially against a good side, just aren't like that. Coolaroo hung on, just, and when it came to the last quarter it was simply, a race for home.

Scores were level, but Goondiwindi had the wind, surely, but a case of the yips saw the Hawks squander opportunities, giving the Roos hope. Defence kept both teams in the hunt until a final five minutes which had it all. Including a towering Leo Barry-like mark from Angus "rocket man" Croft who launched himself into the stratosphere to take the best mark of his career and just possibly the best mark of the year. And a near impossible miss in front of goals which sealed Coolaroo's fate.

"Thank you, thank you!" Max Beinke embraces Coach Scott Grigg.

"Thank you, thank you!" Max Beinke embraces Coach Scott Grigg.

With time running out and against the run of play, Coolaroo burst out from their backline banging the ball into the Hawks 50, but an equally desperate Goondiwindi turned the Coolaroo tide back...Only to see the ball rebound straight back, into the hands of Coolaroo's Adam Green. It was 20m out directly in front. There were two minutes on the clock and the Hawks were five points up. Was it the mark that won the grand final? Green came in, leaned back and perhaps, in a bid not to let the nerves get to him, attempted to boot the ball to Pittsworth. Almost unbelievably it sliced off his boot, through the behinds. Goondiwindi had a little more than 90 seconds to survive. They kicked out hoping for a green-and-gold jumper to fly high. However it was Coolaroo who came up with the ball, pumping it to the top of the square....

They say cometh the hour cometh the man. A packed formed and from somewhere Croft speared skyward through the middle. He'd been denied a rain-making mark in the first quarter. But he grabbed, hugged the ball to his chest and waited for the back-tumbling descent. The thump as he landed could be heard way back among the Rockville crowd. The cheers, and the groans as Coolaroo saw their hopes fade will be felt by both teams for a long time to come. Eventually Croft made it back to his feet, where he booted the ball down the left wing in front of the large Goondiwindi crowd, and then, the siren went.

Jeremy "Jezza" Leahy was named Best on Ground. But he had lots of mates close on his heels.