WESTERN Suburbs thought they had used all their NSW State Cup bad luck up after suffering three final losses in the last four years.
The sporting Gods and Hornsby had other ideas as the Lions inflicted a fourth grand final heartbreak on the Magpies in five years on Sunday.
In an enthralling, end-to-end open men’s tournament decider, both teams exchanged tries before the Lions claimed the 2017 State Cup with a 5-4 win.
It took a piece of brilliance from Hornsby’s Australian representative Dylan Hennessey to put his side in front with 90 seconds remaining.
Despite yet another fall at the final hurdle, Western Suburbs coach Tony Trad was disappointed, but remained upbeat.
It has happened again, but it’s different this time.Western Suburbs coach Tony Trad
“It has happened again, but it’s different this time,” he told the Port News.
“The last couple of years we’ve had some really good players and we were expected to win.
“This year, all through our Sydney campaign and now the State Cup we weren’t expected to win because we’re going through a transition period.”
Someone forgot to tell the Magpies they weren’t meant to be there as they went through the competition undefeated until the grand final.
They had five State Cup debutantes this year.
“We’ve gained a lot more this year and those kids are going to be a lot better for it and it’s about setting our future up,” Trad said.
“It’s not the best record you want (in a final), but you’ve got to be in them to win them so we’ll hang in there and it’s always a touch here or a drop-off or something or an injury.
“If we keep turning up at some point it’ll turn around for us.”
Port Macquarie’s Paddy Coelho scored the opening try for his side in a tournament where his coach saw him mature as a player.
“If we keep turning up at some point it’ll turn around for us.”Tony Trad
“Paddy had a great tournament and this year I saw a real maturity and leadership in him and a real belief,” he said.
“In the quarter-final against Parramatta he was unbelievable.”
Trad conceded his side had perhaps overachieved, but was confident the future looked promising for the club.
“We weren’t expected to win, but we tried our best and it came down to a missed touch in the last minute and a half by a 16-year-old kid,” he said.
“When you’ve got Australian players out there on the field, you can’t be too upset about that.”
Paddy had a great tournament and this year I saw a real maturity and leadership in him and a real belief.Tony Trad
“Next year those 16-year-olds will be 17, the 17-year-olds will be 18.
“We had a lot of kids out there playing their first men’s year, let alone in a State Cup final.
“For me, when you see them enjoying themselves and developing, it’s worth the losses.”
In the women’s open division, Manly proved too good for the Easts Roosters in a 4-1 victory which capped off an undefeated tournament.