ALBURY Thunder coach Josh Cale praised his team’s hunger to win after it pinched a thrilling 16-12 win over Southcity in the West Wyalong Knockout final on Saturday night.
Inspired by some Ben Jeffery magic, the reigning Group 9 premier scored two tries in the final five minutes to pocket the $8500 winner’s cheque and send a warning that it wants to build on the success of the past two seasons.
“It was a good way to start the year,” Cale said.
“The conditions were fairly horrendous at West Wyalong, but our attitude and want to win is probably the best thing to come out of it.
“The boys are all still very hungry.
“With such a young side, it was good to be in a position where we had to come from behind and really earn it.
“It’s good for self belief.
“Southcity played well in the final but Ben Jeffery stood up at crucial stages and helped get us over the line.”
Albury, which defeated Orange CYMS in its semi-final, was led to victory by Jeffery, Lou Goodwin, Mitch Davis, Willie Heta and Andrew Cowhan.
Goodwin was named player of the tournament while recruits Cameron Breust and Adam Coote also impressed.
“Breust and Coote did really well with just a couple of sessions under their belt,” Cale said.
“Breust steered us around and did well and Coote was sharp as well.”
Southcity looked home with a late six-point lead.
But there was no denying Jeffery who threw a cut-out ball to put Josh Remington over the line and, seconds later, threw a sensational pass for Cowhan to score.
“Benny makes the big plays at the big moments,” Cale said.
“That’s what you want.
“He’s one of the oldest players in the side and the boys look for leadership from him at the back.
“Lou was strong throughout the tournament and just got through a power of work in the conditions.”
Boom Southcity recruit Nick Skinner showed flashes of form in the final while Peter Little was a constant threat to the Thunder defence.
Bulls’ star Scott Bowden missed the tournament after wrist surgery.
New Temora captain-coach Michael Henderson showed he will do plenty of damage in Group 9 this season by turning in some fine performances for the Dragons.