Grand final providing hope in tough times for Warwick
RUGBY LEAGUE: There's a lot more riding on Sunday's TRL grand final than just the result for the Warwick Cowboys.
It's the culmination of three decades of waiting for success at the top level.
It's the boost the people in a town ravaged by drought need during the toughest period some have ever had to endure.
This is everything.
The Cowboys of 2019 have a determination that hasn't been seen for years.
A close-knit group, they have stood together through the ups and downs of a rigorous TRL premiership season.
From the highs of starting out a season with five wins and nabbing a top-three spot, through to missing out on a Madsen-Rasmussen final spot by a matter of minutes, the group has struck together as one throughout the journey.
Now, they are 80 minutes away from ending a 31-year A-grade premiership drought, and they haven't been without their close calls along the way.
They progressed through to the decider in 1999, only to be downed by Oakey, before falling to Pittsworth in 2016.
Current president and trainer Dayne Barrett was a part of the grand final team in 1999, and said a handful of current players have experienced the heartbreak of defeat as well.
"It's been a long time,” Barrett said.
"Myself and trainer Norm Cox both played and lost a grand final in 1999.
"We've got a couple of boys from the 2016 side playing on Sunday as well. So it serves as a bit of redemption for them, that's one of their personal goals.”
Another group that it would mean a lot for is the township of Warwick, which is in the midst of one of its worst droughts on record.
Times have been tough of late, with extreme water restrictions in place and many praying for rain to sustain livelihoods.
It's why the main street in town has been plastered in red and blue, as the entire community gets behind their team.
"We're excited as you can expect, but also we have to turn up and do a job,” Barrett said.
"The players have got to enjoy this week. It's a big week for them and a big week for the community.
"It's been tough. It's dry and everyone is struggling. It doesn't matter who you are or what walk of life you're from.
"We're hoping this can give the community a bit of a spark.”
Despite Valleys having the local-area advantage at Clive Berghofer Stadium, a large contingent of Cowboys fans are expected to make the journey to Toowoomba.
Barrett said the club has been blown away with the showing of support in the lead up to the decider.
"We've had people from Bundaberg and Mackay, supporters of the club who have said they are coming home for the game,” he said.
"We've also organised supporter shirts. We anticipated we'd sell about 100, but at the moment we're in excess of 400.”
Warwick will take the same 17 into Sunday's fixture that defeated Valleys a fortnight ago.