Over the past few years, Greg Baldock has watched the Wests team he coaches fall short in a number of close games.
Always sniffing the top of the competition, the Devils couldn't quite get over the hump and soar to an Illawarra junior premiership.
But this year, he could sense the tide was about to turn. Older and more mature, Baldock was confident his boys had what it takes to go all the way in 2019.
The Devils completed the journey on Saturday afternoon when they overcame defending premiers Gerringong 22-12 to claim the 14 years first division Illawarra Group Seven grand final at WIN Stadium.
"It's always a close affair between the two teams, they're evenly matched," Baldock said. "We were a little bit better on Saturday. At one point Gerringong were in front, after we led early, but we finished stronger.
"We've gone close a few years without actually winning a grand final, so the boys are very happy. We've been building to this. They've always been very capable, but this year they turned a corner with understanding how to win tight games."
Baldock said the turning point for the team came at the back end of the season, with the Devils claiming a number of tight matches to secure the minor premiership.
A 16-10 major semi-final victory over Gerringong sent the boys to the grand final and while Baldock approached the decider knowing it could go either way, he was quietly confident the Devils had what it takes to prevail over the Lions.
"The biggest factor has been maturity, and that comes with being able to find a way when dealing with adversity. We've spoken a fair bit about what to do when things don't go your way. It's interesting for these kids to go through at this age."
The Lions may have fallen to Wests in the 14s division one decider, however they did prevail in the 15s, with Gerringong overcoming Dapto 26-6.
The 13s first division title was claimed by Collegians, who defeated Wests 18-12. Collies fell in the 16s division one decider, with Stingrays securing a 23-18 victory.
The 13s and 14s division two grand finals were won by Dapto, while Bomaderry triumphed in the 15s second division and Albion Park Oak Flats claimed the 16s division two decider.
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