Coniston has capped their fairytale finish to the 2023 season after claiming a 1-0 win over rivals Cringila in Sunday's Premier League grand final.
In a tense affair, Matt Floro's superb strike early in the second half proved the difference at WIN Stadium as Cono ended a 22-year IPL grand final drought. In some late drama, Floro was sent off in stoppage time after receiving his second yellow card, but his side was able to claim victory.
It was the club's first top-grade IPL grand final victory since beating Port Kembla 4-0 in 2001.
Sunday's victory came just four years after the JJ Kelly Park club were promoted back into the Illawarra's top-flight. It was an incredible finish to their campaign for Coniston, who secured a 1-1 draw with Wollongong Olympic in the last round to even make it into the finals.
From fourth spot, the side then claimed successive wins over Bulli, Olympic and Albion Park to make finals, before rounding out that superb run by beating the Lions at WIN Stadium.
"There's no better feeling than winning that grand final," Floro told the Mercury post-match.
"I couldn't believe it (when he scored) to be honest. I find that room, took my chance and smashed it as hard as I could. I then had to (rip off shirt), emotions got the better of me.
"To us, Crini weren't favourites. We felt good coming in, we beat all of the top teams coming through. The boys believed and we knew that we could do it."
Sunday's victory also capped off an incredible debut campaign for Coniston head coach Franc Pierro, who took the reins in May following the unexpected departure of Rob Jonovski.
Cono were sitting outside the top five when Pierro stepped into the role, but the side was able to hit its straps in the back half of the season.
"I'm ecstatic mate, the guys really deserve it - I'm so proud of them. Everyone at the club is so proud of them. We saw today what we can do," Pierro said on Sunday.
"We knew we could get to this point and we showed that now. Before the game started, we were confident all week that we could take it out. And they've just come here today and done just that.
"We came from seventh to taking out a grand final. It was one step as a time as we always said and the guys are the ones that believed in the process. Now they're seeing that come to fruition.
"It's incredible. We will remember this forever."
Coniston skipper Lukas Stergiou admitted that he felt "absolutely busted" after that grand-final victory.
"You play all year for this and there's no better feeling," he said.
"You work hard in the finals and it's just a great game. We made it difficult, we had a couple of opportunities at the end. But the result is all that mattered.
"It's credit to the lads for the hard work we put in. We rocked up to training every week and just knew if we got into the top five, got the result and built the momentum, then it would carry us through.
"The way we were playing... we were confident we could get the job done."
It was a quiet start to Sunday's game, but the match exploded in the eight minute when the Lions had five shots on goal in a row, forcing gloveman Kaydin Harrison to make some terrific saves.
Minutes later, Toby Norval was able to win a free kick for his side on the edge of Cringila's box, but they couldn't capitalise on the opportunity. At the other end, Michael Mendes flicked a nice shot over Harrison's head and skimmed the crossbar.
Coniston then had a great chance when Toby Norval wound up from the edge of the box, however, he was denied by a diving Nikola Ristevski. Soon after, a great ball from Matt Floro put Chris Arditti one-on-one with Ristevski, but his attempt was just wide of the mark.
Coniston continued to play aggressive football and were almost rewarded around the 30-minute mark. Ristevski had done well to stop a shot from Sammy Matthews, but he could only parry the ball towards Floro, who missed a golden opportunity at the near post.
Both sides had half-chances in the last 15 minutes, however, the score remained 0-0 at the break.
After a tense first stanza, Coniston didn't have to wait long to make their mark in the second half, with a Floro flying through to beat Ristevki to score their first goal in the 49th minute.
The Cono forward ripped his shirt off in celebration, running towards the club's fans on the sideline to soak up the moment.
Two minutes later, Floro nearly had a second with the Cono forward's shot thundering into the cross-bar. At the other end, Jonah Kalmanidis was denied at short range by Harrison.
However, it was Coniston who continued to look more threatening. Around the one-hour, Chris Arditti worked the ball inside the box to Norval, but he was shut down by the Lions defence.
Heading into the final 20 minutes, momentum slowly started to swing towards Cringila, as they had a series of attacking opportunities.
These chances included the ball falling to the feet of Michael Mendes, whose attempt clattered into the woodwork. Anthony Krsteski also had a header from short range, only to be denied by Harrison's gloves.
While it was Cringila who had the majority of chances, Coniston had a golden opportunity to score on the counter-attack, with Floro being denied by the slightest deflection off a Lions defender.
In the last minute of regular time, Floro had another golden opportunity to score when he found himself on-on-one with Ristevski, but the Cringila gloveman was able to make a great save.
Floro again found himself with attention in stoppage time when he put a late challenge, leading to him receiving his second yellow card and being sent off. Arditti then had a chance to put some icing on the cake, with his shot skimming over the crossbar.
Ekoue D'Almeida had one final surge for Cringila, with his shot sailing over the crossbar, as Coniston held on for a gritty 1-0 victory to win the premiership.
Lions captain Peter Simonoski said it was a gut-wrenching way to finish their season.
"Full credit to Coniston today, they were the better side," he said.
"It was a tough game. We both had chances to score, and they took theirs early in the second half. As you saw, it went right down to the end and they deserved it, so well done to them.
"We've gone down a few times this year so we were always going to push forward and back ourselves. We had a few chances towards the end there, but it wasn't to be.
"But we'll take this moment in, and we'll come back hungrier and stronger next year."