RAGS TO RICHES: How our Gympie Cats pulled off a miracle
AUSSIE RULES: "Our goal will be towards improving performance, building the ranks of players, developing the kids and raising the general awareness of AFL.
"We want to create a bit of buzz about the club, if we could, build it to be something everyone can be involved with.”
They were ambitious words from a new coach, but Courtney Findlay meant every one of them when he was unveiled as the new leader of the Gympie Cats in January.
IT'S GRAND FINAL DAY!
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Taking over a squad anchored to the bottom of the QFA Wide Bay Sunshine Coast ladder, Findlay faced a formidable challenge to find success - even for a man with decades of community football experience both on and off the field.
Not only did he have to turn the languishing Cats around in a new league, he had to establish a new club culture after players from the capitulated Pomona Football Club crossed over to pull on the blue and white.
Less than nine months later, Findlay has his side just one step away from bringing a fifth premiership back to the Gold City.
If they beat the Hervey Bay Bombers, like they have three times already this season, they will lift the AFL Wide Bay cup and complete one of the most remarkable stories in the history of Gympie sport.
Always one to credit team success to all individuals involved, Findlay had some glowing feedback when reflecting on what his boys had achieved ahead of this afternoon's decider.
"It's the tightest group I've seen in senior footy, and that's coming from two clubs who hated each other's guts.
"It's a phenomenal effort, and it's a brotherhood down there I've never seen before.
"Our resilience and our mental strength has been really strong throughout the course of the year, we've had our ups and downs and challenges along the way.
"In terms of the Gympie-Pomona connection we've gelled really well as a group, and that's another one of our strengths, we're a really tight knit group.
"If someone goes down everyone gets around them, and there's a real, genuine care for each other.”
The praise has been mutual, with Cats utility, Stedman Medal winner and ex-Pomona veteran Scott Stiefler heaping the praise on his coach for the gargantuan efforts he made to bring two rival clubs together.
"I've been playing footy for 24 years now, and the rivalry we had was fierce,” Stiefler said.
"For 'Courto' to turn that into a squad playing in a Grand Final is massive.
"It could've been a complete flop. It would have been impossible for me to come over to Gympie a year ago, but when I first spoke with 'Courto' and heard the direction he wanted to take the club, it was too hard to refuse.”
A member of five flag-winning sides throughout his journey in Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, Findlay said a win today would be "the most special” experience of his career.
He stopped short on emotions, acknowledging the job "wasn't done yet.”
"We're going in with some confidence ... but we've got to make sure we bring 100 per cent effort on Saturday,” he said.