The Macleay Valley Mustangs' youngest players are all too familiar with the pain of a grand final defeat.
Stephan Blair, Josef Barber, Jesse Douglas, Tyler Roberts and Conrad Lardner were in the red hot Mustangs Under-18.5s side, which claimed the minor premiership in 2016, but fell short 22-18 in the decider against the Taree City Bulls.
The side had only lost one game previously that season.
One year later, Douglas, Roberts and Lardner suffered an agonising extra-time 24-18 defeat at the hands of the Wauchope Blues in another Under-18.5s grand final.
All five admit the agony of defeat still lingers but claim a victory against Wauchope in the Group Three Rugby League first grade grand final this Sunday will go a long way towards healing their wounds.
"The pain is still there, every now and then I replay the game in my mind," Douglas told the Argus.
"I think about different things we could have done in the game and how it could have changed the outcome.
"But a win against Wauchope will go close to fixing all that."
Douglas has experienced the trauma of three straight grand final losses, as the 19-year-old took the field for the Port City Breakers first grade side which lost 18-10 to the Port Macquarie Sharks last year.
Interchange backrower Roberts is hopeful of celebrating alongside his older brother Richie, who captains the Mustangs.
"It will mean a lot to be able to finally get that grand final win with the Mustangs and especially alongside my brother," Roberts said.
"Richie is an inspiration on the field. He's involved in everything and it makes me want to work harder for him."
Lardner claims the Mustangs' more experienced players have taken the younger players under their wing this season and improved their skills.
"We don't feel like we are younger or anything like that, they treat us as teammates and good mates and get us involved in everything," Lardner said.
"They have helped us with our development and made us better footy players."
The five Mustangs players who tasted defeat in the 2016 decider and the three who experienced it again in 2017 have a shot at redemption this Sunday.
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