In 2012, the Macleay Valley Mustangs made history.
For decades, the Group 2 trophy hadn't been sighted in Kempsey.
Then, in September 2012, the Willy Lockwood coached side travelled to Macksville and defeated Nambucca Heads Roosters 36-12 to take out the grand final and return home with silverware.
Playing at hooker, Anthony Cowan was man of the match and almost 10 years on, that game and a burning desire to finish what he started, has led to him retaining his role as coach of the Mustangs first grade team.
That burning desire comes from a 2021 season cut short by COVID-19 where the Mustangs were right in the thick of it for a finals berth.
With the first grade debutant numbers well into double digits, the youth of the club will feature again in 2022.
"It's the young boys (that got me back)," Cowan said.
"By not finishing the year how we wanted I just thought there was unfinished business.
"After all the hard work we put in at the club it would've been stupid if we tapped out and that's why I'm back."
Accompanying him with first grade will be his 2012 team-mate Adam 'Chicken' McMurray, with the front-rower taking on the first grade manager role.
"My motivation is the same as Ant - it's the young blokes," he said.
"I came back halfway through the year after trying to stay away and stay retired.
"There's a lot of young talent in this club, I'm just hoping with my experience and knowledge I can pass a bit onto the young blokes and leave it with a good future."
To add to the 2012 feel, Macleay Valley will officially welcome back Malcolm Webster after the classy five-eight made a few cameos late in the 2021 season.
"It's massive, he was one of my first recruits," Cowan said.
"I spoke with Mal a few months ago and he said if I did get the coaching role he wanted to jump on board.
"He had a few games last year and saw the young blokes playing and how the club was going.
"He's played here and won two comps and he wanted to be a part of it."
At the Mustangs first pre-season training on Tuesday, vice-president Allan Lockwood said the positive culture at the club is starting to show with community support.
"It's pretty exciting, this is the first roll up and we've got a good bunch of boys here already," he said.
"We've got a few more major sponsors coming on board and that comes down to what Ant and Chick said - these young fellas.
"People in the community and sponsors can see the young fellas and what they're engaging in - it's all positive."
President Reuben Jones added that the club's investment in youth will provide them with an advantage as Group Three rolls out the player points index.
"We want to continue developing the youth," he said.
"With the new player points system, club's like ours are going to be rewarded for bringing our young guys through."
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