Lockhart River coach Wayne Butcher is already eyeing off a threepeat after winning back-to-back Cape York rugby league titles on Saturday night.
The Scorpions won a thrilling grand final against the Napranum Bulldogs, 32-24 at Weipa’s Andoom Oval.
Lockhart River, who travelled 300km to Weipa for each match this season, trailed 14-0 early in the decider but produced a stunning comeback to win.
The grand final came on the back of two nailbiting semi-finals played earlier in the day.
Napranum defeated the Weipa Raiders 30-28, while Lockhart River beat Gulf Storms 16-12.
“It was such a good and close competition this year,” Butcher said.
“Any of the four teams that made the semi-finals this year could have won it.”
Butcher praised teenage fullback Martin Pascoe for his performance in the grand final.
“He’s a tough little bugger with plenty of skill,” the coach said of the Nudgee College graduate.
Pascoe scored two tries for the Scorpions and was unlucky not to win the medal for best on ground.
That honour went to star centre Isaac Rokeby, who had the goal kicking duties for Lockhart River and also set up numerous tries with his speed and line-breaking ability.
Gennis Giblet also scored two tries in the big dance, while Smithy Bally and Brandon Piva were the others to cross the line.
Rokeby converted four of the six tries.
“When we were down 14-0 I wasn’t too worried because I knew the boys had been training hard and would be fit enough to finish strongly,” Butcher said.
“We scored just on half-time and were down 14-6.
“I said to them at the break to believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself you can do the impossible.
“The last three weeks we have averaged about 20 players at training so I knew we would be fit enough to win.”
The Scorpions scored five tries to three in the second stanza to put Napranum to the sword.
Butcher said he would return as coach in 2020 to eye a threepeat.
“We’ve played in four grand finals in a row now,” he said.
“We won in Lockhart River in 2016 and then lost by two points to Weipa Raiders in 2017. The last two years we’ve won it.”
The coach, who turns 49 this week, said he was humbled by the response of his players.
“A few fellas came up and whispered in my ear and gave me a big smile,” said Butcher, who is also the mayor of the community.
“Next year we want to keep the trophy in Lockhart River.”
This year’s Cape York rugby league competition was praised for being one of the best run and most competitive on the football field.
Butcher said he would like to see matches played at Lockhart River and even Aurukun next year.
The struggling Aurukun Kang Kang side had to forfeit several of their matches.
“Aurukun has got a good team,” Butcher said.
“If they get good leadership in the side they will be hard to beat.
“There are a lot of good, young footballers in the community.”
Cape York Rugby League finals results
Semi-final 1: Napranum Bulldogs 30 (Dale Ahwang 3, Hassim Adidi, Shaq Adidi-Nixon, Jason Nixon tries; Kareem Tabuai 3 goals) d Weipa Raiders 28 (Leeroy Ahmat 2, William Bond, Andrew Sampson, Jack Backo tries; Lumbee Pablo 4 goals).
Semi-final 2: Lockhart River Scorpions 16 (Steven Bally, Gennis Giblet, Brandon Piva tries; Isaac Rokeby 2 goals) d Gulf Storms 12 (Maurice Burke 2 tries; Lyell Bowie 2 goals).
Grand final: Lockhart River Scorpions 32 (Martin Pascoe 2, Gennis Gibley 2, Smithy Bally, Brandon Piva tries; Isaac Rokeby 4 goals) d Napranum Bulldogs 24 (Alfred Bond, Hassim Adidi, Cameron Jawai, Eli Tabuai, Shaq Adidi-Nixon tries; Kareem Tabuai 1 goal).
Awards were also handed out following the finals by Mayor Rex Burke of Napranum, Elder Isabel Hall, Melissa and Karl Adams.
Best back of the final - Martin Pascoe
Best forward of the final - Gennis Giblet
Highest try scorer for the season - Dale Ahwang
Player of the final - Isaac Rokeby