At the start of the season the Tumut Bulls declared two goals that they wanted to achieve – play finals football and bring the juniors through their ranks.
And after all four grades made the finals and a reserve grade team which heavily featured young local talent made the preliminary final, the Bulls are happy to call the 2018 season a big success.
“It was definitely a successful year for the club,” first-grade co-coach Brad Gorman said.
“We’ve got to remember we’re a regional team a town of 8000 people and we filled all four grades and all four made finals.
“It was a major disappointment losing to Leeton in first grade but also a big disappointment in second grade losing to Wagga City.
“We set our sights on making the finals and working from here and also a major goal was to bring our juniors through the system.
“They were two major goals at the start of the year and also to just build on what we’ve been building for the last decade really.
“So at the end of the day, it was still a successful year for the club.”
It’s been a long windy road for the resilient club, who spent many years down the wrong end of the ladder and on the wrong end of lop-sided scorelines.
But a strong focus on developing local talent and building a culture which attracts players of all shapes and sizes has been the driving force behind the Bulls revival.
The Bulls introduced a handful of young local players into the first-grade squad this year and Gorman says the memory of the hard times is making their new found success even better.
“It’s just a breath of fresh air for Tumut rugby,” Gorman said.
“Back in the Chappy days, it was just pick and drive and that was it you nearly got your hand cut off if it went three passes wide.
“We reflect on the good ol’ days and how far the club has come in a short amount of time.
“It’s just been a good ongoing growth of the club and it’s been great to be part of it.”
After long and tough pre-season, the Bulls first-grade side finally hit the paddock for their first hit out of the year and got off to a great start posting 40 points against the CSU Reddies.
But two defeats against two of the competition heavyweights in the following matches slowed their progress, but it wasn’t panic stations just yet.
“Those early rounds are about teams feeling each other out and finding out what each others strengths and weakness are,” Gorman said.
“That early on it was more about how good was our preseason and where we stood with our fitness.
“I wasn’t concerned at all at the beginning of the season.”
And their persistence paid off early in the season when the Bulls found their feet and went on to string six consecutive wins together, all of which featured point-scoring sprees of at least 40 points.
But it was their round nine heart-stopping clash with the Leeton Phantoms at Jarrah Sportsground which truly showcased what the Bulls were capable of.
“We were behind in extra time after leading for most of the game,” Gorman said.
“The Tumut Bulls of old would have packed up and gone home when we fell behind but we didn’t, we hung there and came away with a victory.
“I spoke to supporters and some of them even left when the final try had been scored from Leeton and they thought ‘ah bugger this I’m going home’, only to read the newspaper the following day and see we won.
“We changed mentality that day and that helped to our victory over Albury in the first final too.”
Following the dramatic 46-43 victory, was the bye period, a time which has plagued the Bulls for years according to Gorman.
“It’s just been historical we’ve never won after a bye we’ve just been shocking I don’t know what it is,” he said.
“What I put it down to is all of our players are workers, we don’t have students who live in the gym during the day or running hill sprints on their days off.
“We’re just a working-class club and if they get the chance to go have a few extra beers on a Saturday or maybe knock back a couple on a training session then they’ll do that.”
But the Bulls persevered after stumbling through the byes, before stringing a few late victories together heading into the finals.
The Bulls fist came up against a red-hot Albury side who had found form late in the season, and Gorman attributes the lessons they learned during the season to their tight 29-25 victory.
“That was a huge win for us,” he said.
“We proved a lot to ourselves then that if you dig deep and believe in yourselves you can win those games.”
But waiting in the banks was the Leeton Phantoms, who stood between the Bulls and a home preliminary final.
Tumut held the lead for most of the match and looked to be in control before falling away in the dying stages of the match to drop out of the finals 22-21.
“It was a numb feeling once she was all over and you sit down on Tuesday arvo and you wonder what do I do now,” Gorman said.
“But I couldn’t be prouder of the boys.
“We executed the game plan for 99% of the game and it was only that 1% when we turned over the ball cheaply and everyone knows that’s why we lost.
“We were the better team on the day but you can’t allow that kind of team to have possession but it’s just unlucky how it all panned out.
“We came awfully close to winning the premiership this year and it still hurts now.”
Although the Bulls fell short of the preliminary finals by just one point, there is no doubt the club is seeing a resurgence back to the top.
With first and second grade now associated as contenders for the first time in a long time, Gorman was more pleased with the growth of the club as a whole and the support all the teams received.
“Definitely happy with the season from a club perspective,” Gorman said.
“Even when the women’s and thirds dropped out of finals we still had 30-40 people at training that week making sure they were there to support the ones and twos, and when the ones bummed out we still had 30-40 for second grade.
“Even when the chips were down everyone was still there to support each other.
“At the start of the year our goal was to make finals and yes we did that and even won a few.
“We had juniors come through and we haven’t had that happen for a couple years.
“And everyone’s having fun we’re all mates which is most important.”
And Gorman says things are looking bright for the future of the club also.
“You can’t look through a crystal ball and see into next year,” he said.
“But I think next years going to be really positive.
“The youth that’s coming through, they’ll be another year stronger or another year more experienced.
“I think id be pretty confident to say we’ll do as well as this year if not better.”
The Tumut Bulls are holding their 2018 presentation night on Saturday at the Tumut Golf Club. Tickets are available at the door and kick off is at 6 pm.