It was a sea of black and white excitement at the Ilfracombe sports oval on Saturday night when the Blackall Magpies rugby league team won the central west grand final, breaking a 30 year drought for the town.
They defeated 2017 grand finalists, the Ilfracombe Scorpions, 22-8 in what ended up as a convincing win for the visitors.
Blackall supporters streamed onto the field in jubilation after the final siren, some of them members of the last victorious Magpies’ team in 1988, who had travelled out from the Darling Downs to lend their support and witness the historic occasion.
The win was a spoiling of the party for Ilfracombe, a club that started the same year Blackall won its last premiership – they were hosting their first ever grand final at their home ground.
The Scorpions won the right to host the 2015 grand final but had to play on the Longreach Showgrounds oval when ongoing drought turned their own sporting field into a dust bowl.
The following year they won their first premiership and broke the Diamantina Devils’ six-year winning streak.
The Devils regained the silverware in 2017 but did not field a team for this year’s central west competition, leaving four teams – the Thomson Tigers and the Barcaldine Sandgoannas as well as Ilfracombe and Blackall – to battle it out in a condensed three-month competition.
Saturday’s final was an end-to-end tussle in the first half, resulting in a slender 12-8 Magpies lead at half time. After a long scoreless period in the second half, Blackall sealed the win and confirmed its minor premiership with two tries.
Blackall’s Alex Choyce was the player of the grand final while Magpies’ captain, Andrew Russell was named the referee’s player of the year.
Ilfracombe’s evergreen Trent Hoad was the player of the year.
Although the senior grand final has been run and won, there is still plenty of league football to happen in the wider region, such as the Arthur Beetson outback carnival in Barcaldine on June 16, and the Bedourie Nines’ competition, as well as ongoing junior clusters.