BATHURST Bulldogs first grade skipper Peter Fitzsimmons has added to his legacy as a future club legend after steering his side to the 2022 Blowes Cup title on Saturday.
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Fitzsimmons led the Bulldogs to victory over the Orange Emus in front of a jubilant home crowd in a classic grand final clash, just as he did in the 2019 decider against the same opponent.
On that day Bulldogs prevailed by 27-24, and on Saturday there was little that could separate the teams again when the hosts held on for a 15-13 victory.
Fitzsimmons said that beating Emus in a grand final is all the more satisfying when you do so in a situation that often favours their Orange rivals.
"It's massive to grind out a win. They're probably the pinnacle side when it comes to grinding out wins and winning tight matches like that," he said.
"To be able to hold on and get it done after being down in the first half is huge.
"It comes from the energy from our young blokes. I feed off them. When you're watching the young guys rip and rip and rip in, because you know it means so much to him, you can't help but follow."
Much of the talk throughout all grades came back to the blustery conditions sweeping through Ashwood Park.
It added to what was already an intense and high-pressure situation for every team in action.
At the start of the match Fitzsimmons made a choice to run towards the west - with the wind - for the second half.
"I think the wind played a major factor," he said.
"We couldn't get off to a flying start. I changed my mind at the toss and elected to run into it, and I'm really glad I did because we had the gas to finish it.
"You run into that wind for a while and it really wears you down."
Fitzsimmons played the grand final alongside another player with Country Cockatoos experience, Justin Mobbs, in the second row.
The pair led the way through the middle of the park during the Bulldogs' second half fightback.
The work from the pack eventually paved the way for the centre combination of Hunter Davis and Adam Plummer to find the try that would bring the scores back to 13-12 in Emus' favour.
Then, following Kurt Weekes' penalty goal, the Bulldogs produced a stirring defensive effort against an Emus team who were still able to create multiple attacking threats when running into the breeze.
Fitzsimmons said the experienced heads around him in the pack kept everyone motivated as they fought their way back into the match.
"When we're down we look to our key players. Alex Weal and Mobbsy were really solid," he said.
"I was talking to the boys at half-time about staying calm, staying in it and not losing our heads. Without those guys I'm not sure that we have the strength to pull that off."
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