Aidan Bermingham may only be 18 years old but he was all too aware how much Sunday's premiership victory meant to the Nyngan Tigers and the community.
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The Tigers had never won a senior grand final of any kind since Group 15 premierships in 1979 and 1983 while the last under 18s title was in 1980 when Nyngan scored a victory over Bourke in Walgett.
But on Sunday, spurred on by a tidal wave of rapturous support, the young Tigers downed St Pat's 26-12 in a physical and often fiery Tom Nelson Under 18s Western Premiership decider.
The hugely talented group of Nyngan youngsters celebrated at full-time - after a brief melee that was a slight dampener on the match - but soon made their way to the grandstand to celebrate with the passionate yet success-starved fans.
"It's unreal," Bermingham said.
"They haven't had a grand final win in 40 years or something so it's great to give back to the community.
"They go to every away game and they had some of the biggest crowds in places like Orange so to see all them as happy as they can be is great.
"It's a great club to be around and there's a lot of great people to be around. They have to recruit new players every year and I just can't describe it."
After the league tag and reserve grade Premiers Challenge matches were played out early on at Apex Oval, the intensity of the day lifted as soon as things kicked off in under 18s.
The hits were bone-rattling early - many were penalised - but it was St Pat's who began the better as hulking co-captain Aidan Stait led the way from prop.
The Bathurst side couldn't turn the possession into points though and on 13 minutes Nyngan made them pay.
The Tigers were working themselves into attacking territory and another big shot from the Bathurst defence jolted the ball loose. However, the ball went back and Nyngan fullback Tyrone Tattersall was there to scoop it up and streak away to score.
The noise from the Nyngan faithful almost tore the roof off Apex Oval and five minutes later things got even better when Birmingham took a quick tap and muscled over from close range to help set-up a 12-0 lead.
Nyngan had all the momentum and went close to a third only for Trae Fitzpatrick to snatch an intercept and save his side. That moment helped St Pat's get back into the match and some Nyngan errors helped them score through Stait to make it 12-6 at the break.
Pat's came out of the sheds with real vigour and just five minutes in winger Noah Constable did brilliantly to plant the ball down in the corner while surrounded by Nyngan defenders.
Will Poole's boot levelled it up but that proved to be as good as it got for St Pat's.
Just two minutes later Birmingham had a second when he shaped to pass from dummyhalf before powering over and it wasn't too long later when powerhouse centre Braith Boyd grabbed a deserved try to help make it 22-12.
The Tigers fans were then in raptures with 16 minutes remaining when 15-year-old star Cooper Black, man of the match in the preliminary final seven days prior, wormed his way over the line to all-but ensure victory.
The Nyngan defence held firm late on and the late scrap was an ugly end to the match, but it couldn't ruin the moment for the Tigers.
"They came out firing and tried to rough us up," Birmingham said.
"They had some big boys in the middle but we stuck in there and won and that was outstanding from our boys. We were a lot smaller pack.
"They were in our heads and I think we we were in their heads too. It was fiery and there was some push and shove but we told the boys we had to keep our cool."
The St Pat's players were understandably shattered at full-time but coach Matthew Dunn said there was plenty to be proud of after the club finished with the wooden spoon in the under 18s last season and started the 2022 campaign with just two wins in the opening seven rounds.
"You can see it means the world to them. They're gutted, the boys," Dunn said.
"We spoke about a lot of things this week. Things like their one-on-one strips and we just allowed them to play their game and they probably got in our heads a bit with the niggle.
"Last year the under 18s won the wooden spoon and this year they've proved a lot of doubters wrong. Didn't get the job done today but that's footy unfortunately. You've got to play for the full 60 minutes and we allowed them to get down our end.
"But I couldn't be prouder."
While Birmingham was the man of the match and Boyd, Harry Hammond and Tattersall all impressed, the Nyngan captain made special mention of Black after the win.
The 15-year-old Western Rams representative was brilliant in the one-point win over Dubbo CYMS a week prior while just a day before Sunday's decider he was playing for Nyngan in the under 16s grand final.
That match went into more than 20 minutes of extra time and while Black got through the entire 60 minutes on Sunday he was battling cramp for the final stages.
"He's a 15-year-old kid playing under 18s and he's just dominating every week. It's great to see and he's definitely got a big future ahead of him" Birmingham said.
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