They called it a miracle.
They said it couldn't be done.
And when it was, it was almost too good to believe.
Maybe all that was true of Coleambally's last premiership, in the Coreen League 15 years ago.
But the first wonder of 2005 was Carl Pound's return to the Blues late in the season after a shocking Easter illness.
"It was just a massive relief to be able to play football again after I burst my appendix," Carl says now.
"To sit in the hospital bed and the doctor says, 'Oh you probably won't play again.'
"I had burst appendix for 10 days, lost a heap of weight, and I wasn't real flash for a while."
It was a troubling turn for the 23-year-old. But when the danger passed, he set his mind to a comeback, waiting for a 25cm scar to heal - the permanent reminder that doctors had removed part of his intestine, "and a schooner of pus".
For their part, his teammates, including brothers Shane, Jay, Tony and Dean, set about making sure there'd be something to play for.
Under coach Shane Mannes, and with Andrew McGown having a brilliant season in the centre, this band of locals began to believe.
"About half-way through the year we looked like making finals and the boys started coming to me saying we need to get fitter if we're going to make finals," Mannes remembers.
"We ran our guts out for about two months straight. It probably cost us a few games. But once we hit finals, we were bloody fit, which certainly helped."
The Blues had self-belief but the boom was certainly on Coreen-Daysdale United.
"They were a better side than us, no doubt," Dean Pound says.
"They had Longmires and Kicketts and Lavises."
Doug Lavis was a strong marking forward, a genuine star who booted an unbelievable 146 goals in 2005, his first year at the club.
He got into triple figures the next year too, and kicked eight goals in both of CDU's grand final victories in 2006 and 2007.
But not in '05. '05 belonged to Coleambally.
It belonged to a squad that was more family than mere teammates, and more interested in old-fashioned values than fairytales.
"It was very satisfying. It was a big day. We had the catering that day. We turned up to the footy and every player, to a man, got in and helped out with the catering even though they were playing in a grand final," Mannes says.
"We had a really good club feel. I remember a bit of the spiel before the game. I just said to them, 'This is what a footy club is all about and we're going up against blokes that just turn up and get their pay cheques'.
The coach laughs.
"They were nice and fired up by the time they ran out, I remember." The coach laughs again, harder.
It was a local team. Mannes' memory is that Blake Kelly was travelling back from Melbourne and pretty much everyone else was living and working in town including recent arrivals Brad Arnold and Dan Withers.
Five players, more than a quarter of the team, was from one family once Carl came good on his recovery and returned for the last four games.
"There's a few things (that spring to mind) from that season, like Carl Pound," says Mannes.
"He was crook as a dog. I can't remember how many metres of stomach he had taken out. He was a very sick boy for a while there and he ended up making it back and playing again. That stands out to me."
Carl took his place in the backline on grand final day at Rennie. His memory is of a scrappy affair against a CDU team that had only lost one game all season and were threatening to get away from them with all the momentum in the first half.
"We just had to throw everything at it because we were behind. I spent a lot of the last quarter running up and running off," he says.
But the Blues defence kept Doug Lavis to two goals, though Paul Lavis (four goals) threatened at half-forward.
Shane Pound kept Coly in touch with a superb goal from the boundary, about 50-metres out, in the second quarter but early in the third they were more than four goals down.
That's when Dean in the ruck started to dominate, Andrew McGown and Shane showed leadership in the midfield and Coleambally kicked the next five goals.
CDU went to the last break one point in front but cursing their kicking after a 2.7 return for the quarter had them up 10.15 (75) to 11.8 (74).
Withers' put the Blues in front early in the last quarter and Jason Heath (three goals) extended it with back-to-back goals.
After a tense passage, they hung tough for a 12-point win. With 11 of the last 15 goals, they'd secured the upset, 16.10 (106) to 13.16 (94), and a long-awaited flag.
Shane Pound won the medal but there was glowing praise for the efforts of all five brothers. One headline in Albury's Border Mail declared it 'Pound for Pound the most brilliant win for the Blues'.
While McGown capped a fine season in which he'd gone close to wining the league medal.
"One of those blokes who just knew how to get the job done," Mannes says.
It had been 12 long years since their previous premiership.
Justin Buchanan, Danny Graham and Damien Mannes were the only 1993 premiership players there in 2005. Buchanan was brilliant on a wing to add a second flag to his four club best-and-fairests. Graham kicked two goals in the decider after swinging forward that season, and Mannes was strong down back.
Few imagined that they wouldn't win another in at least 15 years and with Dean Pound joining his brothers in retirement, there won't be any more for the champions of 2005.
"Being only 19, you win one and at the time you think they're going to come along every year. But it doesn't work like that," Dean says.
"I know how much it meant. When you win one and you don't win another, you don't take them for granted."
It remains a treasured moment in five football careers, not to mention for the proud parents.
"It was special to win it with the five of us together. Mum's still got photos all over the place from it," Dean says, and gives the coach plenty of credit.
"He was good, really good. It wasn't all the football side. He just knew had to get the best out of everyone, and bring it all together," he says.
The win gave Shane Mannes the record of having led junior, reserve grade and first grade Coleambally teams to premierships. But he parlays the credit.
"It was all player-driven. I might've been coach but, fair dinkum, I was on auto pilot most of the year. They basically coached themselves," he says.
"It was very satisfying. Only 15 years ago, that's where we were as a footy club, basically all locals."
And they won the premiership.
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