BACKROWER Zac Mallise forced his way over in the dying minutes of the final- round game against Dungowan to secure Barraba a home final.
With the Cowboys coming back next week, it truly will be a case of knowing your enemy.
In the second half the game was drawn at three different stages, the lead changing hands with it as the two sides played end to end footy.
Mallise was one of three brothers who won the premiership last season, although Zac has run into some great form, one of the few Bulldogs who stood out in the loss to Kootingal the previous week.
Twin brother Jock is still in the pack with older brother Tim retiring with the title last season, although Zac said it was sister and league tag star Abbie that got all the talent.
That wasn’t the case on Saturday however as Zac put on a great display of versatility, running on in Luke White’s number four jersey and playing in the centres.
White, playing with a broken nose, moved into the halves to replace Brad Craddock, who came off the bench in the second half.
Mallise was a constant handful in attack, occasionally breaking the line with an offload.
“I moved back into the second row in the second half,” Mallise said.
“It’s great to have players like Joey (Latham) and Luke (White) playing inside me.”
“But I like being closer to the attacking plays and front-on defence.”
Dungowan took full advantage of the inexperienced backs, scoring both opening tries out wide to grab an 8-nil lead.
Barraba clawed its way back into the game, with a perfect Latham kick landing on Brenden McIllrick’s chest to even the score at 16-16.
Cowboy coach Luke Taylor came into the line on the angle at pace and scored a captain’s try under the dot.
Within three minutes Mallise had crashed over for his first to again tie the game up at 22-22.
Jayse Starr sold a good dummy to score shortly after to give Barraba the lead for the first time at 28-22.
Taylor then did it again to bring it back to 28-28.
The kick-off was put down by fullback Dylan O’Brien, who otherwise had a good game at the back.
Barraba was awarded the scrum and two plays later Mallise forced his way through and reached out for the winning try in the final minute.
“Our communication was better in the second half,” Mallise said.
“We trusted in each other.”
Mallise shears Uralla side of Walcha, driving back to Barraba for training and games.
“You have got to be committed to the team,” Mallise said.