Cody Tickle was suckled on rugby league as a Magpies junior and dreamed of one day emulating the club’s first-graders he would watch at David Taylor Park.
But by the time the 24-year-old was ready for senior football, Werris Creek’s top-tier days were over and Tickle honed his game in the now-defunct second division for five years.
The Magpies’ elevation to first grade this season means his childhood dream has been realised. And on a cold, windy day at the Creek on Saturday, Tickle and his teammates emerged from the shadow of the top-three sides after recording a 38-24 win over third-placed Gunnedah. Tickle was named man of the match.
He said: “As a young fella I used to come down and watch them playing first grade years ago. And it was looking at one stage that I’d never get the chance to play first grade for this side. It’s cool [to be doing so], I suppose. It’s unreal.”
One win does not make a season. But the manner in which Werris Creek compiled their best win of the year, their third successive victory, would be very heartening to the club and their supporters.
The nucleus of last year’s side – players like Tickle, Zac Buckley, Zac Leonard and Tom Brown, and co-coach Ron Dellar have remained, but have been supplemented by new blood like the Millgate brothers, Scott Berry and co-coach and former NRL star Matt Parsons.
After a stuttering first half of the season, the fourth-placed Magpies have taken flight.
With former Magpies looking on as the club celebrated their Old Boys’ day and the official opening of the Ron Dellar Grandstand, Werris Creek and Gunnedah engaged in an absorbing affair.
The first points were not scored until late in the first half, and came when Bulldogs centre Aaron Donnelly finished off a slick right-edge move.
Down 12-6 at halftime, the Magpies found themselves trailing 18-6 when Donnelly crossed early in the second half.
But from that point the home team dominated, beginning with a rapid reply to Donnelly’s try when winger Jermain Walford crossed in the right-hand corner.
Magpies five-eighth Dwight Millgate then produced a strong solo, close-range effort to make it 18-16 after halfback Scott Berry's conversion. Millgate, man of the match in Werris Creek’s 44-36 defeat of Dungowan last round, had another fine game.
Front-rower Tom Brown, who scored a 80-metre runaway try against the Cowboys, then barged over from close range. Berry slotted the conversion and it was 22-18.
It was 28-18 when Magpies fullback Harlee Millgate was fed a short ball by brother Dwight inside Gunnedah’s 20m zone and scored under the posts – the margin inflated by four when Tickle received a good pass from Harlee Millgate close to the Bulldogs’ tryline and crossed out wide on the left side.
Gunnedah replied quickly when No.1 Dylan Lake charged on to a short pass from Donnelly inside the Creek’s 20m zone and crashed over next to the right post to make it 32-24 following No.6 DJ Smith’s conversion.
Moments later Bulldogs winger Lachlan King appeared to score in the left-hand corner, but put a foot into touch.
Dwight Millgate provided the exclamation mark for Werris Creek’s win with a late try.
Tickle said: “Last year we made the decision [to keep the] core nucleus of the side and just put some players around it, and that’s what we’ve done. Everyone’s handled the transition well. At the start of the year the pace was a bit quick for us. But we’ve sort of jumped on the pace of the game now, which is good.”
WERRIS CREEK 38 (D Millgate 2, H Millgate, J Walford, T Brown, Z Buckley, C Tickle tries; S Berry 5 goals) d GUNNEDAH 24 (A Donnelly 2, D Lake, H Smith tries; DJ Smith 4 goals)