Redemption was sweet, and emphatic, for former Tamworth Magpie Shaun McHugh and his Central West team-mates at Scully Park on Sunday.
The Blue Bulls stampeded their way to the Caldwell Cup with a 45-21 demolition of defending champions Illawarra.
Beaten by the Illawarriors in last year's decider, the Blue Bulls took just three minutes to post their first points and piled on 31 in what McHugh described as an "incredible" first half.
"That first 40 minutes was the best 40 of football we've played as a group and I reckon probably best 40 minutes we've played individually as players," the second rower said.
"The whole 15 stood up and when the bench came on they really stood up as well."
The former McCarthy student scored the last of their seven tries - seagulling out on the right wing - and said it felt "very special" to win the symbol of Country rugby supremacy.
"We were lucky enough to go away with Central West to New Zealand and that core group is still together," he said.
"That was the main focus to come here and win the Caldwell Cup, and it's a pretty good box to tick off."
Before the New Zealand tour, McHugh hadn't pulled on a Central West jersey since 2005.
"So I've got a bit of age on me," he joked.
"But I bloody love it to be honest. This group of blokes is fantastic and it makes you really enjoy football when you play at a level like this and in a game like we executed today."
Now a stalwart at Dubbo Kangaroos, McHugh last played for the Magpies in 2004. But the roots still run deep.
Remarking on how different Scully Park is these days, he joked that he was glad they won their semi-final on Saturday so that he didn't have to play at Ken Chillingworth Oval (cross-town rivals' Pirates home ground).
On a more serious note he still has a lot of family and friends in the area and said it was nice to be come back and have the opportunity to play in front of them.
"Dad's in the crowd, which is great. He doesn't get to see many games of footy anymore so it was great to have him here and great to have a win in Tamworth," he said.
"This is where I suppose you could say I cut my teeth playing footy."
"I loved playing for the Magpies here and I've always thought maybe I could come back have a game and reminisce but it's going to be completely different to when I was playing."
McHugh wasn't the only player in the Blue Bulls side with ties to the region with prop Charlie French part of the victorious 2016 St Alberts side.
There was also a local connection in the Illawarriors with another former Magpie - George Rixon - playing outside centre. He was though unable to take his spot in the final after injuring his knee in their come-from-behind semi-final win.
The Blue Bulls' men's victory followed the women's 31-nil triumph over Central Coast in their final. It completed a impressive, and undefeated campaign, the Blue Bulls remarkably not conceding a point for the entire weekend.
Newcastle Hunter won a hard-fought colts final 9-3 over Central Coast, former Inverell Highlander Brady Mather lining up at outside centre for the Novocastrians.