One year after Inverell gave Gunnedah a touch-up in the grand final, the Red Devils women are back in the showpiece clash - and look at them now!
On Saturday at Walcha, Gunnedah will be favourites to beat Pirates - having finished the regular season No 1 by eight points. They then beat Narrabri 34-12 in the major semi-final to advance straight to the grand final.
Pirates finished the regular season in fourth place, then beat Inverell and Narrabri to book a spot in the finale.
Gunnedah captain Sarah Stewart, who also led the side in the 2018 grand final, in their debut season, said the 37-5 loss to Inverell in last season's finale was a tough but valuable learning experience.
She said: "We weren't prepared for how tough it was going to be ... It is finals football, and you can never predict what's gonna happen. But I think having that [finals] experience last year puts us definitely in a better position than last year."
Stewart pointed out that Gunnedah's success in the run to the finals had been achieved without two of their main strike weapons, Fiona Laurie and Maddie Collinson.
Laurie, the side's leading try-scorer last season, injured her ankle playing for Central North at the Country Championships in early June.
Stewart described their absence as being "difficult" to adjust to.
The fact that Gunnedah have performed so well without them speaks volumes for the players and their coach, John Hickey, Stewart's father.
Stewart said: "I think losing those two players put us in a bit of a tough position. But I think the rest of the girls in the team have stepped up, and it would be hard to choose a most improved [player] in our club at the moment."
We're all very pumped.Sarah Stewart
Stewart nominated Nichole Carlyon, who plays in the middle or in the centres, and forward Abby Nortrup as the side's most-improved players.
Stewart said Carlyon was the oldest Red Devil - "the mother duck of our team". "Nichole's improved heaps in defence," she said. "And Abby played Central North rugby for the 15s this year, and I think that gave her a lot of self-confidence in knowing how hard she can run post-contact. She plays in our forwards, and she's very hard to tackle one-on-on because she's just so strong."
Stewart said Gunnedah were "very pumped".
Pirates coach Anthony Barbs said Gunnedah had been the form side all season, but his charges would carry good momentum into the clash after back-to-back final wins.
He said Pirates had "some girls coming into form at the right end of the season".
"We're in good stead for tomorrow [Saturday]," he said. "Our preparation all week has been pretty good - couldn't of asked for much more from the girls; sort of left everything out there on the training pitch."