Darren Treacy remembers arriving at the 1991 Newcastle Rugby League grand final as “red-hot favourites” only to leave empty handed.
Playing at home Treacy’s Western Suburbs were tipped to win at Harker Oval but the tables were turned by the Macquarie Scorpions, known then as Toronto, in a 21-10 upset.
And although centre Treacy and the Rosellas made amends the following season with a 33-0 premiership victory over Lakes, it was a tough lesson to learn for a then 20-year-old first grade rookie.
“All I remember is turning up as red-hot favourites to win a comp and getting rolled,” the former Knights, Dragons and Eels player said about that September afternoon.
Twenty-six years on and for the first time since that day, and for the second time ever, the same two clubs will face off in a first grade decider.
And once again the Treacy name will feature on the teamsheet, but on this occasion for underdogs Macquarie.
Treacy’s son Bobby will start from the Scorpions bench against Wests at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday (3pm).
The 20-year-old, who switched from former club Wests before season 2017, has worked his way back into Macquarie’s top squad after suffering a fractured leg in his first grade debut a few months ago.
After returning for a handful of games later in the year, including the semi-final series, Treacy junior is now 80 minutes away from his own premiership.
“It’s been a bit up and down for me this season but I’ve worked really hard to get here so it’s a massive achievement,” Bobby said.
“I’m pretty nervous and pretty excited all at the same time, but I can’t wait to get out there on Saturday.”
The second-year apprentice carpenter played at the stadium in a reserve grade decider for Wests in 2015, but he will be hoping for a different result this weekend.
His coal mining-father, now 46, ran out at the same venue many times, mainly for Newcastle between 1994 and 1996 but most recently for Parramatta in his final NRL season 14 years ago.
Darren said he was looking forward to watching a game on Turton Road from the sidelines and supporting his son with family and friends.
“It’s a real proud moment seeing your son achieve something he’s worked so hard for, for so long,” Darren said.
“We’ve booked a box so it should be a good day.”
The pair live together on an acreage near Mount Sugarloaf.
“Bobby’s probably in the same situation I was when I was that age trying to make it to the big time,” Darren said.
NSW Country representative Darren played 181 games in Australia, including the 1999 grand final for St George-Illawarra, and another 26 in England for Salford City, including the 2002 Challenge Cup.