Coach Rick Stone paid tribute to skipper Bec Young after CRL Newcastle's 24-10 victory over Mounties in the NSWRL grand final at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
Young, the 37-year-old mother of two, has been the heart and soul of the region's representative team for years, during various incarnations as the Maitland Pickers, Hunter Stars and North Newcastle.
Two seasons ago, she led Newcastle to a grand final defeat at the hands of Redfern All Blacks, making Saturday's breakthrough victory all the more special.
Along with fellow veteran Kylie Hilder, Young is tipped to retire at the end of the coming WNRL season, in which she will play for Sydney Roosters, although coach Rick Stone joked that the pair have "probably officially retired a couple of times already".
"It's a fitting reward for those girls, particularly Bec Young," Stone said.
"Bec and her husband Mick have been the people who kept pushing this team forward, firstly by getting into the Sydney competition, and then by trying to get some sort of a home base and substance behind a team from Newcastle."
After two losses in their first three games of the season, Newcastle embarked on a nine-game winning run - including two play-offs - to face minor premiers Mounties in the title decider.
They trailed 6-0 early, only to power home with a four-tries-to-two victory. Bobbi Law, Hilder, Tayla Predebon and Simone Smith crossed the stripe for Newcastle.
"The biggest satisfaction for me has been watching the girls grow and improve their footy," Stone said.
"To come down and play well on grand final day - nice and steady, nothing too flash - shows that they've listened to something and learned along the way.
"I'm really proud of how they've handled the year."
The fact that Newcastle's team includes a host of graduates from their Tarsha Gale Cup (under-18) outfit reinforces Stone's belief that the region can eventually support a women's NRL team.
"There's a good pathway for them out of the Tarsha Gale, and that augurs well for when Newcastle has its own NRL team, which I think is inevitable," Stone said.