TODD Edwards thought Cessnock would be up for it.
The Goannas coach wasn't wrong.
Having been on the brink of missing the semis completely last month, Cessnock clocked up their fourth straight win and booked a place in the club's first Newcastle Rugby League decider since 2014.
The Goannas produced an impressive performance to defeat Central 34-8 in Sunday's preliminary final at St John Oval.
"Yesterday [Saturday] morning at training I just knew there was something there we haven't had before," Edwards told the Newcastle Herald.
"It's got very little to do with coaching, this late in the year it's more about them. They've been up every week, we've got good leaders and blokes who have been around a long time.
"Now it's another challenge next week."
Cessnock five-eighth Scott Briggs was "outstanding" for the visitors, particularly his kicking game, and Central coach Phil Williams described him as "the difference" between the two sides.
Four of the Goannas' six tries came from kicks, three off Briggs' boot, and the playmaker also delivered the last cut-out pass for their fifth around the hour mark.
"He [Briggs] knows every short cut in the game," Edwards said.
"He's been doing it for 15 years at this level ... he should have played NRL.
"He's got a lot of stuff you can't coach."
The mentor also praised the efforts of Blake Andrews, Brendan Hlad, Sam Apthorpe and Connor Kirkwood while noting Cessnock's recent turnaround after being thumped 57-0 by upcoming opponents Western Suburbs in the second last competition round.
"I'm just really proud," Edwards, who returned to the Goannas in 2019 after guiding Lakes to last year's grand final, said.
"It's good for the club and good for the supporters. We were going nowhere five weeks ago and to turn it around like we have is a credit to the players."
Paul Carter, who was best man at a wedding in Bali last weekend, scored in each half for Cessnock.
The Goannas led 18-4 at the break with Central crossing for unconverted tries either side of the interval.
Williams said the Butcher Boys "didn't get the bounce of the ball" and while "disappointed" remained "proud" of this year's display, coming from last on the ladder to finish one win shy of a title shot.
Edwards said minor premiers Wests were "Winx odds" this weekend.
Josh Charles (pectoral) was the main injury concern for the Goannas after he left the field midway during the second half. Briggs also had an ankle complaint.
Central's Ethan Campbell was put on report.
CESSNOCK 34 (Paul Carter 2, Harry O'Brien, Blake Andrews, Connor Kirkwood, Joe Woodbury tries; Scott Briggs 5, Dan Metcalf conversions) defeated CENTRAL 8 (Matt Koellner, Kurt Donoghoe tries)