NEWCASTLE played host to the glitz and glamour of the World Surf League (WSL) championship tour only because Ballina Council said "no" to a contest at the fabled right-hand point at Lennox Head, and because COVID had thrown the tour into chaos in the first place.
It was a roll of the dice that could have ended very differently.
One factor the WSL had no qualms about, however, was the ability of Surfest director Warren Smith and his crew to deliver the event, organisationally.
With the back-of-house taken care of, all the WSL needed was the ocean to provide some swell, for the wind to blow offshore and - as a bonus - for the sun to shine.
Incredibly, from the day the international surfers were let out of their quarantine cages, right through to finals day last Saturday, the elements came together in such a fashion that no-one could accuse the Newcastle Cup of lacking waves.
It wasn't Merewether at its very best.
The big storm in March had gutted the banks.
But all in all, the waves provided plenty of aquatic canvas for surfing's premier artistes to express themselves.
And as the accompanying photographs attest, they sure put on a show.
Carissa Moore's history-making aerial in her quarter-final on the Friday afternoon - described as the biggest punt by a woman surfer in a competition setting - has been replayed all around the world.
Indeed, the women's surfing was sublime and explosive, full stop, and their progress can only add to the overall interest in surfing.
This is is a special year for Newcastle surfing; the first time since 2000 - the last year that Luke Egan and Matt Hoy were on tour together - that we've had two homegrown surfers on the CT.
Those two surfers - Morgan Cibilic and Ryan Callinan - did themselves and their city proud.
Their meeting in the quarter final was a nail-biter, the result a tie on 10.37 points, with victory to Ciblic through a best wave of 5.7 over a 5.5 of Callinan's.
The trophy-holders on both sides, Carissa Moore and Italo Ferreira, were worthy winners.
That afternoon, calls went out for "Newcastle Cup 2022".
The WSL responded by reminding everyone it was a one-off. So at this stage, it's a long-shot, but nothing is certain in this COVID world.
In the meantime, we can cheer Cibilic, Callinan and our adopted Novocastrian Julian Wilson in the walling left-handers of North Narrabeen.
On a good day, it's just like Dixon Park in a nor-east swell.
Our boys will rock it.
Having 50 or so of the world's top surfers descend on Merewether meant the Newcastle Cup was always going to be a special moment in Hunter surfing history.
Wildcards Philippa Anderson and Jackson Baker both made it past the elimination rounds, and adopted Novocastrian Julian Wilson surfed through to the final Friday.
But it was Morgan Cibilic and Ryan Callinan who stole the show, and, in Cibilic's case especially, came close to stealing the contest.
On Saturday, the hard-core Brazilian fans were the only ones not urging the ocean to send one more big wave Cibilic's way in his semi-final showdown with dual world champion Gabriel Medina.
It took a big and risky aerial punt - scoring a 9.7 from the judges - for Medina to shake himself clear of his giant-killing opponent.
Callinan is a familiar face in the sports pages of the Newcastle Herald.
The born-and-bred Merewether Surfboard Club local surfed his first qualifying series (QS) contest in 2009 and made the championship tour (CT) for a single year in 2016.
He requalified in 2018, finishing 31st, but maintained his place with the 4th place on the QS.
He finished 14th on the CT in 2019, before COVID killed the 2020 season.
Cibilic, by comparison, has come from the clouds.
His QS debut was in 2015.
He got serious in 2018 and took the final spot on the CT with an 11th in the QS in 2019.
Callinan, who turns 29 next month, is backed by surf company Billabong.
Ciblic, 22, has Rip Curl - sponsor of the Newcastle Cup and the Narrabeen Cup starting today - behind him.
Rip Curl co-founder Doug 'Claw' Warbrick told the Herald after Saturday's presentation that he was "very, very happy" with Morgan.
"He is a real power surfer, he gets the board up on a rail," Warbrick said.
"It's a quintessentially Australian style and technique with the absolute modern flair and flavour to it.
"There were others but Morgan was the main surfer resisting the Brazilian storm at this event."
Billabong says Callinan's "reserved demeanour" means the goofy foot aerialist has "always been under-rated". It says he prefers to let his surfing do the talking.
His latest edit, available free on line, called Just For Now, fits that bill.
Cibilic, though, is an extrovert.
His 2020 Rip Curl video, Postcards From Morgs, has some hammy acting (and fruity language) as well as explosive surfing from the natural-footed Cibilic and his Curl stablemates.
Both clips are well worth watching.
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