Justin Toomey-White celebrates Wellington Cowboys' grand final win

As much as the Wellington Cowboys wanted to do it for their fans, each other, and the wider community, the desire to win for coach Justin Toomey-White almost trumped all else this season.

The Cowboys coach said prior to the grand final the past year had been one he'd barely been able to believe.

It's a period of his life he won't ever forget as there was the sheer joy of welcoming a first child into the world and the satisfaction of leading the Cowboys to drought-breaking premiership win but also a shock bowel cancer diagnosis which rocked his family, his town, and the wider bush footy community.

After undergoing treatment for more than six months he was declared cancer free, and through all that time his family and his Cowboys were there with him.

The emotion showed after the final whistle on Sunday, with the first two people Toomey-White celebrated with were wife Kate and son, Boston.

Then, came the jubilation of celebrating with his players.

"I had won already with these boys," an emotional Toomey-White said post-game.

"Being able to coach these boys going through what I was going through and getting myself out of bed to go to training and have smiles on our faces while we work hard, it tops off a roller-coaster year.

"It's unbelievable."

Winning without Toomey-White on the field was a feat in itself.


The reigning Group 11 player of the year didn't play a part this season, but praise for his efforts as coach flooded in after Sunday's 19-10 grand final triumph over Dubbo CYMS.

"With Justin and what he went through this year, to do it for him and everyone else in the community is amazing," Cowboys fullback and Toomey-White's brother-in-law Will Lousick said after the win.

While the Wellington team is an incredibly close-knit one, few know Toomey-White as well as captain Aidan Ryan.

Ryan is one of a handful who has been there through thick and thin in recent times, playing alongside Toomey-White in first grade during the early part of the decade before struggling through the low points the club endured in a time when the barnstorming second-rower made the move to test his skills in Sydney with the Wyong Roos.

"It's amazing. Justo and I, we've played footy our whole lives together and it makes it all the sweeter," he said.

Both Ryan and Toomey-White also paid tribute to Cowboys president Darren Ah See and the board for leading the turnaround.

The Cowboys have made great strides in their community involvement as well as on the playing field, where a host of high-profile recruits helped the club earn first grade glory for the first time since 1994.

And now the drought-breaking premiership wins have been scored in both first and reserve grade, the club is looking forward to more success.

"We'll definitely celebrate this but the majority of the boys will stick around next year so this could be our time to start a dynasty," Toomey-White said.