By Tyler Lewis
Premierships bind friendships forever.
But Liam Myatt and Mitch Cox are long-time best mates and Narre Warren’s 2019 AFL Outer East Premier Division premiership only adds another tale to their story of friendship.
In July, Cox told the Gazette that “personally, I don’t think I have achieved too much playing footy at senior level”.
But with a premiership medal draped around his neck, his best mate under his left arm and FaceTiming his dad Nick holidaying in Hawaii, it seemed nothing more could be achieved.
After not beating Berwick since 14 April last year, Cox and Myatt’s belief in the group never wavered.
“It just started from the reserves – we always knew it was going to come, we are a young group but in saying that we have been in three grand finals now,” Cox said.
“We knew they were going to come, we knew they were eventually going to try run away with it but it was about holding that pressure.
“I thought our match-ups got on top of them early, we stopped Lucas Jellyman-Turner’s backline run and we went well from our match-up point of view.”
For Myatt, it was all about mindset, and truly believing they could finally topple the Wickers.
“I thought our belief, being in the last three grand finals, we had that belief to say ‘you know what we can beat them today’,” he said.
“All it was going to take was effort and that’s what it was – a four-quarter effort.
“I thought (it) was our first real four-quarter effort against them (Berwick) in the last five or so times we have played them.”
Myatt and Cox – as they do most weeks – arrived at Friday’s game together, but this time the lead-up was different, and for the pair, all signs led to the Magpies securing that elusive premiership, including an indication scraped off the ground.
“It all started this morning when I hopped in the car,” Cox said.
“I hopped in Dyl Quirk’s car and had a win.
“I found a Maccas sticker on the ground and it said ‘Instant Win’.
“(I) had signs straight away, we are on top here and I thought, ‘there is something in that’.
“And Mitch Tonna in the reserves as well – that tackle set the tone for the day and we brought it into the seniors, which was good.”
Myatt added that the build-up, and the sight of seeing his club secure a famous reserves flag, was motivation enough.
“The week in was good,” he said.
“It was just mostly recovery and match-ups, and the changes we were going to make to the side.
“The main thing was watching the twos and as soon as the twos got presented with their medals, they were all out there with us.
“Words can’t describe the feeling I had walking out there when the twos were side-by-side, saying ‘you are next, you are next’, I think that set the tone for the first term, we were red hot.”
Myatt faced the prospect of living life without a leg when several knee injuries kept him from playing footy and changed the course of not only his career, but his life.
With his magnet off to the side of the team board at three-quarter-time and having a lengthy discussion with the trainers to the side of the main group, Myatt looked to be out of the final term through injury once more.
But Myatt was on the ground in the final term only moments later and was having an impact in the physical contest that was the fourth stanza.
It was a result that had Cox just as stoked to see that premiership medal wrapped around his mate’s neck as much of his own, with the two embracing in a quiet moment.
“What he has been through, injury wise, he works harder than anyone off the track,” he said.
“It is things that people don’t see that he is doing as well. He had a tough time going through the injuries, but he broke through it and he got on top with a medal.
“Congrats to him, everyone is proud of him but I think I’ve got a little bit more pride in him.”
Myatt explained just how much he had to get through to secure that medallion, battling through injury last week, and in the midst of the grand final.
“I got knocked out last week, had six stitches and I got concussed again at the start of the third,” he said.
“They wouldn’t let me back on but I had to do a few fitness tests, which I passed. I did, I did demand to get back on.”
Late in the match, Cox was deep in the forward line and seemed to be soaking in the emotion of the Narre faithful cheering the black and white in every contest, but they both said despite the buffer they never thought it was over until the joy of the final siren boomed through Toomuc Reserve.
“I never knew, I was excited for what was to come, they are a good side so we knew they were going to come,” Cox said.
“We sort of squeezed them into the pressure around the ball, they couldn’t get it out.
“I mean Jordy Andrews as well is a really good player, they have good players but our match-ups with them just got on top.
“Everyone played a role, it didn’t matter if you had one kick or 30 kicks, everyone played a role and that is why we got on top.”
Myatt agreed, describing the desperation of trying to hold on as Berwick surged in the last quarter.
“I never knew (we were home) – that last 15 minutes there was hardest 15 minutes of my life,” he said.
“It was end to end, you didn’t know which way the ball was going to go.
“I was just waiting for that siren to come and in the end it came and it was so good.”
Both of the influential premiership players went through the Dandenong Stingrays system and currently play for Frankston Dolphins in the VFL, and when Berwick was launching its final surge in the last term, the composure of young Dandenong Stingray Jack Toner shone through – something the boys have seen grow together in the youngster.
“Jack is another one who has done a lot behind the scenes and he is a very good player,” Cox said.
“He could go play high-level football – he obviously is going to be a superstar at local football.
“His composure around the football is super, so credit to him, he played a role and was super.”
Toner’s influence was also not lost on Myatt.
“We are lucky to have him,” he said.
“The amount of work he does off the track and he is a through-and-through Narre boy as well so it makes it 10 times better.”
Cox slotted the first major of the match and was a dangerous target forward all day, while Myatt influenced every contest with his hard-nosed hunger for premiership glory for the black and white.
And after a long stint as best mates, the two now will be etched into Narre Warren history forever and will be harder to separate for many years to come.