FOUR years ago, Wallsend were saved from relegation to the fifth tier of Newcastle football when another team could not take their place in Zone League One.
On Sunday, the Red Devils will try to cap a remarkable revival when they battle Valentine for the second-tier major premiership at Jack McLaughlan Oval.
Wallsend, who finished third in their return to the division this season, qualified for the Northern NSW Football first division grand final with a 6-1 thumping of Lake Macquarie on Sunday at Macquarie Field.
The result gave them a 7-4 aggregate victory over the Roosters in the two-leg semi-final. Minor premiers Valentine defeated Kahibah 3-1 on Saturday at Cahill Oval for a 4-1 on aggregate victory in the other semi.
A driving force behind Wallsend’s revival has been Chris Gallagher jnr, who has been general manager at the club since 2010 and was also coach up until this season when Josh Rufo took the reins.
Gallagher was ecstatic with the result this season and keen to build on the success with the securing of National Premier League eligibility for 2017 and beyond.
‘‘It’s been pretty fast,’’ Gallagher said of the club’s rise since 2011.
‘‘At the start of the year the goal was to be mid-season pushing for the semis.
‘‘We applied for an NPL licence and mid-season, when we were leading the table, a few questions were asked of Northern.
‘‘But they have been great to us. Gary Fisher and Ramsay [Vane-Wood] have been there to help us whenever we’ve had a question or needed something.
‘‘They wanted to see us being consistent, and we need to prove we’re sustainable.’’
While recruits Paul Wheeler, Chris Gazzard and David Hodgson have been brilliant for Wallsend this year, Gallagher was keen to praise players like Trent Richards, Trent Milton, Daniel Byatt, Rob James and Kyle Macorig, who have stuck with the club through its rise up the divisions.
Gallagher said they were all keen to finish on a high against Phoenix.
‘‘One thing Wallsend has always loved doing is taking some big scalps,’’ he said. ‘‘Lakes was the second biggest in the comp, and in the grand final Valentine are obviously the guys to beat, so it would great to beat them as well.’’
Last Sunday, Kev Orr scored twice, while Milton, Hodgson, Jason McGuire and Tega Marcus all grabbed one goal for Wallsend. Sam Walker was the Lakes scorer.
At Cahill Oval, Valentine’s Scott McGinley netted from the spot, Brett Adcock converted a one-on-one chance and Luke Barnier scored, all inside five minutes late in the game against Kahibah. Matt Lee got one back for Kahibah, who finished fourth in their first season in first division.