Boy, didn’t the NRL, NRLW and AFL seasons end on a high note last weekend?
In fact, you could not have scripted a better finish for the respective competitions.
Close to home, the Newcastle Knights produced a superb come-from-behind victory to upstage the Gold Coast Titans 24-18 in the NRLW decider.
It was a remarkable way to defend their title, with superstar fullback Tamika Upton scoring two tries in the dying stages to secure the win and claim the Karyn Murphy Medal.
And, while she deserves every plaudit she receives, the thing about the Newcastle squad is it’s not all about her.
The girls play as a unit.
The much-lauded No 1 can only do what she does best because a hard-working group of forwards set the platform, talented halves Jesse Southwell and Georgia Roche control the play, the backs chime in at the right times and the reserves provide the necessary impact off the bench.
It’s incredible that only Upton, Yasmin Clydsdale and Caitlan Johnson got the nod for Australian rep honours, given the success of the Knights over the past two seasons.
Hooker Olivia Higgins, who displayed exceptional utility value in 2023, captain Hannah Southwell and her younger sibling deserved a berth, too.
Wing duo Sheridan Gallagher and Jasmin Strange must have also gone close.
You can’t help but praise coach Ronald Griffiths, and his offsiders, for the impressive job they’ve done.
In 24 months, Newcastle has just suffered a couple of losses, won two Telstra Women’s Premierships and hosted a crowd of more than 12,000 people at a stand-alone match at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Yet, Griffiths has been overlooked twice, now, for Coach of the Year.
What more could he have done?
Although he’s undecided on his future next season, given he’s fielding a few new offers, his legacy will remain for a long time.
And, a quick word about the players.
After dealing with them countless times, via my role, I can’t speak highly enough of the current team.
Nothing is ever an issue, or too much, for them.
They, as individuals, freely give their time to the media and the community whenever they can.
For example, I recall one time at Cessnock earlier this year when centre Shanice Parker was watching her partner play for the Northern Hawks in Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League.
Kids were queueing up for autographs and posing for selfies… and she did it all with a big smile on her face.
Those kinds of acts certainly inspire the next generation, with the youngsters loving every bit of the interaction.
Quite simply, they’re great ambassadors for the Knights… and the Hunter.
Cleary a huge effort
I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of the Penrith Panthers or their No 7 Nathan Cleary.
However, his solo performance on the big stage on Sunday night when the Brisbane Broncos had his boys on the ropes was sensational.
Setting up a try, scoring one himself and landing a 40/20 in the final 20 minutes was Andrew Johns-like.
Hot Pies taste success
It was great to see the Collingwood Magpies hang on to win a thriller in the AFL grand final.
Mentor Craig McRae has really turned that club around… with grace and dignity.
Many other organisations could learn a lesson, namely the Wests Tigers in the NRL.
For more sports stories:
- GALLERY: Another amazing reception for victorious Knights
- NRLW: Team work and trust the keys to success, says Griffiths
- NRLW: Tamika Upton… the humble Knights superstar
Get all the latest Newcastle news, sport, real estate, entertainment, lifestyle and more delivered straight to your inbox with the Newcastle Weekly Daily Newsletter. Sign up here.