The Cessnock Goannas have been rewarded for their strong start to the 2021 Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) season, making up the bulk of the Rebels’ representative squad.
The 2020 Real NRL champions and this year’s undefeated competition leaders boast eight players – AJ Davis, Billy Gilbert, Connor Kirkwood, Denzel Burns, Gerome Burns, Robert Tuliatu, Tyrone Roberts-Davis and Wyatt Shaw – in the A Plus Contracting-sponsored 20-man outfit.
“I’m rapt for the guys; they’ve all been firing,” Cessnock mentor Todd Edwards said.
“There are more positives than negatives [around their selection].
“And, when you take in the four juniors – Harrison Spruce, Harry Whitfield, Harvey Neville and Joseph Barber – named in the under-20 side, that’s 12 out of our top 30.
“So, it’s pleasing to see their efforts being recognised.
“There is a good vibe in the club at the moment.
“We must be doing something right.
“Everyone’s buying into what we’re trying to do – it’s a very happy place.
“But, in saying that, the standard’s now been set.”
Edwards said he was particularly thrilled for local youngsters Kirkwood and Tuliatu.
“We’ve moved Connor from the wing to the middle,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“And, he’s made the 13 jumper his own.
“Robert spent a couple of years in the UK, however he’s been enormous for the team over the past 13 months.
“Wyatt [Shaw] deserves a rap as well.”
New Rebels coach Aaron Watts will also call upon the services of four Maitland stars – Cooper Jenkins, James Taylor, Jayden Butterfield and Matt Soper-Lawler – after the Pickers clinched the 2020 President’s Cup.
Central Newcastle Butcher Boys duo Cameron Anderson and Dylan Phythian, Macquarie Scorpions pair Luke Higgins and Matt Moon, along with Henry Penn (Kurri Kurri), Jacob McCudden (The Entrance), Joe Bromage (West Newcastle) and Blake Andrews (Wyong), received the nod from selectors as well.
Under-20 mentor Adam Hall had a tough time choosing his line-up for the junior encounters, too.
But, he’s opted for Central Newcastle quintet Ethan Campbell, Lachlan O’Brien, Kurt Donoghoe, Travhon Lemalama and Tyler Doney, as well as talented Cessnock quartet Harrison Spruce, Harry Whitfield, Harvey Neville and Joseph Barber and Lakes United foursome Cohen Geelan, Ryan Potts, Sam Smith and Sione Tuitupou-Kutu.
South Newcastle will supply three reps in the form of Carlin Pettit, Tom Reynolds and Zac Jones, with Callan Briggs (Macquarie), Ryan Weatherall (Northern Hawks), Max Buderus (West Newcastle) and Pat Achurch (West Newcastle) also making the grade.
The Rebels will contest the highly-anticipated 2021 Tri Series against Illawarra and Canberra over the next couple of months.
Newcastle faces Illawarra away from home on 16 May before tackling Canberra at the Maitland Sportsground on 26 June.
The teams will be formally presented their outfits at the South Newcastle Rugby League Club on Wednesday 21 April.
(Coach Aaron Watts): Cameron Anderson (Central Newcastle), Dylan Phythian (Central Newcastle), AJ Davis (Cessnock), Billy Gilbert (Cessnock), Connor Kirkwood (Cessnock), Denzel Burns (Cessnock), Gerome Burns (Cessnock), Robert Tuliatu (Cessnock), Tyrone Roberts-Davis (Cessnock), Wyatt Shaw (Cessnock), Henry Penn (Kurri Kurri), Luke Higgins (Macquarie), Matt Moon (Macquarie), Cooper Jenkins (Maitland), James Taylor (Maitland), Jayden Butterfield (Maitland), Matt Soper-Lawler (Maitland), Jacob McCudden (The Entrance), Joe Bromage (West Newcastle), Blake Andrews (Wyong)
(Coach Adam Hall): Ethan Campbell (Central Newcastle), Lachlan O’Brien (Central Newcastle), Kurt Donoghoe (Central Newcastle), Travhon Lemalama (Central Newcastle), Tyler Doney (Central Newcastle), Harrison Spruce (Cessnock), Harry Whitfield (Cessnock), Harvey Neville (Cessnock), Joseph Barber (Cessnock), Cohen Geelan (Lakes United), Ryan Potts (Lakes United), Sam Smith (Lakes United), Sione Tuitupou-Kutu (Lakes United), Callan Briggs (Macquarie), Ryan Weatherall (Northern Hawks), Carlin Pettit (South Newcastle), Tom Reynolds (South Newcastle), Zac Jones (South Newcastle), Max Buderus (West Newcastle), Pat Achurch (West Newcastle)