Can the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs break their 26-year premiership drought in 2021?
Club president Mick Alchin certainly believes so.
The Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) outfit last tasted success in 1995, and even missed the 2020 COVID-19 affected season, but the “top Dog in the kennel” feels they are heading in the right direction under captain-coach Mitch Cullen.
“It’s been a long time between drinks,” he said.
“However, everyone’s fairly confident of a good year.
“All our major sponsors are back on deck, like Dimar Engineering, Kurri Kurri Bowling Club, Mechlec and the HGH Pub, as well as our loyal band of local businesses.
“Plus, there are new people coming to the club, which lifts the atmosphere.
“Although this is my first season in the role [as president], I’m no stranger to the Bulldogs.
“Both my boys (Reid and Jono Alchin) play here.
“And, I’ve got some excellent people around me, like vice-president Daryl Chapman and secretary Bob Wilesmith.
“So, everything should click back into place pretty quickly.
“There’s definitely a positive feeling within the club.”
Alchin admits 2020 was a “tough year”.
“We were originally told the competition wasn’t going ahead (due to coronavirus),” he said.
“Then, when that situation changed, a lot of our first-graders didn’t want to play, which was understandable given the circumstances.
“So, we pulled out.
“The Bulldogs ended up fielding sides in reserves, under-19s and league tag but it was hard to survive.
“It still cost us a lot of money to run those teams as we’d lost most of our revenue.”
Another factor buoying the Kurri Kurri organisation is its latest recruits, former NRL stars Frank-Paul Nu’uausala (Sydney Roosters, Canberra Raiders), Tyler Randell (Newcastle Knights) and Nathan Ross (Newcastle Knights).
The trio boasts almost 400 games between them, as well as plenty of experience.
“They’ll make a huge impact at the Bulldogs,” Alchin said.
“We’ve also kept all the players from the 2019 squad, bar one or two.
“Our numbers at training have been strong, too.
“The boys went up to my dad’s (former Western Suburbs Magpie Mick Alchin) property just recently – and took part in a commando day.
“It was a great bonding session for them.”
Kurri Kurri is facing the South Newcastle Lions in a trial at the Kurri Kurri Sportsground on Saturday 27 February from 4.30pm.
The Bulldogs, who’ll contest the first, reserve, third and under-19 grades in 2021, will then conduct their season launch on Saturday 13 March, the same date as their Charity Shield showdown with long-time rivals Cessnock Goannas.
Round one of the Real NRL, at this stage, pits them against the Maitland Pickers at home on Saturday 27 March.