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NEWRL: Goannas honour Jack Fitzgibbon, veterans on special Anzac Day round

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The Cessnock Goannas will honour the late Jack Fitzgibbon, and other servicemen and women, when it hosts its inaugural Anzac Day round this week.

For the first time, the Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (NEWRL) club is set to stage several matches at the Cessnock Sportsground on 25 April, as well as numerous activations to commemorate the significance of the occasion.

Other organisations Central Newcastle Butcher Boys and South Newcastle Lions will do likewise at their respective grounds on Thursday, too.

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon.

But, it’ll be the Goannas moving tribute to Australian Defence Force (ADF) 2nd Commando Regiment soldier Fitzgibbon, a former Cessnock winger, which is expected to feature prominently.

The Lance Corporal, and son of ex-Hunter MP Joel and Dianne Fitzgibbon, died during a parachuting incident on Wednesday 6 March at the RAAF airbase at Richmond.

“Jack was our No 5 and that jumper will be very, very special for whoever wears it on Anzac Day,” secretary Cherie Douglas said.

“We’ll have a corflute with his photo on it.

“And, the Goannas and Northern Hawks will lay a wreath on either side of it.

“Jack, and the Fitzgibbon family, have strong ties with our club.

“So, we’re keen to acknowledge his connection to the community.”

Douglas said Cessnock felt privileged to be involved in the NEWRL’s Anzac Day round.

“From what I understand, this is the first time we’ve played a match on the actual day,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“NEWRL general manager Adam Devcich phoned and asked if we’d be interested in hosting an Anzac Day fixture.

“We thought it would be a great way to pay homage to the Anzacs and especially Ross Murray, our president, who served for Australia in Vietnam.

“So, it’s good to honour not only him but everyone else – and it’s good for the town.

“Cessnock doesn’t boast much entertainment, so to stage a football match on Anzac Day, I think we’ll have a packed house on the day, especially with the gates opening at 1pm.

“Jason Roots, one of our committee members, has etched poppies onto the field and coordinated The Last Post.

“Grant Collins will perform I was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green), while Cessnock RSL sub-Branch president Max Lewis is going to recite the Ode.

“They’ll also sell stubby holders and badges.

“We’ve planned a full day and doing the best we can to honour our servicemen and women, past and present.

“It’ll be very exciting by the time the Denton Engineering Cup kicks off at 5pm.

“There’s no reason for anyone not to turn up.

“A lot of people will attend the Dawn Services at Kearsley and Cessnock and other ceremonies throughout the LGA afterwards.

“They can still do what they traditionally do but, instead of heading home, they – especially the minor leagues and the families – can venture to the sportsground and watch the under-19s and reserves in their first matches of the season… in the Anzac strip.

“I know those players are pretty excited, too.”

Addison Peel, Luke Huth and Sam Apthorpe are geared up to honour our servicemen and women on Anzac Day. Photo: Rod Thompson

The Goannas will run onto the paddock in a strip, specifically designed for the day.

“We did an Anzac jersey two years ago, however we didn’t play on 25 April,” Douglas said.

“That allowed us to still honour the Anzacs… and it was unbelievable the amount of interest that it generated.

“So, we’ve kind of done a similar jumper, with a few tweaks.

“It has the Ode on the back, as well as poppies.

“Then we’ve got the shorts to match.

“We have a polo and long-sleeve tee as well, so the community is really embracing it and buying the Anzac merch.”

After accounting for the Macquarie Scorpions 26-6 in the opening game of 2024, Cessnock enjoyed a bye last weekend.

So, the side’s primed to continue that form against the Hawks, who Douglas praised.

“A win would be nice, I don’t do losing,” she said with a laugh.

“The plan’s for a really happy day with three good matches of footy.

“But, Northern certainly embraced the concept.

“The Hawks are an amazing club.

“Right from their inception in the NEWRL, Andrew Chapman’s worked really, really hard to make lots of things happen.

“He’s a great man who reaches out to other clubs and he’s not afraid to ask for advice.

“You don’t see that every day in sport.

“And, then, when you go to Port Stephens, they’re very welcoming.

“It’s just a joy to have them at your ground, it’s always positive.

“So, we’re looking forward to Thursday.”

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (NEWRL)

Round two results:

  • Lakes United Seagulls drew with Western Suburbs Rosellas 12-all
  • Maitland Pickers d Kurri Kurri Bulldogs 20-0
  • The Entrance Tigers d Wyong Roos 6-0
  • Macquarie Scorpions v Northern Hawks postponed
  • South Newcastle Lions v Central Newcastle Butcher Boys postponed

Round three draw:

Thursday 25 April

  • 2pm: Central Newcastle Butcher Boys v Macquarie Scorpions (St John Oval)
  • 2pm: South Newcastle Lions v Kurri Kurri Bulldogs (Townson Oval)
  • 5pm: Cessnock Goannas v Northern Hawks (Cessnock Sportsground)

Sunday 28 April

  • 3pm: Lakes United Seagulls v Wyong Roos (Cahill Oval)
  • 3pm: Western Suburbs Rosellas v Maitland Pickers (Harker Oval)
  • Bye: The Entrance Tigers

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