Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) CEO Charlie Haggett sees “nothing but positives” for the competition on the eve of the 2021 NSWRL Denton Cup.
With the first round of matches kicking off this weekend, 10 clubs – Central Newcastle Butcher Boys, Cessnock Goannas, Kurri Kurri Bulldogs, Lakes United Seagulls, Macquarie Scorpions, Maitland Pickers, South Newcastle Lions, The Entrance Tigers, Western Suburbs Rosellas and Wyong Roos – will all vie for the title after a COVID-19 affected 2020.
It adds up to one serious year of “footy” for the code, with newcomers The Entrance and Wyong joining the fold alongside the likes of reigning President’s Cup champions Maitland and Real NRL premiers Cessnock.
“Having an increase in the size of the comp this season allows us the opportunity to get more out in the public and more coverage,” Haggett said.
“We’re hoping that will attract more quality players to the area.
“And, it seems to be happening.
“We’ve already seen a number of Queenslanders come into the competition.
“So, it’s certainly going to be one of the major formats for New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) in 2021.”
Haggett, who’s currently overseeing the Real NRL alongside chairman John Crooks after the departure of long-time CEO Matt Harris earlier in the month, believes the reputation of the comp speaks for itself.
“It’s a great pathway into the [Newcastle] Knights’ system – take a look at Brayden Musgrove for instance,” he said.
“He was a member of the Goannas’ premiership-winning team, now he’s in their NRL squad.
“A lot of other NRL clubs are taking an interest in this competition, too.
“It proves we have the quality players here.
“We’ve also got the juniors coming through; and a good second division comp as well.
“Right across the board, rugby league is strong in the region.
“We want to maintain that – and see it get better and better.”
Haggett isn’t expecting COVID-19 restrictions to hamper the season, either.
“Whatever the NSW Health regulations are, we’ll be adhering to them,” he said.
“At the moment, it’s giving us the full go-ahead for crowd numbers.
“So, we’ll stick with that.
“Hopefully, we will have some good crowd figures and some good footy to go with it.”
With the arrival of the Tigers and Roos, two Central Coast powerhouses, Haggett expects spectators to be the big winners.
“The Entrance and Wyong will make a huge difference to the standard of the comp,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“They’ll both boast good quality teams.
“So, it means the Newcastle-based sides will need to lift themselves.
“Which is what we [Real NRL] want to see – the competition, as well as the quality of football, improving all the time.
“This is one way to achieve it, by having some outside clubs coming here.
“It then requires our teams to perform even better.”
When asked for an early prediction, Haggett didn’t give too much away.
“I’ve been looking at the player lists; there are some strong line-ups,” he said.
“I honestly think it’s very wide open at this stage – anyone’s a chance.
“There’s no real stand out, which is a really good thing to see.
“I feel we’ll witness some quality football this year.”
2021 NSWRL Denton Cup
Round one draw:
Saturday 27 March –
- Kurri Kurri Bulldogs v Maitland Pickers (Kurri Kurri Sportsground) – POSTPONED
- Wyong Roos v Central Newcastle Butcher Boys (Morry Breen Oval)
- Cessnock Goannas v South Newcastle Lions (Cessnock Sportsground)
- Lakes United Seagulls v Western Suburbs Rosellas (Leneghan Oval) – POSTPONED
Sunday 28 March –
- The Entrance Tigers v Macquarie Scorpions (EDSACC Oval)
- Northern Hawks v Central Newcastle Butcher Boys (U19s, reserves – Tomaree Oval)