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REAL NRL: Club legend Danny Linnane returns to Bulldogs’ kennel

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If there’s anyone who can re-establish the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs as a Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) powerhouse again, it’s Danny Linnane.

In fact, the surname is synonymous with success at the club.

Linnane, brother – and former St George halfback – Steve and nephew Jason starred in the organisation’s historic premiership hat-trick from 1993 to 1995.

Sons Brodie and Jye are more than handy footballers, too, catching the eye of the Newcastle Knights’ talent scouts.

But, in 2023, Linnane’s stepping into the head coaching role following the surprise departure of Aaron Watts.

“This [move] wasn’t planned,” he said.

“I’d come on board to look after the reserves.

“Obviously, things didn’t pan out the way the Bulldogs wanted it to.

“So, instead of appointing a new fresh coach, the club asked me if I’d be interested in the position.

“I thought about it for a few days before saying ‘yes’.

“I was doing quite a fair bit behind the scenes anyway – I’ve been involved with Kurri Kurri since 1992.

“I played all the way through, winning grand finals, and presiding over the juniors in recent times.

“I’ve coached a lot of those [younger] blokes.

“Now, I’m back, in the seniors.”

Although the Bulldogs collected the wooden spoon in 2022, the boys were far from disgraced, which offers Linnane much optimism moving forward.

“So far, we’ve been going good in the pre-season,” he said.

“We’re starting to get a fair few numbers roll up, which is great.

“I’m very pleased with everyone’s attitude.

“We’ve also picked up some Kiwis from Auckland – and most of those guys have impressed me.

“They’ve gone quite well in the trials we’ve had.

“However, it’s a bit hard to judge how we’re travelling because I know the other teams we’ve played weren’t at full-strength.

“Neither were we.

“I won’t really know until our first real test against the Maitland Pickers (at Kurri Kurri Sportsground on Sunday 25 March) as to where we stand.”

Well-respected Kurri Kurri Bulldog Mitch Cullen. Photo: Rod Thompson

Another positive for Linnane is the return of injured stars Mitch Cullen and Tom McKenzie, who are maintaining a presence at the “Kurri Kurri kennel”.

“Mitch will look after the under-19s, we’ve got a good crop of kids coming through,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“He had knee surgery in October; he’s hoping to be back on the field sometime throughout the year.

“But, it’s fantastic to have someone like him involved at the club.

“Tom’s in the same boat.

“He’s out for the season following operations on his ankles.

“However, he’ll be assisting me with the firsts.

“Both of them boast a lot of experience, and have been around the game for a while, so I’m leaning on them a fair bit.”

As for 2023, Linnane admitted he had plenty of work to do.

“Our first goal is to win more matches than last year,” he said.

“If we happen to make the semis, I’d see that as a successful season from where we’ve come from (last).

“We’ve had to recruit heavily outside the Real NRL.

“It can be a real challenge to get people here.

“But, I’m keen to rebuild the reputation Kurri Kurri used to have years ago.

“That’s what I’d like to achieve.”

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

Denton Engineering Cup round one

Saturday 24 March

  • 3pm: Wyong Roos v The Entrance Tigers (Morry Breen Oval)

Sunday 25 March

  • 3pm: Cessnock Goannas v South Newcastle Lions (Baddeley Park)
  • 3pm: Kurri Kurri Bulldogs v Maitland Pickers (Kurri Kurri Sportsground)
  • 3pm: Central Newcastle Butcher Boys v Macquarie Scorpions (St John Oval)
  • 3pm: Northern Hawks v Western Suburbs Rosellas (Tomaree Sportsground)
  • Bye: Lakes United Seagulls

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