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REAL NRL: Foundations for Maitland ‘dynasty’ firmly laid


They came, they saw and they conquered… again.

And, the Maitland Pickers hasn’t finished its dominance in Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) yet.

That’s the vow from gifted five-eighth Chad O’Donnell who, along with halves partner Brock Lamb, played a major role in destabilising the South Newcastle Lions’ plans to knock the current champions off their perch at McDonald Jones Stadium at the weekend.

In the end, there was daylight between the two sides, with Maitland prevailing 46-10.

Maitland Pickers halfback Brock Lamb puts the boot into the South Newcastle Lions. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“How good was that?” he said.

“Everyone did their job to the letter [today], you can’t ask for anything more.

“Souths are a good team, but we totally shut them out.

“People ask if we get sick of winning… and the answer is ‘never’.

“The feeling is the same every time.

“Plus, you can’t beat moments like this, winning a title with your mates.”

A jubilant Gary Anderson pumps his fist after scoring in the corner. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

If anyone thinks Maitland will take its foot off the accelerator, they’re in for a rude shock.

This is just the start of the journey.

“At the beginning of the year, we always set goals at our camps and really nut out what we’re trying to achieve,” O’Donnell told the Newcastle Weekly.

“In 2023, we definitely spoke about creating a legacy.

“The theme was to become one of the most successful sides in Maitland and Newcastle Rugby League history.

“We took out the NSW President’s Cup in 2020, when COVID affected a lot of comps.

“Twelve months later, we – arguably – would have won the Real NRL.

“We were minor premiers, about eight points clear, when the season was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“So, the 2022 and 2023 premierships were always on our minds.

“But, to go back-to-back is an incredible thing.

“It just goes to show the resolve in the playing group here… it’s the same team pretty much bar a couple of players.

“Luckily, we possess an unbelievable coaching staff and an executive, everyone’s great from the committee to the volunteers.

“It’s moments like this that are what it’s all about.”

Brock Lamb collects the Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League man of the match. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Next up for the Pickers is another tilt at an NSW President’s Cup crown.

“We’ll take this week off, recover, reset and enjoy the moment,” O’Donnell said.

“I’m pretty sure our coaching staff will bring us back to earth quickly, so that we’re focused on the next job.

“The motto [at Maitland] is ‘if you want to be at this club, you can’t get sick of winning’.

“We’re not being arrogant, that’s just the culture here.

“And, we plan to continue the theme for a number of years yet.

“It all starts again with the upcoming NSW President’s Cup.

“There are some quality outfits in the Ron Massey Cup and Illawarra region, but we want to add a third title to our resume.”

A move from Kurri Kurri paid dividends for Mitch Cullen on Saturday. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

The Pickers began the grand final in scintillating fashion, with second-rower Lincoln Smith touching down in the seventh minute following a great individual run. Lamb added the extras for 6-0.

Soon after, the Lions went close, however retiring prop Brendon Simpson was held up over the line.

Maitland then applied all the pressure.

A Lamb penalty extended the margin to 8-0.

He then laid on a pass to Dan Langbridge, who found a barnstorming Smith for try number two. Lamb raised the flags and the lead to 14-0.

In the 30th minute, the halfback threw a dummy and stepped inside the defence, copping a knock from Souths winger Jacob Afflick in the process of scoring. That resulted in a sin-binning to the Lion. O’Donnell, taking over the kicking duties, soon made it 20-0.

Three tries in quick succession – to Langbridge, Matt Soper-Lawler and Gary Anderson, all converted by Lamb, sealed their rivals’ fate, especially at 38-0 at the break.

It didn’t get any better for Souths early in the second period.

Smart play from Lamb saw Langbridge cross for his second of the afternoon. Although the former missed the shot, the Pickers led 42-0.

Four-pointers to Jarom Haines and Jhett Butler, plus a Mitch Black goal, gave the Lions’ fans something to cheer about at 42-10.

But, Luke Knight iced the cake in the dying minutes to wrap up the fixture 46-10.

  • MAITLAND PICKERS 46 (Lincoln Smith 2, Dan Langbridge 2, Brock Lamb, Matt Soper-Lawler, Gary Anderson, Luke Knight tries; Lamb 6, Chad O’Donnell goals) defeated SOUTH NEWCASTLE LIONS 10 (Jarom Haines, Jhett Butler tries; Mitch Black goal)

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

2023 grand final results:

  • Denton Engineering Cup: Maitland Pickers d South Newcastle Lions 46-10
  • Reserve grade: Western Suburbs Rosellas d Maitland Pickers 14-6
  • Under-19s: Lakes United Seagulls d Western Suburbs Rosellas 14-11

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