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REAL NRL: Goannas motivated to go one better in 2023


After narrowly missing a berth in the 2022 Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) decider, the Cessnock Goannas don’t need much motivation to go one better this year.

That’s according to the man who’ll lead the charge, captain-coach Harry Siejka.

The talented outfit, which snared fourth spot on the ladder, appeared to be in the box seat for higher honours when it held a 20-12 advantage over the Macquarie Scorpions midway through the second half of the preliminary final.

But, their opponents flew home with a wet sail to prevail 26-20 to progress to the “big dance” at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Cessnock Goannas captain-coach Harry Siejka, with fellow team-mates, showcases their specially-designed jerseys in 2022.

“I’ll admit, it was disappointing the way it ended,” Siejka said.

“However, throughout the whole season, the most pleasing thing would have been the amount of local juniors who debuted in the top grade.

“I think more than 50%, who played their first match, were hometown kids – and good ones at that.

“A few of them have now gone back into the Newcastle Knights’ system.

“But, at the end of the day, I believe we could’ve reached the grand final.

“We probably self-imploded in that last 10 minutes against the Scorpions in the play-off.

“Whether that was down to lack of experience or just game management, it wasn’t nice.

“However, we’ll learn from that.

“I know it’s lit a fire in a few of the older blokes, like myself, Josh Charles and Kori Barber.

“The way we finished, we were pretty dirty to come away one win short of the decider.

“We thought we deserved to be there – after doing everything hard throughout the year.

“Then towards the semis, we suffered a couple of key injuries to Jarred Anderson and Pita Godinet.

“I’m not using that as an excuse but, I think if we had them on deck, they would have made a difference.

“It’s probably a season that got away from us.

“But, I’m looking at our squad this season… and I’m excited by what lies ahead.

“Most of the guys have returned.

“Plus, we boasted 10 boys in the representative fixtures at Cessnock at the weekend.

“That’s a big coup for the club to have that amount of talent making its mark.

“I’m very happy with that.”

Siejka said the Goannas, who face the South Newcastle Lions at home in round one of the 2023 Denton Engineering Cup on Saturday 24 March, were “shaping up well”.

“We’ve had a bit of a shortened pre-season, due to a few extra matches and finishing up late in 2022,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“So, we probably started a bit behind the other clubs.

“But, I think it’s been a blessing in disguise.

“We’re starting to attract good numbers at training the past month – and our first trial takes place this weekend.

“I’m pretty pleased with how everything’s going.

“We’ve got a lot of depth for 2023, so it should be good.

“We’ll give it a red-hot crack.”

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

Denton Engineering Cup round one

Saturday 24 March

  • Cessnock Goannas v South Newcastle Lions (Baddeley Park)
  • Kurri Kurri Bulldogs v Maitland Pickers (Kurri Kurri Sportsground)
  • Wyong Roos v Macquarie Scorpions (Morry Breen Oval)

Sunday 25 March

  • Central Newcastle Butcher Boys v The Entrance Tigers (St John Oval)
  • Northern Hawks v Western Suburbs Rosellas (Tomaree Sportsground)
  • Bye: Lakes United Seagulls

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