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REAL NRL: League fraternity the winner on Sleapy’s Day

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Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) fans are in for a real treat if the weekend’s showdown between the Maitland Pickers and South Newcastle Lions is a precursor to the upcoming play-offs.

While neither side was at its absolute best for the Sleapy’s Day encounter at Townson Oval, there was still plenty to like as the rivals traded fiery blows in the top of the table clash.

And, that in itself made for an entertaining match, with defending premiers Maitland eventually prevailing 24-10 in front of a massive crowd.

Souths Newcastle and Maitland players line up before the match. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

The Pickers stormed to a 12-0 lead; however, Souths narrowed the gap 12-10 before the visitors scored two late tries.

Maitland also entered the fray without Reid Alchin, while the Lions lost strike centre Jarrod Flanagan for a big percentage of the game, as well as several other players due to HIA protocols.

But, all that faded in comparison to the significance of the occasion, raising funds for Sleapy’s Foundation.

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“We really embraced Sleapy’s Day – and the boys bought into it, too,” Pickers’ coach Matt Lantry said.

“I think it was great for Maitland to come here and pick up three wins in 19s, reserves and firsts.

“It just shows where we’re heading as a club and what direction we’re moving in.

“However, at the end of the day, we’re privileged to be a part of Sleapy’s Day.”

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

It’s not the first time in 2023 that the Pickers have supported a local charity.

“We linked up with Emma’s Warriors not long ago, through Brendan Walsh at Lakes United, and saw what they did for his little girl, who’s battling leukaemia,” Lantry said.

“It is what the rugby league community does.

“They get together and look after each other, particularly those in need.

“I’m proud to say Maitland has donated just over $7,000 through players sacrificing a portion of their match payments, and club investments as well, to assist the charity.

“So, after that, it was a nice link-in to Sleapy’s Day for us.

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“There’s a bigger story than just what took place out there on the footy field.

“It’s about what Sleapy’s Foundation does.

“And, if we can contribute with promotion – our specially-designed jerseys will be auctioned afterwards – and play a small role in helping them on their wonderful day, we’ll do it.

“It’s all for a good cause.”

The 14-point triumph also officially ensured the Pickers secured their third consecutive minor premiership.

But, Lantry has an eye on a much larger prize.

“That was the hit-out we needed,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“We had two weeks off, so we’ve been a bit rusty.

“However, I’m proud of the fact that even though we were poor in the second half – after 20 minutes we’d completed at 45% and put ourselves under all sorts of pressure – we still dug in.

“Our last 20 was really good.

“We could have leaked a few more points, but this crew has great resolve.

“They were tremendous in that last 20, they turned a corner and got the job done.

South Newcastle Lions five-eighth Ryan Glanville kicks his side out of trouble. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“We go into The Entrance next weekend for another hard one.

“And, that’s what finals footy is all about.

“Not just being good one week; you’ve got to be good every week.

“So, I’m really happy with that effort.”

Maitland struck early when hooker Alex Langbridge threw a dummy and caught Souths napping. Brock Lamb converted for 6-0.

In the 11th minute, the Pickers spun the ball out along the backline and winger James Bradley touched down in the corner. Lamb raised the flags and scoreline to 12-0.

The Lions went close in the latter stages of the half, however an upright – and desperate defence – denied Jack Welsh.

Still, Maitland went to the break ahead 12-0.

South Newcastle Lions fullback Reeve Howard and Maitland Pickers second-rower Mitch Cullen. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Souths came out strong after the interval with winger Marshall Sing scoring out wide. Harry Croker failed to convert, the hosts trailing 12-4.

Ten minutes later, Harry Van Dartel grabbed an intercept and raced 90m to send the vocal crowd into a frenzy. Mitch Black reduced the margin to 12-10 with a successful kick.

Both sides lifted the intensity, but it was the Pickers who claimed the spoils.

A short cut-out pass found five-eighth Chad O’Donnell, who dived over in the 70th minute. Lamb added the extras to extend the advantage to 18-10.

Second-rower Mitch Cullen then offloaded to an unmarked Matt Soper-Lawler to seal the victory. Brock capped off a man of the match performance with his fourth goal.

In other fixtures on Saturday, the Cessnock Goannas defeated a spirited Kurri Kurri Bulldogs 40-12, the Macquarie Scorpions thrashed the Northern Hawks 50-6 on Old Boys Day and the Western Suburbs Rosellas produced a major upset, knocking over the fourth-placed Wyong Roos 40-0.

Sunday saw The Entrance Tigers beat the Lakes United Seagulls 28-20, with the Central Newcastle Butcher Boys enjoying the bye.

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

Denton Engineering Cup

Round 17 results:

  • Cessnock Goannas d Kurri Kurri Bulldogs 40-12
  • Macquarie Scorpions d Northern Hawks 50-6
  • Western Suburbs Rosellas d Wyong Roos 40-0
  • Maitland Pickers d South Newcastle Lions 24-10
  • The Entrance Tigers d Lakes United Seagulls 28-20
  • Bye: Central Newcastle Butcher Boys

Round 18 draw:

Saturday 5 August

  • 3pm: Lakes United Seagulls v Kurri Kurri Bulldogs (Cahill Oval)
  • 3pm: Western Suburbs Rosellas v Macquarie Scorpions (Harker Oval)

Sunday 6 August

  • 2pm: South Newcastle Lions v Northern Hawks (Townson Oval)
  • 3pm: The Entrance Tigers v Maitland Pickers (EDSACC Oval)
  • 3pm: Central Newcastle Butcher Boys v Cessnock Goannas (St John Oval)
  • Bye: Wyong Roos

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