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REAL NRL: Lions hope Sleapy’s Day brings out their best

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The South Newcastle Lions are hoping to replicate the feats of 2016 when they host the ever-popular Sleapy’s Day this weekend.

On that occasion, the Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) outfit stormed home to beat the highly-fancied Macquarie Scorpions and claimed a prestigious club championship.

Fast forward to 2013… and Souths find themselves in a similar position again when it tackles Denton Engineering Cup defending champions Maitland Pickers at Townson Oval on Saturday 29 July.

The Real NRL pacesetters sit atop the ladder, with the Lions breathing down their necks in second spot.

Adding to the atmosphere is Sleapy’s Day, the annual event, which raises much-needed funds for Sleapy’s Foundation, established by former Souths premiership-winner Peter Sleap.

In just over a decade, it’s amassed and distributed almost $1 million since its humble beginnings in 2010.

“This game means absolutely everything to us,” president Steve Young said.

“Right from the start of the year, players are asking when it is, what’s the date, who are we playing?

“So, it’s really good this season that we booked Maitland in early.

“Now, it is No 1 versus No 2 on the table.

“And, with the Pickers being the benchmark for a few years, this showdown will be an absolute cracker.

“We couldn’t have scripted it any better.

“I mean, I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it.”

While Maitland put the Northern Hawks to the sword 44-4 in round 16, Souths venture into the clash refreshed after a two-week break.

“It’s given coach Andrew Ryan and the boys some time to reset,” Young said.

“But, they’re firing at the moment… and we’re happy about that.

“They’ve been absolutely faultless.

“However, our real test is this week on Sleapy’s Day.

“When we met the Pickers in round one (April), it was 20-12 and they didn’t really put it on us.

“We’ve improved since then.

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“In saying that, we do have a hell of a lot of respect for Maitland and that side.

“We’ve got plenty to be proud of this season, too.

“But, we haven’t really won anything yet.

“Winning 10 in a row is a magnificent benchmark.

“And, if we can finish the year strong, grab second and get two bites, we’d love to see the Pickers in the grand final.

“That’s still some time away.

“Remember in 2022, Central Newcastle won 11 consecutive matches… however, they bowed out of the semis quickly.

“So, that form counted for nothing.

“It’s just really, really good to get that continuity happening, absolutely.

“However, it’s got to lead to something.

“It is like being given tools but not having a job.

“We need to make something out of it.

“We’ve got Maitland and then the Hawks… after that it’s all a new ball game as semi-final football is totally different.”

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Young was quick to recall the Lions’ most memorable Sleapy’s Day.

“It would have to be 2016, for sure,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“We were playing Macquarie and Jared Edwards leapt above the pack to grab a cross-field kick to score in the corner.

“That not only got us a Sleapy’s Day victory; it also secured our first club championship in a lot of years, following Lakes upsetting Wests.

“Even the great man, the late John Fleming, had a tear in his eye.

“Capturing a premiership is great.

“But, winning a club championship shows the depth and the harmony in a club.

“In 2023, that’s a really tight battle between us and Maitland.

“So, who knows, it may come down to a pass or a kick again.”

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

Denton Engineering Cup

Round 16 results:

  • Western Suburbs Rosellas d Central Newcastle Butcher Boys 28-26
  • Cessnock Goannas d Wyong Roos 24-16
  • Maitland Pickers d Northern Hawks 44-4
  • Lakes United Seagulls d Macquarie Scorpions 34-22
  • The Entrance Tigers d Kurri Kurri Bulldogs 38-14
  • Bye: South Newcastle Lions

Round 17 draw:

Saturday 29 July

  • 3pm: Kurri Kurri Bulldogs v Cessnock Goannas (Kurri Kurri Sports Ground)
  • 3pm: Macquarie Scorpions v Northern Hawks (Lyall Peacock Field)
  • 3pm: Wyong Roos v Western Suburbs Rosellas (Morry Breen Oval)
  • 3pm: South Newcastle Lions v Maitland Pickers (Townson Oval)

Sunday 30 July

  • 3pm: Lakes United Seagulls v The Entrance Tigers (Cahill Oval)
  • Bye: Central Newcastle Butcher Boys

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