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REAL NRL: Lions primed to pounce in GF, says Dureau


You couldn’t wipe the smiles off the faces of South Newcastle Lions coach Andrew “Bobcat” Ryan or his assistant Scott Dureau at the weekend.

Admittedly, that was after they both calmed down following their side’s thrilling come-from-behind 28-22 victory over the Cessnock Goannas in the Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) preliminary final at the Kurri Kurri Sportsground.

Souths trailed 14-4 at the break and, again, early in the second half, 20-10, before storming home – via tries to livewire Jarom Haines, skipper Ryan Glanville and hooker Mitch Black.

In fact, it was left until the 74th minute to grab the lead and secure the remaining berth in the Denton Engineering Cup decider against the Maitland Pickers.

Souths coach Andrew Ryan and assistant Scott Dureau talk tactics during the preliminary final. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“Exciting, heart-stopping… it was a cracker of a game,” Dureau summed up.

“Obviously, Cessnock was outstanding.

“They came to play and they actually gave it to us in the first period.

“However, they lost (Harry) Siejka at the start of the second, which was huge for them.

“Even though it was a turning point, I believe we began the match poorly anyway.

Retiring South Newcastle Lions prop Brendon Simpson. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“I know we led 4-0, but our discipline and poor handling let us down.

“Thankfully, we gradually put ourselves back into the contest… maybe it was a hangover from last week [against Maitland].

“So, it was great to see them finish really strong.

“That’s pleasing heading into the grand final.”

Dureau, who made 42 NRL appearances for the Newcastle Knights from 2007 to 2010, was especially delighted to witness the Lions’ “never-say-die” attitude.

“It’s been like that all year,” he said.

“The boys have just got on with the job, no matter what’s happened, whether it’s injuries throughout the game, concussions, different things, which have occurred.

“Even when guys have been forced to change positions, due to circumstances, no one’s complained.

“They take it all in their stride… and they did it again [on Saturday].

“No one complained when the Goannas led 14-4 at half-time.

“They still did what they needed to do.

“So, that win was just great to be involved in.”

Souths assistant coach Scott Dureau consoles Cessnock Goannas hooker Luke Huth after the match. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Fullback Reeve Howard, centre Harry van Dartel, halfback Angus Ernst, second-rowers Lewis Hamilton and Harry Croker, and lock Jack Welsh also contributed strongly.

But, that’s probably unfair on the other squad members, who never put a foot wrong either.

The big ask now is to back it up when they face the defending premiers, the Pickers, at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday 2 September.

While Maitland has enjoyed the spoils over Souths on three occasions this season, there’s not much between the combatants.

In round three, in April, the Pickers prevailed 20-12 and claimed the honours on Sleapy’s Day, 24-10, last month.

A fortnight ago, in the major semi, Maitland walked away victors 24-22.

Scott Dureau puts the Lions through their paces before the preliminary final. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“We won’t go down without a fight,” Dureau told the Newcastle Weekly.

“The boys were pretty disappointed to lose a fortnight ago.

“We thought we played good enough to win.

“However, you know, the best team doesn’t always come out on top.

“So, we need to go into this week and do better than we did the last time.

“The Pickers are obviously a great side; they’ve proven that for a number of years.

“But, we know we can match it with them, so the job is on us to get it done.”

The grand final is scheduled to kick off at 2pm, following the reserve grade and under-19 clashes.

Tickets can be purchased now at:

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

2023 play-offs:

Preliminary final results

  • Denton Engineering Cup: South Newcastle Lions d Cessnock Goannas 28-22
  • Reserve grade: Western Suburbs Rosellas d Cessnock Goannas 22-8
  • Under-19s: Western Suburbs Rosellas d Maitland Pickers 20-12

Grand final draw

Saturday 2 September

McDonald Jones Stadium

  • Gates open: 9.45am
  • Under-19s: 10.15am – Lakes United Seagulls v Western Suburbs Rosellas
  • Reserve grade: Noon – Maitland Pickers v Western Suburbs Rosellas
  • Denton Engineering Cup: 2pm – Maitland Pickers v South Newcastle Lions

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