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REAL NRL: Lions welcome return of strike centre Flanagan

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The South Newcastle Lions’ backline stocks will receive a timely boost this week with the return of strike centre Jarrod Flanagan.

The popular club stalwart suffered a head knock in the qualifying final against the Cessnock Goannas a fortnight ago… and missed the major semi at the weekend due to HIA protocols.

But, after witnessing Souths’ heart-breaking 24-22 loss to the Maitland Pickers in the Denton Engineering Cup, he’s keen to get back to business.

Harry van Dartel grabbed a brace of tries at the weekend. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“I’m working through the concussion procedures, at the moment, however I should be right to go,” Flanagan said.

“Although it was tough sitting on the sideline and watching the guys.

“It was a good game.

“The boys put in for the best part of 80 minutes and just fell short.

“We’re getting closer [to Maitland] every time we play them.

“This time it was two points and I believe we were a bit unlucky in the end.

“There’s no use dwelling on it though, we now need to prepare for Cessnock again.”

A double to Harry van Dartel, and two Harry Croker conversions, gave the Lions a slender 12-10 lead at the break at the Maitland Regional Sportsground.

However, a couple of converted tries in the space of three minutes, allowed the Pickers to sneak ahead 22-12.

Souths’ late rally, via Reeve Howard and Jhett Butler, just wasn’t enough to ruin the defending premiers’ party.

“We’re gaining more confidence each time we face Maitland,” Flanagan said.

“[Today] was a pretty complete performance and, if a couple of things had gone our way, it might have been a different story.

“I’m sure (coach) Andrew Ryan will take a lot away from it.”

South Newcastle Lions coach Andrew Ryan and assistant Scott Dureau watch their players at the weekend. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

The Lions’ next assignment is the Goannas, who eliminated The Entrance Tigers 28-6 in the minor semi.

But, this time, they’re meeting on neutral turf, the Kurri Kurri Sportsground, on Saturday 26 August.

“I can’t see Bobcat (Ryan) or assistant Scotty Dureau changing anything,” Flanagan told the Newcastle Weekly.

“We’ll do the same thing we’ve done all year… and stick to what’s been working for us.

“I’m confident in every single one of the 17 players in the squad, as well as the coaching staff.

“We’ve built a winning culture at Souths, so there’s no need to change anything now.

“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be there [grand final] in two weeks’ time.”

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

2023 play-offs:

Major semi-final

  • Denton Engineering Cup: Maitland Pickers d South Newcastle Lions 24-22
  • Reserve grade: Maitland Pickers d Western Suburbs Rosellas 12-8
  • Under-19s: Lakes United Seagulls d Western Suburbs Rosellas 26-14

Minor semi-final

  • Denton Engineering Cup: Cessnock Goannas d The Entrance Tigers 28-6
  • Reserve grade: Cessnock Goannas d South Newcastle Lions 20-8
  • Under-19s: Maitland Pickers d South Newcastle Lions 18-14

Finals week three

Saturday 26 August – Preliminary final

Kurri Kuri Sportsground, Kurri Kurri

  • Under-19s: 10.45am – Western Suburbs Rosellas v Maitland Pickers
  • Reserve grade: 12.15pm – Western Suburbs Rosellas v Cessnock Goannas
  • Denton Engineering Cup: 2pm – South Newcastle Lions v Cessnock Goannas

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