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REAL NRL: New faces put the sting back into Scorpions

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When the Macquarie Scorpions run onto the field in 2024, you could be forgiven for not recognising the line-up.

While some familiar names are returning to the fold, like local juniors Josh Dimmock, Hainee Ropati, Jake Burke, Shane Beale, Jackson Greenwood and Riley Brady, there is a plethora of fresh talent joining the club as new coach Jye Bayley starts his “rebuild” after a mass exodus in the off-season.

That’s led by former Parramatta Eels duo Peni Terepo and Vai Toutai, Group 6 premiership-winners Hayden Sutton and Mitchell New (Thirlmere Roosters), Lucas Thomson (Cessnock Goannas), Isaac Akuoko (Wyong Roos), Kiwi halfback Emmanuel Cerei, Beau Parnell (Group 21), Anthony Bucca (Ron Massey Cup), Harry Wilson (who is also part of the Newcastle Knights NSW Cup squad), ex-Sydney pathways prodigies Alii-nui Pakutoa (Cronulla), Noah Lester (Cronulla Sharks) and Tristan McKay (Manly Waringah)… to name a dozen or so.

Roos
Wyong Roos winger Isaac Akuoko caused the Macquarie Scorpions a number of headaches in 2023. This season, he’ll don a Macquarie jumper. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

It’s a far cry from the Macquarie team, which contested the 2022 Denton Engineering Cup grand final in Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL).

A couple of retirements and an horrific injury toll derailed the Scorpions last season, which saw them finish in seventh position on the ladder with six wins – eight points behind the fifth-placed The Entrance Tigers.

But, skipper Jordan Noble is quietly confident the side will be more than competitive this year.

“It [2023] was tough, for sure,” he said.

“We endured a shocking injury toll… I think we had 11-12 first-graders missing at one stage.

“I know I went out pretty early, too, after a strong start.

“From about round three or four, it just went downhill with suspensions, injuries etc.

“The guys who ended up playing did well to stay in the race for as long as they did.

“However, 2024 is a new story.

“I think there’s only four or five grade players from last season [here].

“So, we’ve undergone a complete transformation under Jye… but it’s good.

“Everyone’s keen, they’re turning up to training with a smile on their face and enjoying themselves.

“It’s good to see.

“And, the mood in the club’s been great.

“Jye’s brought in a mix of experience and talent, players he thinks are quality for first grade.

“So, I guess no one really knows their position or has that position locked down yet.

“So, everyone’s trying hard to bring their best and show they can play first grade.”

It’s a massive honour. I’ve been at the club since under-11s, so to captain the senior side is awesome.

Jordan Noble

Noble praised the efforts of former Singleton Greyhounds boss Bayley, who’ll guide Macquarie for the next three years, following in the footsteps of former mentors Steve Kidd and Matt Roach.

“Jye’s impressed everyone,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“He’s gained plenty of experience with the Knights in recent seasons… and is very organised.

“He is doing a lot for the club, not just footy wise, but he helps out with the juniors and all that sort of stuff.

“Jye’s determined to ensure there’s depth in the Scorpions across all grades.

“So, he’s a good coach to have around.

“Liaising with the juniors is huge for Macquarie moving forward.

“We’re trying to get them more involved in the club, as well as the Denton Engineering Cup team.

“We had the 11s train with us last week, giving them a feel of what first grade can be like.

“I’m sure they want to start running the 17s through the [seniors] system, too.

“It’s a terrific move.

“I know when I was a kid, I loved seeing the first-graders and having something to do with them.”

It might by why Noble is the perfect man to lead the Scorpions on the field.

A local junior himself, with 222 games under his belt, he’s represented Macquarie 122 times in the Denton Engineering Cup, contesting four grand finals with one premiership in 2017.

“It’s a massive honour,” he said.

“I’ve been at the club since under-11s, so to captain the senior side is awesome… I’m loving it.

“I realise everyone wants to win a title, however we haven’t set any goals as yet.

“Like I said, we don’t really know each other yet, we’re just trying to gel [at training] and play some good footy around each other, enjoy each other’s company.

“So, we’ll take the first round as it comes – when we face Cessnock in Magic Round at No. 2 Sportsground on Saturday 13 April.

“Then we will have a better idea as to how we’re travelling.

“I have no doubt the competition is going to be the best it’s been in a long time.

“It seems a bit more of an even playing field in 2024, with all the new signings.

“That includes our squad… Jye’s bought a lot of players from different competitions and quality ones at that.

“I think we’ll be the underdogs but we’ll definitely surprise people.”

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