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REAL NRL: O’Donnell, Lamb praise Pickers’ big men

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The Maitland Pickers will vie for their first Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) crown in more than a decade after disposing of the Macquarie Scorpions at the weekend.

The 2022 minor premiers, who last held aloft the trophy in 2011, prevailed 42-14 at No 1 Sportsground on Saturday to move into the decider at McDonald Jones Stadium on 11 September.

There, they’ll face either the Scorpions or the Cessnock Goannas, who’ll meet in the upcoming preliminary final.

Maitland enjoyed a handy 16-4 lead at the break in the major semi before lifting a gear or two in the second half.

“It was a good game to get through,” five-eighth Chad O’Donnell said.

“Hopefully, we can go one better in a couple of weeks’ time.”

Even though the crafty playmaker grabbed a hat-trick, and his halves partner Brock Lamb scored 22 points from a try and nine goals, O’Donnell admitted the team’s big men deserved the praise.

Props James Taylor and Jayden Butterfield led from the front, however gained plenty of support from Reid Alchin, Lincoln Smith, Sam Anderson, Faitotoa Faitotoa, Pat Mata’utia-Leifi and Peter Wilson.

“Our middle and bench were unreal,” he said.

“It’s something we sort of lacked during the season due to injuries and other things.

“But, the boys set the platform for Brock and myself.

“And, the reserves did a terrific job when called upon – they provided the energy, which took us to that next level.”

O’Donnell said it was now imperative for the Pickers to keep their “heads down” and work hard in the lead-up to the finale.

“We boast a great coaching staff, who’ve been there and done it before,” he explained.

“Most of the guys have gone through it, too.

“So, having another week off isn’t much of an issue.

“We just need to stay focussed.

“We’ll also have the opportunity to freshen the bodies – and be 100% ready to go [next month].

“If we keep doing what we’re doing and go through the proper processes in grand final week, it should hold us in good stead.”

In the other fixture, at Townson Oval, the Goannas maintained their giant-killing run by eliminating the Central Newcastle Butcher Boys.

After trailing 16-6 at oranges, Cessnock prevailed 22-16.

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL)

Denton Engineering Cup

  • Major semi-final: Maitland Pickers d Macquarie Scorpions 42-14
  • Minor semi-final: Cessnock Goannas d Central Newcastle Butcher Boys 22-16

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