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REAL NRL: Pathway to provide opportunities

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Chairman John Crooks has high hopes for Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) in 2022 – and beyond.

That’s because the organisation is determined to create a viable pathways program to the NRL so its players can achieve their dreams.

In recent seasons, the likes of Cessnock Goannas duo Brayden Musgrove and Brodie Jones made their first grade debuts for the Newcastle Knights.

And, Crooks would love to see more youngsters follow suit.

“It’s our main goal: to provide them with opportunities,” he said.

“Developing the players is a big thing for us [this year].

“We want the guys to play the highest level of footy they can for as long as they can.

“If the current crop of blokes sees others being picked up by the Knights, or another NRL club, it’ll spur them on.

“And, if they don’t make it, that’s okay, we’ll have them back.”

The move has garnered plenty of support, too, especially from Newcastle head coach Adam O’Brien.

“Having a strong Real NRL is vital,” he said.

“It’s not only important for the Knights, but the towns of the competing teams itself.

“If the footy’s going well, then the pubs are going well – there’s a flow-on effect and so forth.

“You look at our current squad, on top of Brayden and Brodie, we’ve got local products Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Phoenix Crossland, Jack Johns, Mat Croker, Chris Randall and Pasami Saulo as well as Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti and Bradman Best from the Central Coast.

“So, it’s important to invest in those [Real NRL] clubs.

“I’d really like to be more protective of our area.

“We need to fight hard for the kids.

“And, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the comp this season.”

Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien with Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League CEO Marc Glanville. Photo: Rod Thompson

With the Real NRL kicking off 2022 from Saturday 27 March, Crooks admitted there was a positive vibe throughout the region.

“I can’t wait, I’m very excited,” he said.

“The major objective is to just get through to the grand final.

“For us, 2021 was very, very disappointing.

“But, in the end, there wasn’t much we could do.

“The directions came from above, in regards to what the restrictions were going to be, and we couldn’t operate under them.

“Plus, the safety of all involved is paramount.

“We weren’t going to put the players at risk either.”

Crooks said he felt the current state of Newcastle Rugby League was “exceptionally good”.

“I think we’re in for a close one in 2022,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“The signs were there (in 2021) before everything was cut short.

“Even though we’ve had a 50% turnover of coaches in the off-season, I believe it’s a positive, too.

“The calibre of the newcomers is excellent – Andrew Ryan (South Newcastle), Harry Siejka (Cessnock Goannas), Jamie Forbes (The Entrance Tigers), Ian Bourke (Lakes United Seagulls) and Aaron Watts (Kurri Kurri Bulldogs).

“They boast a lot of experience, which can only be a good thing.

“I believe the competition is getting better year-on-year.”

The season also begins with a new CEO in former Knights legend Marc Glanville.

“He’ll be good for us,” Crooks said.

“MG’s well respected in league circles, knows the game inside out and has plenty of contacts.

“We look forward to seeing what he brings to the organisation.”

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL)

2022 Denton Engineering Cup

Round one

Saturday 26 March

  • 3pm: Wyong Roos v The Entrance Tigers (Morry Breen Oval)
  • 3pm: Cessnock Goannas v Western Suburbs Rosellas (Cessnock Sports Ground)
  • 3pm: Kurri Kurri Bulldogs v Lakes United Seagulls (Kurri Kurri Sports Ground)
  • 3pm: Macquarie Scorpions v South Newcastle Lions (Lyall Peacock Field)

Sunday 27 March

  • 3pm: Central Newcastle Butcher Boys v Maitland Pickers (St John Oval)

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