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REAL NRL: Plenty at stake in reserve grade finale

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Maitland Pickers captain Jarrod Smith wants to end his playing career as a premiership winner this weekend.

But, rival skipper Nick Haggerty hopes his Western Suburbs Rosellas ruin the celebrations.

We’ll find out who prevails when the combatants face off in the Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) reserve grade grand final at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday 2 September.

Western Suburbs Rosellas prop Nick Haggerty and Maitland Pickers hooker Jarrod Smith. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Maitland’s inspirational leader, described as the heart and soul of the club, will hang up the boots when the referee calls full-time.

“It would mean a lot to me, I’ve got no words for it,” Smith said.

“However, for most of the boys, they haven’t been in one before, so it’d be very, very special on everyone’s account.

“All I want to do is just win.”

Haggerty’s answer is just as succinct.

“For Wests, it’d be a special feeling to win, too,” he said.

“But, probably even more so to lift the trophy with some of your best mates… that’s the main thing.”

The Pickers ended the “home and away” rounds as minor premiers, registering 15 wins, including two over the Rosellas 24-4 (two) and 18-14 (eight).

They then accounted for them again in the major semi, 12-8, a fortnight ago.

“Our preparation has been pretty solid,” Smith said.

“All the boys have put in extras.

“So, even though we’ve just had a week off, I think it’s all worked out well in the end.

“Last year hurt us too much, so we didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

“Having a bit of a break was also good for a few of us older blokes.

“We ended up training with our firsts at the weekend.

“So, going up against the best team in the competition, definitely helps our prep a bit.

“I’m happy with where we’re placed.”

Maitland Pickers inspirational leader Jarrod Smith will hang up the boots after this weekend’s grand final. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Smith said Maitland would now turn its attention solely onto Wests, who provided stern resistance in their previous outing.

“Our biggest focus is just staying in the moment,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“We’re not thinking too far ahead.

“We need to stay relaxed and take it one step at a time.

“It’s a cliché, but it’s the main thing for us.”

The Rosellas, meanwhile, booked second spot on the ladder, via 12 triumphs, and progressed into the decider on the back of a 22-8 result over the Cessnock Goannas.

“We’re happy with where we are at,” Haggerty said.

“To be fair, they’re a good bunch of blokes to play with.

“We’ve had a lot of fun, however we’re ready to win come Saturday.

“I reckon this match will go down to the last minute.

“It’ll be 70 minutes of fun.”

Western Suburbs Rosellas captain Nick Haggerty. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Haggerty also feels Wests’ laid-back camp will hold them in good stead.

“We’re trying to stay pretty calm,” he said.

“I believe playing week-in week-out has been good for us.

“While we’ve had a physical campaign so far, this week is stress-free.

“We’re just getting our bodies right for the big game.

“We are not looking too far ahead, just staying calm, soaking it [atmosphere] all up and enjoying each other’s company.

“That’s what has worked for us in 2023.”

Reserve grade line-ups:

  • Maitland Pickers: Bailey Taylor, Jye Bieman-King, Lachlan Matthews, Jackson Shade, Jackson Eckford, Jacob Button, Jye Ireland, Ethan Curtin-Edwards, Jarrod Smith, Daniel Ticehurst, Joseph Barber, Taj Ridley, Leroy Tuivaiti, Ben Ireland, Shaun Bell, Jock Sullivan, Kamilo Visesio, Harry Whitfield, Thomas Baker, Bailey Jenkins, Tyler Rush, Cody Clulow, Dionysse Spathis, Michael McKenzie
  • Western Suburbs Rosellas: Tyler Moodie, Benjamin Glasheen, Lochlan Buller, Dylan Hemsley, Malu Fiu, Joseph Lewis, Isaiah Olsen, Nicholas Haggerty, Harry Reid, Jordan Blundell, Samuel McKenna, Preston Conn, Joe Lumb, Joel Munro, Bronson Meehan, Cain Waterman, Harry Hore, Rhys Williams, Braith Lewis, Jack Bennett

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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