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REAL NRL: Rebels keen to tame Colts in Country Championship finale


Newcastle Rebels coach Garth Brennan is calling on his charges to produce another strong start in this weekend’s NSWRL Country Championship final.

The local representative side, eyeing off back-to-back titles in 2024, tackles the Monaro Colts in the decider at the Cessnock Sportsground on Sunday 24 March from 2pm.

It comes after the Hunter outfit dismantled the Northern Tigers 52-0 in the semi at Pirtek Park.

Cessnock winger Honeti Tuha grabbed a hat-trick in the Newcastle Rebels 52-0 victory over the Northern Tigers. Photo: Dynamic Sports Photography 

Although Newcastle piled on the points, with nine tries including a hat-trick to winger Honeti Tuha and a double to fullback Cameron Anderson, Brennan believed the platform for success was laid early.

“It was a lot more better performance than our first round, that’s for sure,” he said.

“Against Central Coast, most of the guys hadn’t played together for a while and were still blowing the cobwebs off.

“We didn’t control the ball very well on that occasion either.

“Whereas, against Northern, we completed our opening eight sets of the game, while they made too many errors… and it took the juice out of them.

“So, our start was really good; it set the tone for the rest of the match.

“And, even though we lost our way a little bit there at the back end of the first half, the initial part of that period made the difference.”

While the Tigers failed to trouble the scorer, Brennan had nothing but praise for their rivals.

“You know the good thing about them is they never stopped trying,” he said.

“That’s great for bush footy and a lot of other areas could learn from them.

“There is a strong role-up of players there; they competed really hard.

“Thankfully, we started very well.

“I mean, it was only 12-0 right up to about five minutes before half-time and we got an intercept try.

“So, they put up an excellent fight, which is good for country league.

“That’s why I was disappointed the week before when Macarthur forfeited, due to a so-called lack of available players.

“They’ve got more guys, and more depth, in Sydney and western Sydney, than Group 21 and surrounds.

“However, they couldn’t make the effort to give back to country football; that’s unacceptable.

“Macarthur knocked Illawarra out, who is really strong as well.

“I’m sure they would have loved to have been alive last week.

“But, the Dragons didn’t get the chance because Macarthur beat them and then forfeited, which is really poor form.”

Northern Tigers’ Daniel Hoogerwerf prepares to stop Newcastle Rebels’ Lewis Hamilton at Pirtek Park at the weekend. Photo: Dynamic Sports Photography

Brennan and his Rebels are now focusing all their attention on grand final opponents Monaro, who eliminated the Northern Rivers Titans 12-8.

And, he’s wary of the dangers the Colts pose.

“I expect them to be really strong,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Sam Williams, who played a lot of NRL for the Canberra Raiders, will lead them around the park.

“He boasts plenty of experience, so I’m sure he’ll be the man pulling the strings.

“It’s always a good league breeding ground down there, Monaro and Canberra.

“They’ll be tough because they’re farmers and country boys, like the Tigers last weekend, so they won’t take a backward step.

“We know they’ll come ready to play, so we’ve got to make sure that we start well again.

“At this stage, we only have one injury concern, hooker Luke Huth.

“He was seeing the doctor and the physio during the week.

“He played on with it [injury], so hopefully it’s not too serious and we’ll get him right for the weekend.

“I’m a massive fan of Luke… he’s a super player and should be in the NRL somewhere.”

While on the subject of the NRL, Brennan took time to applaud the efforts of high-profile stars Blake Ferguson (Cronulla Sharks, Canberra Raiders, Sydney Roosters, Parramatta Eels), Will Smith (Penrith Panthers, Parramatta Eels, Gold Coast Titans, Wests Tigers) and Peni Terepo (Parramatta Eels).

“It’s been great having those boys on board,” he said.

“When I first asked Blake whether he was interested in playing, he replied ‘I’d love to as long as I’m not taking someone else’s position’.

“That’s a terrific attitude and he’s been fantastic for the blokes around him.

“It’s the same for Peni and Will.

“They’ve been willing to help the younger players and that’s why I brought them into the squad.

“Also, they give the guys around them, as well as those against them, a bit of a thrill.

“I wouldn’t imagine too many of the Northern Tigers have played against someone like Blake, an Australian Test and NSW State of Origin star, and a premiership winner.

“It’s a chance for them to test themselves against a guy who’s been there and done that before.

“That doesn’t happen every day.”

  • Newcastle Rebels: Cameron Anderson (Central Newcastle Butcher Boys), Honeti Tuha (Cessnock Goannas), Matt Soper-Lawler (Maitland Pickers), Blake Ferguson (Kurri Kurri Bulldogs), Will Nieuwenhuise (Maitland Pickers), Chad O’Donnell (c – Maitland Pickers), Will Smith (Western Suburbs Rosellas), Jayden Butterfield (Maitland Pickers), Luke Huth (Cessnock Goannas), James Taylor (Maitland Pickers), Lewis Hamilton (South Newcastle Lions), Lincoln Smith (Maitland Pickers), Ben Stone (Western Suburbs Rosellas), Ryan Glanville (South Newcastle Lions), Jack Welsh (South Newcastle Lions), Liam Wiscombe (Western Suburbs Rosellas), Peni Terepo (Macquarie Scorpions), Matt Moon (South Newcastle Lions)

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