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REAL NRL: Ryan determined to ensure Lions roar again

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Andrew Ryan has returned to the helm of the South Newcastle Lions in 2022 – and it’s a perfect fit for the former NRL champion.

Following a stellar career, in which he played 291 first grade games for the Parramatta Eels (73) and Canterbury Bulldogs (218), the man known as “Bobcat” linked up with the Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) club when he moved to the Hunter in 2015.

The Dubbo product also spent time, after his retirement in 2011, nurturing youngsters in regional areas, highlighting his desire to “give something back” to the game.

However, he’s determined to ensure the Lions roar again.

“I’ve been here, or close by, for a while,” Ryan said.

“My boys have played juniors [at South Newcastle] for six or seven years.

“So, I’ve floated around the club since I played a match, in 2015, with the Lions, helping them out.

“I had a couple seasons of coaching, too, in 2019 and 2020 and then went across to the [Newcastle] Knights last year.

“Now, I’ve returned and it’s awesome being back.

“They are a really good bunch of lads; they’re a top crew.

“The core group of players have been here for a while.

“So, I was really keen to keep them on board.

“And, also, there is a good team of people just helping out around the organisation as well.”

If anyone can lift the Lions, who collected the unwanted wooden spoon in 2021, it’s Ryan.

He’s an NRL premiership winner, with the Bulldogs in 2004, and represented the NSW Blues 12 times, with a further 11 appearances for the Australian Kangaroos, after making his debut for the Eels against the Brisbane Broncos in 2000.

“South Newcastle seemed to be in the hunt in a lot of their matches,” he said.

“Then, in the last 10-to-15 minutes, they’d let a few tries in, which blew the scorelines out a bit.

“It’s not the only reason [why I took on the role], but I knew that there were a lot of good players at the club.

“I’m not aware of what happened last season, whether they just had an off year.

“However, it’s why I was keen to keep them all on board in 2022.”

Captain Andrew Ryan is tackled during the round 24 NRL match between the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs at Brookvale Oval on 21 August 2011. Photo: Getty Images

The Lions campaign suffered a little setback at the weekend when their showdown with the Macquarie Scorpions fell victim to the weather gods.

But, Ryan said they were primed for their next opponents, The Entrance Tigers at EDSACC Oval North on Sunday 3 April.

“It was very disappointing to have our first match washed out,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“I know we had some rain, however it was frustrating.

“It’s hard to gauge how the Tigers are travelling.

“Their game [on Saturday] was played in torrential rain – so it’s tough to get an indication on what they’re like in 2022.

“We’ve only had one trial, but we’ll obviously need to be good.

“The weather could be a factor [again] in this round, too.

“You never know what will happen.

“Every team would have a goal of at least playing semi-final football in 2022.

“So, we’re no different – we’ll be certainly trying to do that.

“Just to get a game would be good at the moment.”

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

Denton Engineering Cup

Round one results:

  • Maitland Pickers d Central Newcastle Butcher Boys 24-10
  • Wyong Roos d The Entrance Tigers 16-12
  • Cessnock Goannas d Western Suburbs Rosellas 14-10
  • Kurri Kurri Bulldogs v Lakes United Seagulls – postponed
  • Macquarie Scorpions v South Newcastle Lions – postponed

Round two draw:

Saturday 2 April

  • 3pm: Cessnock Goannas v Lakes United Seagulls (Cessnock Sports Ground)
  • 3pm: Maitland Pickers v Western Suburbs Newcastle Rosellas (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • 3pm: Kurri Kurri Bulldogs v Macquarie Scorpions (Kurri Kurri Sports Ground)
  • Washed out: Wyong Roos v Central Newcastle Butcher Boys (Morry Breen Oval)

Sunday 3 April

  • 3pm: The Entrance Tigers v South Newcastle Lions (EDSACC Oval North)

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