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REAL NRL: Souths lock in coaching staff until end of 2026

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Stability is a key ingredient for any sporting organisation’s hopes of achieving long-term success.

And, the South Newcastle Lions now have that in spades after locking in their coaching staff until the end of the 2026 Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) season.

Denton Engineering Cup mentors Andrew “Bobcat” Ryan and Scott Dureau, who guided the side to the 2023 grand final, have agreed to extend their contracts for a further two years, while the club’s also secured the services of Wests Tigers premiership winner Daniel Fitzhenry (reserve grade) and ex-Newcastle Knight Jarrod O’Doherty (under-19s) for the same period.

South Newcastle secretary Ross Hodge admitted it was a major coup for the Lions on the eve of the 2024 competition.

“We’re delighted to have all the guys staying on,” he said.

“In Andrew’s case, he’s the best coach we’ve had for some time.

“He brings a lot to the club in terms of his experience, his knowledge of the game.

“Bobcat’s got a track record that can’t be beaten.

“But, above all of that, he generates enthusiasm… and his family gets involved, too.

“He’s great for the Lions.

“He loves the club, we love him… so, it’s a natural match.”

Hodge said South Newcastle was determined to plan for its future, now rather than later.

“Last year, we won 10 consecutive matches and reached the decider,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“So, it’s about building on that – and moving forward.

“The new points system in Newcastle Rugby League means you can develop your pathways as well.

“We’ve pretty much kept the same squad as 2023, except for a few retirees, and we’ve attracted a few more blokes.

The guys have worked hard and gone to some dark places… but, you’ve got to go there if you want to win games.

Andrew Ryan

“It’s another chance to go to the next level.

“The Real NRL is a very, very tough competition and this season will be no different, especially with all the player signings.

“So, keeping the crew together certainly helps us.

“They all know Andrew and they know what he’s capable of… they trust him.

“We’re fortunate we have a lot of very good blokes here.

“Plus, Bobcat brings enjoyment to the training sessions, he brings his boom box down, he brings his kids down; everyone has a great time.

“There is a lot of fun.

“Don’t worry, there’s also plenty of hard work – that all goes together into the results that we’ve been getting.

“And, it’s not just first grade.

“It’s right through the reserves, 19s and our women’s teams; they’re all involved.

“We all train together and they all enjoy themselves, which is what it’s about.”

The Real NRL kicks off with its inaugural Magic Round at No. 2 Sportsground on Saturday 13 April.

However, due to a bye, the Lions return to the playing paddock a week later.

Ryan, who won an NRL title with the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2004, said his charges would be “ready to go”.

“We’ve been training since early December, so we’ve been rolling for a few months,” he stated.

“The plan is to turn up our goals a little bit more again this year.

“The guys have worked hard and gone to some dark places… but, you’ve got to go there if you want to win games.

“Thankfully, we’ve still got a bit of time and we’re not playing in Magic Round.

“So, we get an extra week off – and have another opportunity to give it to the boys as well.

“We are heading to Dungowan next weekend, loading the bus up, for a country visit.

“That’s a great chance to bond with the new blokes, too, like Sam Clune (Cessnock Goannas), Matt Moon (Macquarie Scorpions) and Hunter Dever (Redcliffe).”

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