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You have to look forward, says Lantry

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Matt Lantry hopes it’s a case of “third time lucky” when he oversees the Maitland Pickers’ Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) campaign in 2022.

Now entering season three as coach of the club, the highly-respected mentor would be more than happy to see the back of COVID-19.

In 2020, the Pickers’ first grade outfit left the Real NRL to contest the NSW President’s Cup, which they won, after the pandemic affected the make-up of the local competition.

Then, 12 months later, when Maitland captured the minor premiership, Newcastle officials were forced to abandon the play-off series… again due to coronavirus and subsequent health orders.

“To be honest, we haven’t really spoken about 2021 too much as a team,” Lantry said.

“Obviously, we were disappointed at the time.

“We didn’t even get an opportunity to meet up together post that; we didn’t host a presentation, just an informal gathering, which doubled as the start of the 2022 pre-season.

“Looking back, it was a good year to lead the comp by six points with one round to go.

“But, it is what it is.

“You have to look forward – and put all that behind us.

“In the back of our mind, while we achieved what we did in 2020, we still haven’t achieved anything locally yet.

“So, that’s the driving force within our organisation, and behind our senior playing group, that’s for sure.”

Lantry’s thrilled the nucleus of the Pickers squad remains intact, with only Matt Allwood and Tom Hughes the main departures.

“Matty’s taken a job over in Broome while Tommy’s heading out to Dubbo with the in-laws,” he said.

“So, they’ve both moved on, however we haven’t really replaced them.

“We’ve got a few good young blokes coming through in Ethan Butterfield and Jackson Shade.

“We have also snared Lincoln Smith, who’s a Maitland junior.

“He’ll be a handy pick-up.

“Lincoln’s training really well and got himself into a good space.

“Recently, we just signed Reid Alchin from Kurri Kurri, so he’s another good buy for us.

“I’ve had a big rap on him for a long period of time.

“He gives us a bit of depth in the back-row.”

Matt Lantry put his players through their paces during a training session in 2021. Photo: Rod Thompson

With the start of the 2022 Real NRL season less than a fortnight away, the Pickers have fine-tuned their game against the Wyong Roos and Knights’ NSW Cup side in recent weeks.

Although, Lantry admitted, he didn’t take too much away from the latest outing.

“With the weather the Central Coast has endured, it was a real boggy, thick heavy track,” he said.

“Actually, it was quite taxing on the lads.

“It’s hard to get any fluency with our footy on that kind of surface.

“Other than just a hit-out, that’s all I’ll take out of it.

“I was more impressed with our trial against the Knights about three weeks ago.

“We turned up with the right attitude.

“So, I was really happy with where we’re at, at that point, with still plenty of room for improvement.

“But, with the weather we’ve had, it’s been hard for everyone to get on the park.

“We had our first field session, in about a month, on Tuesday night.

“So, we have a lot of work to do between now and round one.

“We’ll look to build those combinations and fluency in attack.

“They’re the things that take a back seat when the weather goes the way it has.

“However, I’m really keen to see how we’ll go against Charlestown in a couple of weeks.

“It should be a great test for the boys.”

In fact, Lantry feels the Pickers are in a great place – both on and off the field.

The organisation welcomed former junior Greg Bird to its pre-season launch at Club Maitland City, hosted about 200 guests, and unveiled a new playing strip.

“We’ve had our best year in regards to securing additional sponsorship,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“I think that goes to show the people are proud with what we’re doing.

“We’ve got some good personalities here that drive a good culture, but we’ve also got some strong leaders on and off the paddock.

“That resonates a little bit with the community, too.

“I believe they like the style of footy of footy we play and the tenacity that we show.

“A lot of local business have come on board to be a part of where the club’s going long term.”

The Pickers face the Central Newcastle Butcher Boys in the opening round at St John Oval on Sunday 27 March.

They then host the Western Suburbs Rosellas at Maitland No 1 Sportsground six days later.

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

Maitland Pickers 2022 draw

  • Round one (Sunday 27 March): v Central Newcastle Butcher Boys (St John Oval)
  • Round two (Saturday 2 April): v Western Suburbs Rosellas (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • Round three (Saturday 9 April): v The Entrance Tigers (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • Round four (Saturday 16 April): v Lakes United Seagulls (Cahill Oval)
  • Round five (Saturday 23 April): v Wyong Roos (Morry Breen Oval)
  • Round six (Saturday 30 April): v Cessnock Goannas (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • Round seven (Saturday 7 May): v Kurri Kurri Bulldogs (Kurri Kurri Sports Ground)
  • Round eight (Saturday 21 May): v South Newcastle Lions (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • Round nine (Saturday 28 May): v Macquarie Scorpions (Lyall Peacock Field)
  • Round 10 (Saturday 4 June): v Central Newcastle Butcher Boys (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • Round 11 (Saturday 11 June): v Western Suburbs Rosellas (Harker Oval)
  • Round 12 (Sunday 19 June): v The Entrance Tigers (EDSACC Oval North)
  • Round 13 (Sunday 26 June): v Lakes United Seagulls (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • Round 14 (Saturday 2 July): v Wyong Roos (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • Round 15 (Saturday 9 July): v Cessnock Goannas (Cessnock Sports Ground)
  • Round 16 (Saturday 16 July): v Kurri Kurri Bulldogs (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)
  • Round 17 (Saturday 30 July): v South Newcastle Lions (Townson Oval)
  • Round 18 (Saturday 6 August): v Macquarie Scorpions (Maitland No 1 Sportsground)

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