Matt Shipway has a good eye for spotting young rugby league talent.
So, when the premiership-winning mentor, who enjoyed success at the Port Macquarie Sharks and contested two World Cup campaigns with the United States Tomahawks, contacted his former club South Newcastle about a possible recruit, Lions president Terry Davies didn’t hesitate to act.
And, as a consequence, youngster Ben Brennan rocked up to training at Dangar Park, Mayfield, to meet his fellow team-mates during the week.
“If Matt gives him a rap, he must be a fair player,” Davies said.
“Shippy’s a legend [at Souths] – and very well-respected in the area.”
The Lions boss is a massive advocate for nurturing up-and-coming stars, too, especially in the under-19 ranks.
“They’re the future of the club,” Davies said.
“Ben, who is studying at the University of Newcastle, is just one of the kids linking up with Souths.
“We also boast a strong junior base with terrific coaches.
“NRL legends like Mark Hughes, Danny Buderus and Andrew Ryan mentor a few of the teams, as have Nathan Brown and Ben Cross in the past.
“You don’t see that often [these days].
“Newcastle Knights greats Marc Glanville and Michael Hagan lend a hand as well.
“Quite simply, if we don’t concentrate on the kids, we don’t have a club.”
The Lions’ nursery is quite impressive, too, with Souths producing several internationals, State of Origin, NSW Country and local representatives, while Jim Gibbs and Les Johns were named in the Newcastle Rugby League Team of the Century in 2008.
“We’re proud of our historic achievements [since 1910],” Davies said.
“And, I think that’s why we’re still a popular organisation.
“We all train together and look after each other.
“In 2021, I’m keen to see how our new crop of kids perform, guys like Carlin Pettit, Jaiden Tarrant, Jack Welsh, Ryan Glanville, Scott Matthews and Connor Browne to name a handful.
“Then you have someone such as Amy Waterhouse in the women’s blues tag squad.
“She was awarded the prestigious John Fleming Award for typifying the spirit of our great club.”