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June 22, 2024 4:13 AM

A title 36 years in the making

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BY ALEX TIGANI

A talented group of Scone Public School students made history last week.

The Upper Hunter rugby league powerhouse celebrated its first NSW PSSA knockout state title in 36 years with a 14-6 final win against Bathurst Public School at Cessnock’s Baddeley Park.

Scone’s early margin was cut short to 8-6 at the main break before Harlem Lewis landed the title winning try with a late burst.

Staff, parents and classmates were screaming with joy from the grandstand while winning coach Peter O’Brien continued to instruct his boys from afar.

“It was relief, adulation, excitement, surprise; the emotions were everything in one,” O’Brien told The Hunter River Times.

“The boys have worked so hard for it and it has been a long time since the Shield has been brought back to Scone.”

The last time the school had taken out the tournament was in 1986 however the shield has made its way to the Hunter since when Rutherford Public School (2009), Muswellbrook Public School (2010) and Singleton’s King Street Public School (2014) were victorious in recent years.

After a 24-18 Upper Hunter final win against Cessnock West last year the young squad was destined for success in 2022.

The campaign kicked-off in June with a tough 16-6 win against Singleton Public School before dominating Muswellbrook South (44-0), Singleton Heights (38-0) and Nulkaba (36-0).

The following month Scone celebrated a tight 20-16 quarter final win against the Junction Public School while Wirreanda were set to challenge after a 16-0 victory over Rutherford.

Thankfully, O’Brien’s line-up stood superior with a 28-0 win.

They then had to travel to Port Macquarie on August 26 to play in the Semi Finals against Berkleyvale Public, which went to golden point (10-10).

Lewis scored the try on the 3rd tackle in the first play in golden point to secure the 14-10 win.

THRT 40.1 A title 36 years in the making 2
Harlem Lewis capped off a stellar season with the state’s Phil Nash medal.

Scone then celebrated a 34-4 win against Warialda Public School that same day. They had now booked their spot in the big dance.

“The boys just needed to dig deep and do their jobs and get the job done,” he added.

Though every player played their part, Harlem Lewis is the first to ever receive the Phil Nash memorial medal as the player of the championship.

“Harlem is just a freak of a kid, naturally gifted kid and no matter what he tries he succeeds at and this year has been a phenomenal year for him,” he explained.

THRT 40.1 A title 36 years in the making 3
Classmates cheered on from the stands at Cessnock’s Baddeley Park.

“There are exciting times ahead for him for sure.”

Scone Public School will now look to go back-to-back in 2023 as Toby Thompson, Jett Stephens, Jakob Pittman, Charlie Moir and Shaun Liverton remain in the fold.

But for now the class of 2022 will reflect on the year their team’s Captain Jake O’Brien lifted up the shield to end a 36-year drought.

“I just want to thank my Dad (Peter) for taking time off work for doing our trainings and being there for us when we play,” Jake concluded.

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