Pickers’ premiership a memory to savour
BY ALEX TIGANI
If you travelled from Singleton to see this year’s Newcastle Rugby League grand final, chances are you remained in the grandstand after the match.
Moments after guiding the Maitland Pickers to a historic 40-4 grand final win against the Macquarie Scorpions, premiership hero James Bradley burst through to McDonald Jones Stadium crowd and launched up the grandstand to see his adoring fans.
It was only then, when reaching his sea of family and hometown friends, the title of ‘Newcastle RL premiership player’ had sunk in.
“I didn’t expect any of that when I joined Maitland at the start of 2020,” Bradley told The Hunter River Times.
“I’m excited that it has all happened and grateful for it.”
The Pickers made history when defeating the Glebe Burwood Wolves 17-16 in the 2020 NSW Presidents Cup final at Parramatta’s Bankwest Stadium.
The following year they seemed set for a drought breaking Newcastle RL title only for the 2021 covid lockdown to cancel the season.
There was no stopping the Pickers this time around.
The final 40-4 marked the Pickers’ highest grand final score in history, surpassing their dominant 30-19 win against Lakes United in 1971.
“I still remember just turning around and seeing all of the reggies boys run onto the field after the game, one of a few memories for sure,” Bradley added.
It also marked another title for coach Matt Lantry who has added to his previous premierships at Western Suburbs (2019) and Greta Branxton (2009).
“Matt’s main message was to keep doing what we were doing, we had the plan to go through the middle and play a middle games,” Bradley continued.
“I think the halves and the forwards executed that pretty well and he was happy with us to keep doing what we were doing and not to fall for the shit they were giving us.”
Fellow Singleton Greyhound Will Nieuwenhuise also made the switch from Pirtek Park after the 2019 Group 21 season.
Injury restricted him from NSW Presidents Cup win in 2020 however he return to top form this year and joined Bradley on the dais.
Singleton’s Oliver Moody was also amongst the celebrations as the Pickers’ strength and conditioning coach.
The trio posed for a photo with the Denton Cup after the final, a photo three years in the making.