Newcastle Rugby League: Lakes mark 70th anniversary with special jersey

SEAGULLS: Lakes first grade captain Chris Adams (centre) unveils the club's 70th anniversary jersey at Cahill Oval this week with inaugural Ladies League Tag pair Sarah Dodds (left) and Emily Caton (right). Picture: Josh Callinan
SEAGULLS: Lakes first grade captain Chris Adams (centre) unveils the club's 70th anniversary jersey at Cahill Oval this week with inaugural Ladies League Tag pair Sarah Dodds (left) and Emily Caton (right). Picture: Josh Callinan

Photographs of Lakes internationals such as Albert Paul and Allan Thomson line the inner sanctums of Cahill Oval’s grandstand.

First grade captain, two-time NSW Country player of the year and former Knights hooker Chris Adams is also part of that rich history, leading the Seagulls to their 11th and most recent premiership in 2015.

And the likes of Sarah Dodds and Emily Caton will create a new chapter for those wearing blue and gold, preparing to play in the inaugural Newcastle Rugby League ladies league tag competition.  

The trio of Adams, Dodds and Caton unveiled the club’s special 70th anniversary jersey at Belmont ahead of next month’s season opener, marking seven decades since Lakes first formed at the same venue in 1947.

According to lifetime Seagulls fan, player and current top grade coach Dean Noonan, who grew up just 300 metres from the ground, the milestone is a chance to celebrate the past, promote the present and foster the future. 

It's a great opportunity to tap into that history."

First grade coach Dean Noonan

“It’s a great opportunity to tap into that history,” Noonan said.

“It’s important for players to know what the club is all about and why they’re here, so every time they wear the jumper they respect the jumper.”

Noonan has welcomed former Knights utility Matt Hilder into this year’s squad along with Rebels representative front-rower Ben Tupou from South Newcastle.

The mentor said the majority of last year’s team stay intact, including NSW Country centre Marcel Ikinofo, minus the departures of utility James De Saxe and former NRL halfback Brad Murray.  

The playmaker positions remain up for grabs between existing first graders Jack Kelly, Jay Sullivan and Kyle Kennedy as well as Nick Newman, who returned from Knights under 20s duties last season to kick the winning conversion in Lakes’ dramatic reserve grade grand final.  

It means Adams, who was called up to play five games for the Knights last season, will be key to the Seagulls’ campaign after their most recent minor semi-final exit.

Lakes are the seventh club of the current district crop to reach the 70-year mark with only Macquarie (1970) younger. Central Newcastle, South Newcastle and Western Suburbs are foundation teams from 1910 while Coalfields trio Kurri Kurri, Cessnock and Maitland entered the main competition between 1920 and 1930. 

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Club historian Steve Brown said his most treasured memories came as a boy on the hill watching the Seagulls claim back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975. 

“Sometimes you can’t remember what you did yesterday, but you don’t forget those type of days,” Brown said. 

“It was a big shot in the arm for the town.” 

Adams said an old line passed down the generations at Cahill Oval has stuck with him.

“You always get that call ‘Lakes are mates’ that’s been around for years,” the number nine said.

“Everyone sticks together, even all the old boys hang around the footy now.

“It’s one club I’ve been who love their footy and just enjoy being apart of it even when they’re retired.”

Dodds, 27, and Caton, 22, have recently joined Lakes and were two of five Seagulls players named in the Newcastle Rebels representative squad earlier this month to contest the NSW Country Championships from May.

The ladies league tag side will celebrate their first season in the club’s 70th

“They are really club orientated and have been so welcoming to us,” Caton said.

Dodds chimed in and said it was a significant moment for the sport in the Hunter region.

“We were surprised by the numbers at the trials [recently],” she said.

“There was 25 or 30 in rach, but there was quality there as well”

Lakes host Macquarie in round one of 2017, scheduled for the weekend of April 22 and 23.