The Newcastle Knights may have been celebrating old boys’ day closer to town but one former premiership winner spent the same afternoon making a difference out in the middle at Toronto.
Retiring Macquarie lock Daniel Abraham, NRL grand final champion in 2001, was in the thick of the action during Sunday’s Newcastle Rugby League qualifying semi-final and scored the match-sealing try for the Scorpions with five minutes remaining.
The powerful reach for the line extended Macquarie’s lead to 12 and it stayed that way at full-time with the home side defeating Central Newcastle 20-8.
It sets up a major semi-final clash with minor premiers Western Suburbs at Harker Oval on Sunday while the Butcher Boys now host Lakes in Saturday’s minor semi-final.
Scorpions coach Adam Bettridge was full of praise for outgoing 36-year-old Abraham, who has come back from multiple injuries suffered in a two-season stint with his junior club including a broken arm.
“I think Daniel Abraham was best on the park,” Bettridge said.
“The amount of work he got through was outstanding in the middle. A lot of clean up work.
“And what Daniel provides for our side is just a steady head. He’s been there and done it before.
“The old legs have only got a few more games left in them and we’re really focused on sending him out the right way.
“He’s a Macquarie junior and it’s terrific to see him get through 80 minutes in the middle of the field for a bloke his age.”
Abraham was not only filling the void for injured Scorpions captain and reigning player of the year Blake Gallen, who broke his leg mid-season, but also missing prop Brendan Worth, whose 2017 has now ended with elbow surgery booked early this week.
Fullback Mitch Manson (quad strain) and utility Nathan Hinton (cork) were rested by Bettridge.
Central’s wounded squad got through the fixture relatively unscathed but now face a do-or-die finals run.
Butcher Boys coach Craig Miller was disappointed with the result but still pleased with the effort of his relatively young group, including the sons of Knights legends Paul Harragon and Ben Kennedy.
“We’re trying pretty hard and I can’t be asking for much more than that,” Miller said. “I was impressed with [Bryce] Kennedy in his second game of first grade.”
The Butcher Boys started on top with a classy piece of play down their left edge finished by winger Justin Worley midway through the first half before a step, swivel and stretch saw Randall Briggs reply at the other end on the 30-minute mark. Macquarie led 6-4 at the break.
Scorpions centre Royce Geoffrey and Briggs then scored back-to-back tries for a 16-4 advantage before Central captain Ethan Cook kept the visitors in the contest following a Brad Murray restart that found touch on the hour.
Abraham put the result beyond doubt 15 minutes later.
Elsewhere and a double to former Cessnock playmaker Liam Foran, who lined up for the Goannas in 2015 and 2016, helped the Aberdeen Tigers claim the Group 21 title on Saturday with a 36-26 victory over hosts the Muswellbrook Rams.
Josh Schmiedel, who played with Macquarie and NSW Country last season, was also part of the Tigers’ premiership.