Central Newcastle are just 80 minutes away from playing in a Newcastle Rugby League grand final but regardless of Sunday’s result against Macquarie they are already looking stronger next season.
Butcher Boys coach Craig Miller this week secured the services of not one but two former NRL players with Jermaine Ale, his premiership-winning captain at Western Suburbs, and Shane Gray set to bolster the ranks at St John Oval even further in 2018.
Ale, a versatile hardman who played four games with the Canberra Raiders in 2005, missed this year working in Indonesian mines. Prior to that the 32-year-old had been a major part of Wests’ grand final hat-trick between 2012 and 2014.
Gray, also a strong utility who played one match for the Gold Coast Titans in 2013, lined up with the Tugun Seahawks in their most recent Queensland Cup campaign. The 27-year-old South Newcastle product was banned for two seasons midway through 2009 after testing positive to clenbuterol despite arguing the substance was found in prescribed asthma medication.
Miller said he was delighted to sign the pair.
“They are both quality pick ups for us,” Miller said.
“In Jermaine’s case I’ve worked with him for many years at Wests and he was my skipper during those days. I think leadership and seniority is something every club needs and with what we’re trying to do here with our young people I feel he’ll be a fantastic asset on and off the field.
“Shane’s a good footballer whose a big unit and has been through the system with the Knights, Manly and the Gold Coast. It’s nice to bring him home.
“Their endorsement of joining Central also says a lot and they will add depth to the club.”
Last week Central announced that former Knights, Sharks and Sea Eagles hooker Terence Seu Seu had signed with the club for next season. The 29-year-old has played with all three Coalfields teams, most recently Kurri Kurri, in the Newcastle first grade competition since 2012.
The Butcher Boys have also collected outside back Marcel Ikonofo, who sat out this year following what Miller described as “contractual issues” with former club Lakes. He won the 2015 title with the Seagulls but the Newcastle representative’s last game of rugby league was for NSW Country in Samoa in October.
“Plus you get Terence on board and Marcel as well, both ready to go for next year,” Miller said.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction, irrespective of what happens this year, and that was always the plan.”
Meanwhile, in the Queensland Cup finals series Hunter pair Sam Anderson and Matt Soper-Lawler will face off against each other at Dolphin Oval in Sunday’s preliminary final when Redcliffe and Sunshine Coast vie for a place in the decider against the PNG Hunters on September 24.