MATT Shipway’s proudest achievement has been his central role in taking Souths from Newcastle Rugby League’s perennial under-achievers to semi-final regulars.
The former Lions captain-coach and his childhood friend Joe Cudmore have both announced plans to leave the club after this season.
Cudmore will retire from rugby league altogether and will move to the Gold Coast, while Shipway is hoping to travel overseas and play footy and then most likely return to his home town of Port Macquarie.
In 2011, after a year with the club, Shipway took on the captain-coach role and recruited Cudmore from Port Macquarie.
Shipway off-loaded the coaching role to his former assistant Adam Bettridge this year and it has resulted in his most successful individual season.
He was selected for the Newcastle Rebels for the first time and is now preparing for his NSW Country debut in South Africa in October.
But Shipway’s proudest achievement is guiding the Lions to three consecutive finals series after a play-off drought that extended back to 1999.
‘‘We set a few goals a few years ago to turn it around and I’ve been lucky enough to do that and leave the place in a good space,’’ Shipway said. ‘‘I’m definitely proud of what we’ve done here.’’
Souths host Cessnock at Townson Oval on Saturday and a victory would guarantee third place or even second if Macquarie defeat Western Suburbs.
‘‘Until two weeks ago I thought we might have been on the slide as well, but knocking off the top two teams has given us a shot in the arm,’’ Shipway said.
‘‘The last two years we’ve limped into the semis with injuries, and a lot of it comes down to luck and how your team is shaping up.’’
Despite his diminutive stature, Cudmore has become one of the premier hookers in the competition and one of its toughest competitors.
A shoulder injury kept the one-time Manly Jersey Flegg recruit out of last week’s win over Macquarie.
The growing toll on his body played a role in the 28-year-old’s decision to hang up the boots.
‘‘I’ve had a gutful,’’ Cudmore said.
‘‘I’ve been around a while now and the body’s not coming back from the knocks as quick as it should.’’
Cudmore had initially planned to retire last season.
‘‘Bettridge rang me up at the end of the year and twisted my arm,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m certainly glad he did as I’ve got a good thing going with the club.’’
Meanwhile, Souths will donate more than $10,000 to charity on Saturday as part of their annual Sleapy’s Day.
Beneficiaries of the day include the oncology unit at the Westmead Children’s Hospital and the Leukaemia Foundation.