Livestream: Watch the game on Sunday from 3pm here
SOUTH Newcastle have made no secret of the fact they are striving to match the professionalism of local rivals Western Suburbs.
VERSATILE: Todd Hurrell fires out a pass against Kurri Kurri. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
Lions coach Adam Bettridge lured Greg Hurrell from the Rosellas this season as his assistant and signed his son Todd Hurrell, Ryan Pywell and Ryan Lippiatt.
The Merewether club, who have been perennial under-achievers since their last premiership in 1989, have adopted post-match ice baths and Monday recovery sessions.
Todd Hurrell’s arrival is a coup. Over the previous four years the lock, back-rower or five-eighth had become one of Wests’ most reliable and versatile players.
Bettridge wanted Hurrell, who is only 24 but has played in two grand finals and won a premiership, for his experience and leadership.
He, Pywell and Lippiatt will return to Harker Oval tomorrow with their new club to face the Rosellas in round seven of Newcastle Rugby League.
“There’s obviously lots of good mates there and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Hurrell said of playing Wests.
“It’s pretty true what Barney [Wests coach Craig Miller] said last year: you have mates for life once you win a grand final.”
While Hurrell’s father’s move to Townson Oval convinced him to follow, a chance to play his preferred position of lock to improve his representative credentials was also a major consideration.
“Obviously the rep side has already been picked for this year, but it’s something I definitely want to do at some stage,” he said. “It’s something I haven’t ticked off yet.”
For Pywell and Lippiatt the move was about first-grade opportunities. Both have taken it wholeheartedly.
Pywell is arguably the form winger of the competition with seven tries.
“They’re both going great guns,” Todd Hurrell said.
“It’s always like that at Wests, with players held back in reserve grade who are first-graders at any other club.
“They made the bold move to come across and they’re doing well from it.
“They’re excited to play against their old club, but they’re pretty calm at the same time.”
Meanwhile, the other blockbuster clash of the weekend is today, when Macquarie host Kurri Kurri at Peacock Field.
The Scorpions are the only undefeated club in the competition, while the Bulldogs are barking loudly after consecutive victories over Souths and Wests.
Ex-Knights back-rower Daniel Abraham has been ruled out for a month with a dislocated shoulder for Kurri, and captain-coach George Ndaira has put his faith in teenager Hayden Smith as the replacement.
The under-20s recruit from Queensland was drafted to the Bulldogs through the Knights’ player placement program.
“He hasn’t gotten a game in the 20s yet and he rang me during the trials and I met up with him and he’s been training with us,” Ndaira said.
“He’s a good young kid and he’s still got another year in the 20s at the Knights, and I dare say he’ll be playing a fair bit of footy.
“Every week he’s definitely improving and listening, and having guys like Daniel Abraham and Reegan Tanner is definitely helping him out.”