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The Newtown RLFC made progress on several fronts during 2003, and also engaged in new and exciting ventures as we strive to gain financial and organisational stability for the future.
?Newtown?s Premier League team, under the coaching of club legend Colin Murphy, performed with tremendous credit during the season, with several wins against other clubs who made the finals series. The Jets were judged one of the best attacking sides in the 2003 competition. Highlights were the 19 tries scored by class winger Alf Duncan, despite missing six games due to injury; the points scoring feats and personal professionalism of lock Troy Barnes; the superb form shown by half-back Craig Field, still one of the best number sevens in world Rugby League; the marvellous season put in by our Premier League best and fairest player, lion-hearted second rower Billy Najjarin; the inspirational performances turned in Russell Richardson during his five game stint with us, and the gutsy performances by so many players who played wounded at times but refused to let their mates and this club down.
?The young Jets Jim Beam Cup squad, coached by former Queensland State of Origin squad member Trevor Schodel, proved to be highly competitive, with several quality youngsters developing during the season and winning promotion into Newtown?s Premier League team. Particular thanks to popular team manager Gareth Lupton, who despite the disappointment of not being able to play due to a serious leg injury, worked tirelessly in his new managerial role. ?One of the most encouraging events of 2003 was the formation of the Junior Jets JRLFC, who played in the strong South Sydney Juniors competitions. The Junior Jets started with six teams in different age groups, and look like having as many as fourteen teams in 2004. Souths Juniors officials look on the development of the Junior Jets as one of the best news stories in inner-city junior league circles for many years. ?Our new association with the University of Technology Sydney RLFC that plays in the NSWRL Tertiary Cup competition was also a success. Our major sponsor, the Sydney Airport Corporation, provided two generous sports scholarships to two UTS players, and popular Newtown international and life member Phil Sigsworth took charge of their first grade side. Phil single-handedly transformed the UTS club, with their first grade team desperately unlucky to be beaten by a point in the Grand Final, and their reserve graders taking out the title. Both the Junior Jets and the UTS clubs have tremendous potential to be valuable contributors to this club in future years. ?Another milestone for the Newtown club was the staging of an international Rugby League fixture at Henson Park for the first time in the old ground?s history. The Jets hosted the visiting USA Tomahawks, and did it in great style. A crowd of more than 2,500 saw Newtown win easily, but more importantly the Jets provided an important Rugby League developmental opportunity for the Americans. Guests on the day included the USA Consul-General Mrs. Eileen Malloy and many of her Consular staff, as well as Federal and State MP?s and local government representatives. The Consul-General wrote to the Newtown club afterwards congratulating us on the professional presentation of the match, and the great courtesy and friendship shown towards to her and her staff by the Newtown crowd. One of the more intriguing aspects of the afternoon was the sighting of former State Opposition Leader Kerry Chikarovski standing in front of the grand-stand in close proximity to that colourful inner-city identity Tommy Domican! ?The inaugural Frank Hyde Shield series between the North Sydney and Newtown clubs was a tie ? a win each, and then a thrilling 22-all draw in the deciding game at Henson. Frank himself was on hand to present the Shield to both team captains, and the marvellous old legend received a terrific reception from the crowd. Incidentally, next year marks 70 years since Frank made his debut with Newtown in 1934. What a phenomenal contribution he has made to Rugby League and to Australian life!
?Newtown was once again the best-supported and most talked about Rugby League club outside of the NRL in the whole of Australian Rugby League. Likewise, the Jets commanded a greater multi-media presence than any other club in Australia outside of the NRL, and we have a growing club membership extending across several countries. Our home game crowds held up well at Henson Park, and once again the staging the players and supporters reunion at the last home game for the season at Henson Park was a successful promotion, with an excellent crowd in attendance both at the ground and back at the Jets Sports Club afterwards.
?We have a terrific group of quality sponsors on board, including such prestigious business organisations as the Sydney Airport Corporation and the Petersham RSL Club. Other new sponsors included the Hurstville Ritz Hotel (Steve Bowden?s hotel) and Cosmo Luce Lighting, run by 1980?s second rower Jim Emirian. To all our generous sponsors we say thank you so much for helping to keep this famous old club alive and fighting. Steve Bowden generously hosted our Presentation Night at his magnificent Hurstville Ritz establishment, and turned on an absolutely superb evening.
?The Newtown RLFC entered a new era when the Jets Sports Club came to the financial and managerial assistance of the Parkes Leagues Club in central western NSW. The idea was the brainchild of dynamic Jets Director and sponsor Terry Rowney, and stands to be of great logistical benefit to this club in future years. There is no doubt the Country Rugby League is still the best Rugby League nursery in the business ? and the Group 11 competition is in the very heartland of country football. The Parkes Spacemen have been a terrific production line of talented players over the years, and you can be sure that plenty of Parkes lads and other impressive youngsters from Group 11 will want to press their claims for an NRL contract. If they choose to play with Newtown in the NSWRL Premier League, they will be only one step away from the NRL ranks and regularly on show for the NRL talent scouts. This whole venture is a classic example of how far Newtown has advanced as a viable business and sporting entity in recent years. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and many dry gullies to cross ? but we are definitely moving ahead. With the continued help of our members, supporters and sponsors we can move towards our Centenary Year in 2008 with renewed confidence.
?Merry Christmas and a happy 2004 then from all the Directors, staff and players of Australia?s oldest Rugby League club to all our sponsors, members, supporters and affiliate clubs ? and especially to our new allies and friends at the Parkes Leagues Club and the Parkes Spacemen RLFC.