The Team That Will Not Yield
Momentum, it’s a hard thing to stop in Rugby League.
Just asked the Manly Sea Eagles last weekend, who cruised to a 38-12 lead with 21 minutes remaining at Henson Park, only for the Newton Jets to hunt down the lead with five quick-fire tries, ultimately securing their position in the top four.
The final score was 40-38; a score-line that looks to be an entertaining, seesawing affair; but it was actually a game that had head-coach, Greg Matterton, riding the emotionally draining Rugby League rollercoaster.
“I remember looking over at one stage when we were losing and he wasn’t saying much,” Jets hooker Matt McIlwrick tells NSWRL.com.au.
“He was head down, and then by the end of it he was jumping up and down, so it was a bit of a tough day for the coach and especially the fans too having to watch that game.
“It was mixed emotions going from being so disappointed to so happy in such a short amount of time; it was pretty incredible to be a part of.”
In the 57th minute, Manly forward, Willis Meehan, busted through the line and crossed over for a long-range try, edging the deficit to 26.
The game should have been over, but somehow the Jets just clicked in the final quarter of the match, but it wasn’t because of anything said behind the posts after Meehan scored the try.
“To be honest, nothing [was said behind the posts after Meehan’s try],” McIlwrick said.
“I didn’t have anything to say, we talked every previous try, but there was not much said behind the posts then.
“I don’t know what it was that sparked the comeback it was just incredible to be a part of and all of a sudden we grew a mojo and wanted to play.”
Newtown set the benchmark for game-day proceedings in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.
There is never a dull moment at Henson Park, even when the side is down by 26-points with 20 minutes to go; it’s just a part of the Newtown culture and how they have always gone about their business as a community-driven Rugby League club.
McIlwrick is a fresh face for the Jets having arrived this year, but he has certainly bought into the foundation club’s culture.
“The crowd are unbelievable, especially on the weekend we noticed that first hand when we weren’t going too well, but they was still pretty loud,” McIlwrick explained.
“When we came back in the end they were up-roaring; the support this year has been unbelievable.
“I just hope we can repay them this year.”
Re-paying the Newtown faithful starts this weekend with Mounties at Pepper Stadium, where a win will elevate them straight into the Preliminary Final.
They last met in Round 23, and despite Mounties being the best team in the competition this year; the Jets only lost the game in the dying seconds having led for the majority of the match.
McIlwrick insists there were serious lessons learned that game.
“When we played Mounties a few weeks ago we nearly had them there so it’s a good opportunity this weekend to stamp our authority,” McIlwrick said.
“Mounties are obviously Minor Premiers for a reason, they skipped clear of everyone this year and they are favourites to win the comp, and we can’t perform like we did on the weekend.
“We’ve got to come out and put them to the sword like we did a few weeks ago and obviously play for 80 minutes not 60 like we did last week.”
Blake Austin’s un-timely injury means that Sam Williams has been elevated to the NRL team until his return.
Williams has been arguably the form player of the competition this year, and his absence is a definite advantage to the Jets.
“We had them right until the 80th minute last game until they scored and Sam [Williams] kicked the winning goal,” McIlwrick said.
“They’re missing Sammy Williams this weekend, which is going to be good for us, but like I said we still have to turn up, they’re a tough side and we have to be on our game.”
Newtown missed the finals last season, and to turn it around and make the top four is a remarkable achievement.
While he wasn’t there last year, McIlwrick shed light on the various reasons for their immediate success.
“Obviously with Cronulla going well it filters down to the lower grades and everyone really bought into the system this year,” McIlwrick explained.
“Everyone is playing for the coach, ‘Matto’, and all the boys are just enjoying their footy which is good.
“Hopefully we can be one of the dark-horses in the comp this year leading into the finals.”