The 2022 Group 20 Rugby League competition kicked off on Sunday, and it was the Leeton Galloping Greens which set tongues wagging after a dominant performance in Round One.
Playing at home on the Leeton Number One field, the Greens were a level above the visiting Griffith Black and Whites after running away with a 38-6 win.
Griffith piled on the pressure early and held good field position for large chunks of the contest, although Leeton were able to hold the visiting side out.
The Greens turned the game around and were first to score via George Broome, while Hayden Philp also crossed in the first 40 minutes, making it 12-nil.
The Black and Whites hit back before half time when Tomasi Caqusau pushed his way over, to reduce the deficit to 12-6 at the break.
The second half was all one-way going, with Brayden Scarr scoring first for Leeton, before Josh Fisher, Shannon Bradbrook, Philp and Reewah McPhee all crossed to secure Leeton a big first round win.
Leeton captain/coach Philp scored a double but quickly deflected any praise onto his teammates for building on the strong platform they set in 2021.
“We are just building on last year and working on those things that we are trying to achieve,” Philp said.
“The key thing for us is working on our defence and keeping teams out and we did that against Griffith.”
Philp has been able to keep a good group of players together in Leeton. He admitted recruitment and retention in country Rugby League is challenging but said he was confident about their chances after building a team comprised of good local players and marquee recruits.
“Having that same core group helps too, and we have been able to work on things and get better from last season,” Philp said.
“It’s hard everywhere to get players in and keep them, and it is how footy is going in the country, but it is good to have a good group and to be able to build a club.
“Plus, it is great for the young guys coming up, and retaining the locals has been a focus for us and looking after those guys so they stay around and play some footy.”
Philp said the Greens were planning for a good season, and while he wanted to finish higher up the ladder, he stressed that results on the paddock wouldn’t define if 2022 was a success or a failure.
“Our goal is to finish top three, and that was the same last year,” Philp said.
“We will keep working on structures and improving all throughout the year and as long as the guys are putting in the effort, I’m happy with the results.”
It was a big day of Rugby League for Leeton on Sunday, with their League Tag side winning 22-18. While other results went against them, including reserve grade (28-20), Under 18s (36-18) and Under 16s (16-14), Philp said it was great to see a full complement of teams for 2022.
“We didn’t have much of an 18s last year, but this year, we have a full complement, and it’s the same in the 16s, and it’s great to have those guys coming up because they are the future,” Philp said.
“We have a good little club here and it will improve over the next couple of years.”
The competition breaks for Easter, with Group 20 and Group 9 action returning on April 23/24 as Riverina Rugby League starts to really heat up.
Round One results: Griffith Waratahs 38 Yanco-Wamoon 12; West Wyalong 22 Yenda 12; Darlington Point-Coleambally 56 Tullibigeal-Lake Cargelligo United 6.
Group 20 standings: Darlington Point-Coleambally 2; Leeton 2; Griffith Waratahs 2; West Wyalong 2; Hay 2; Yenda 0; Yanco-Wamoon 0; Griffith Black and Whites 0; Tullibigeal-Lake Cargelligo 0.