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Narrandera Lizards have picked up where they left off last season, with the reigning Proten Cup premiers unbeaten after two rounds of the 2023 competition.

Led by coach Kye Longford, the Lizards travelled to Barellan for Round One, and although ‘scrappy’ at times, they accounted for Rankins Springs 18-6.

Lachlan Lyons starred in the big win, with the local product crossing for two tries.

Ivanhoe played host in Round Two, and despite the long trip, Narrandera fired into form, and stalwart Jakeem Morgan scored a hat-trick as the Lizards piled on seven tries in their 40-8 win over Hillston.

It’s been a tricky start to the season, with Narrandera forfeiting the annual Proten Cup pre-season knockout, but Longford has done a superb job leading a new-look group into their premiership defence.

“We’ve had a lot of changes since the Grand Final, and on the weekend, we only had seven or so playing from last year’s team that won the competition,” Longford said.

“A few boys retired, and some have moved on, but we’ve got a few young blokes, kids that are 17 and 18, and they have proven to be really handy.

“They’re adding a lot of enthusiasm and talent, and a couple of new players that have come in, haven’t played since juniors, but there is a winning feeling after last year, and many guys just want to be involved again.

“What helps them, and the young fellas, is that we’ve got a good mix and a few of those older heads to lead them in the right direction.”

Longford can be a harsh critic, and he was the first to admit that Narrandera was a long way from playing their best footy.

“With the change in players, it’s been really scrappy,” Longford said.

“We’ve still got our structure and processes, and that’s all based on that next man up mentally.

“We missed the (pre-season) knockout, and not having those extra games under our belts, it’s taken a little longer to find our feet, but importantly, our defence has been good.

“That has been the telling point, and the boys have the right attitude and are showing up for each other.”

On Saturday, Proten Cup action heads to Rankins Spring in Round Three, and Narrandera will face off against arch-rivals, Barellan.

“It’s always a good game, being that it’s our local derby, and we always get up for it,” Longford said.

“Barellan looked pretty good at the knockout, and they have a lot of young, fit and fast boys, and that got them through to the Grand Final, and I think they will be a challenge for us.”

With the Proten Cup only six rounds long, a good start can mean the difference between a home final and some challenging road trips in the post-season.

Longford agreed that a win over Barellan was important if his side wanted to host a final.

“You want to start well and then continue it because you want that top-two finish and a home final,” Longford said.

“Ivanhoe is still the team to beat, and if they finish first, you’re stuck travelling out there, and historically, we don’t travel the best, so we’ll try and finish up top and take it from there.”

Following Round Three at Rankins Springs on Saturday, the Proten Cup heads to Hillston in Round Four (June 24), Narrandera in Round Five (July 1), and Goolgowi in Round Six (July 8).

Semi-Finals will be played on July 15, Preliminary-Finals on July 22, and the Grand Finals on July 29 at Goolgowi.

Women’s ladder: Barellan 4 (+82), Ivanhoe 4 (+46), Narrandera 2 (+4), Hillston 2 (-26), Goolgowi 0 (-42), Rankins Springs 0 (-64).

Men’s ladder: Narrandera 4 (+44), Ivanhoe 4 (+24), Goolgowi 2 (+4), Hillston 2 (-26), Barellan 0 (-16), Rankins Springs 0 (-30).

Round Three women’s draw –10.00am: Barellan v Narrandera; 10.40am: Rankins Springs v Goolgowi; 11.20am: Hillston v Ivanhoe.

Round Three men’s draw – 12.00pm: Barellan v Narrandera; 1.30pm: Hillston v Ivanhoe; 3.00pm: Rankins Springs v Goolgowi.

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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