18 April 2023

Rugby league is back as Group 9 Round 1 kicks off

| Glenn Pallister
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Junee Diesels

Junee’s first-grade team made its return against Temora. Photo: Supplied.

As we welcomed the Junee Diesels back into the first-grade competition on Sunday for Round 1 of the 2023 Great Northern Group 9 Rugby League Competition, they suffered a 38-10 loss against Temora but showed promising signs for the season ahead and all across the region agreed it was wonderful to have them back in the first-grade competition.

On Saturday, the competition kicked off with defending premiers Gundagai making the trip to McDonalds Park in Wagga to take on the red-hot Wagga Kangaroos.

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Led by last year’s Gundagai No. 6 Nathan Rose, the Kangaroos looked super sharp from the get-go. In front of a solid crowd, former Tiger James Smart opened the scoring for the Roos and they were relentless until halftime, taking a clinical 34-0 lead into the sheds.

In a more even second half, Gundagai saved some face but left Wagga with their tails between their legs with a 44-16 scoreline in favour of the home side, who now shape up as serious premiership contenders.

The game had to be called off with five minutes remaining as veteran Roos prop Brayden Sharrock suffered a potentially season-ending knee injury, having his patella torn off the bone and joining Smart on the sidelines with a calf injury.

rugby league action

Albury Thunder captain Lachlan Munro scores his second try on the way to turning the tables on the Tumut Blues. Photo: @CatButlerPhoto1.

Meanwhile, down on the border, the team many had touted as this year’s title favourites, the Tumut Blues, found the going tough against a spirited Albury Thunder. In a spiteful affair, several players found themselves in the sin bin, and the home side took an 8-0 lead into half time.

The game also marked a comeback for ex-Tongan international Etu Uaisele, at 38, previously with the Thunder but playing second division on the border last season. He previously played first grade for Parramatta and Penrith. Along with Raiders and Roosters star Justin Carney, who was making his debut as player-coach at Greenfield Park, it was a star-studded affair.

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Behind on the scoreboard and playing with a man down, Tumut fought back to 12-8 thanks to a double by Brayden Draber, with the second try converted by fullback Dean Bristow.

Albury captain Lachy Munro levelled the scores with three minutes and 20 seconds left when he carried defenders over the line, and Jade Duroux kicked the match winner just six metres in from touch, which was the home team’s only conversion in a 14-12 thriller.

With a few key players from all sides across the competition on the injury list, Round 2 will see some reshuffling this weekend, and last season’s runners-up, Young, kick off their campaign against the Kangaroos at home on Saturday.

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