The biggest show in the Coalfields just got bigger with Cessnock's controversial recruit Paul Carter a possible starter in the annual Charity Shield on Saturday.
Former NRL bad boy Paul Carter has been cleared to play for the Goannas by the Country Rugby League and is up for selection with Cessnock in the annual pre-season grudge match against Kurri Kurri.
This year’s installment is at the Kurri Kurri Sportsground and will feature a number of Charity Shield debutants including Cessnock’s UK import Josh Adu-Dwumaa who hails from Manchester but has been playing in Leeds.
Bulldogs half-back Jade Porter also plays in his first Charity Shield, but his halves partner Sam Wooden experienced the unique atmosphere of the game with the Goannas.
Kurri forward Michael Steele, who had his first Chairty Shield game as an under-six, and Cessnock captain-coach Al Lantry, who played with the Goannas from 2007-2014, said the game held a unique place in the hearts of the Coalfields rivals.
“I started in under-sixes and it was the biggest moment in your life to run out for the Bulldogs,” Steele said.
“I missed it while I was at the Knights. The whole town gets involved.”
Lantry said the Charity Shield was far more than a trial match for the two teams and their communities.
“It’s unique in that every team from under-sixes through to first grade contribute to the shield,” he said.
“I had a look and it was seven-all on the latest shield. I know Cessnock is keen to avenge last year’s loss at home to Kurri.”
Cessnock secretary Cherie Douglas confirmed that Country Rugby League provided the final clearance for Carter late last week, ending a long-running saga to get the former Titan, Rabbitoh and Rooster cleared to play in the Newcastle Rugby League.
Douglas said the CRL’s approval and settling a fee with Group Two club Coffs Comets, who Carter was signed with last year, were the final steps in getting the forward cleared after NSW Rugby League declared they wouldn’t stand in his way.
“NSW Rugby League agreed it was a positive to put Paul into the competition, they’ve been extremely positive about us having Paul,” Douglas said.
While Cessnock coach Al Lantry hasn’t confirmed his side yet for Saturday’s bumper Charity Shield trial match against local rivals Kurri, Douglas said it would be “awesome to have that as his first game”.
“Personally, I’m anticipating he’ll play,” she said.
Action at Kurri Kurri Sportsground kicks off with under-sixes at 8.30am. First grade starts at 7pm.