Cessnock Goannas lose seven grand final players, but gain others back for 2021

It wasn't exactly a parting of the Red Sea scale miracle, but it was mighty impressive all the same.

How Todd Edwards took what was largely a bunch of kids to win the Newcastle Rugby league premiership - albeit in a weird season like never before - still has knowledgeable people scratching their heads.

They were there to make up the numbers after a large swathe of his senior players opted out for the COVID-disrupted season. But defy the odds they did.

Well, the experienced coach has a new challenge on his hands this time around.

No less than seven of his grand final-winning squad won't be there this season.

"Let's see ... Brayden Musgrove was a dominant player for us, but he's back with the Knights," Edwards said.

"And Ngangarra Barker will play with Burleigh Heads in the Queensland Cup. They're both understandable because they're stepping up.

"Nick Lawrence has gone to Maitland, that one's a bit harder to understand.

"Halfback Nick Newman is back at the Central Coast, Josh Charles is playing with Belmont South Rabbitohs in the Newcastle second division, and Bailey Bromage is not playing at all this season.

"And finally prop Guy Thompson has moved to Dubbo, so that's a lot of changes."

CONFIDENT: Todd Edwards says the Goannas will have a formidable squad in 2021.

CONFIDENT: Todd Edwards says the Goannas will have a formidable squad in 2021.

Despite that, Edwards remains confident his squad will be formidable in the coming season.

"We've been pretty busy making sure we've got the bulk of the players back who we had signed but decided not to play last season," he said.

"So while we're losing some good players for sure, we're also getting a lot back."

He acknowledged that an area they are still looking to strengthen is the outside backs.

"We're in negotiations now with a couple of players that we think could be a good fit - and we're well into talks. Hopefully by the end of next week things will be a lot clearer."

Edwards said the introduction of Central Coast powerhouse clubs Wyong and The Entrance will make the new competition the hardest it has been for years.

Between them the two clubs have won four of the past five Central Coast premierships.

"They have winning cultures and strong squads. It means we play 18 rounds, all strong sides.

"In the past you've needed depth, maybe 25 or 26 players who can handle first grade. This year you'll probably need closer to 30."

The Goannas will take on the Newcastle Knights NSW Cup at Cessnock Sportsground on Saturday as part of the Knights' FanFest. Kick-off is at 6pm.


Cessnock Sportsground, Saturday, February 20

  • 11am: Gates open; Harold Matthews Cup kick off vs Penrith Panthers
  • 12.30pm: SG Ball Cup kick off vs Penrith Panthers
  • 2pm: NRL open training sessions
  • 2pm-6pm: Come and Try Clinic for 5-12-year-olds
  • 4pm: Meet the 2021 NRL squad
  • 6pm: NSW Cup kick off v Cessnock Goannas


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