HIGH HOPES: North Newcastle stalwarts, from left, Mark Humphries, Steve Doran, Billy Mattingley, Garry Callaghan and Dave Edwards. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
THEY played in an era when their club was the pride of Newcastle Rugby League.
Now a group of former North Newcastle stalwarts want to help resurrect the once-mighty, long-defunct Bluebags, if only at junior level.
At a recent reunion, former North greats lamented the demise of the 1910 foundation club, which won 15 first-grade premierships before it merged with Nelson Bay in 1989.
Over a few beers, they resolved to have a crack at reforming the club and recruiting junior teams.
“If we get one team up, that’s a start,’’ former North premiership winner Steve Doran said.
“It’s to get the old Bluebag jumper back out there.
“We all agreed at the reunion the other day that it was a tragedy not to have one of the foundation clubs still around.’’
Interested parties are invited to attend a planning meeting at Carrington Bowling Club, on Saturday, November 4, from 3pm.
PLANS to resurrect the once-famous North Newcastle Bluebags are gaining traction.
After a meeting of stalwarts from the defunct club last weekend, hopes of reforming North at junior level have grown into belief that they can recruit enough players to field at least one team in the Newcastle Hunter Rugby League second-division competition.
North were a Newcastle RL foundation club in 1910 and won 15 first-grade premierships before merging with Nelson Bay in 1989.
At a recent gathering of Bluebags Old Boys, long-retired players from the glory days formed a pact to help their old club climb out of the grave.
The first step was a meeting at Carrington Bowling Club last weekend, after which organiser (and former Knights board member) Steve Doran said he was pleasantly surprised by the attendance.
“It’s early days, but it certainly was a positive response,’’ Doran said.
“We weren’t really thinking about establishing a senior club, but we had people turn up at the meeting who have moved to the area from places like Gunnedah and Tamworth, and they reckon they might have 30 or 40 players interested.
“It’s gone like wildfire.
“We’re reasonably confident we might be able to put together one, if not two, senior sides. We’ve spoken to the league, and they’re happy for us to come back through second division.’’
Doran said they still hoped to establish junior teams but “we’re treading warily at the moment, until we see how deep the water is going to get’’. Asked if he hoped North could eventually return to first-grade ranks, Doran replied: “That’s the plan. Obviously that’s a long way off, but you have to start somewhere.’’
He was confident the reborn Bluebags would have enough financial backing to ensure a senior team, or teams, were sustainable, but added that they would not be paying players.
One challenge will be finding a home ground. Connolly Park in Carrington is used alternatively in winter by soccer and the Carrington Pirates rugby league team, but Doran said there had been “preliminary discussions’’ with Newcastle City Council about sharing Passmore Oval.
The Bluebags’ committee hope to have a better idea of numbers when they hold a registration day at Carrington Bowling Club on December 11, from 11am.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Former North Newcastle player Steve Doran in the jersey he hopes the club will wear next season.
THE resurrection of once-mighty North Newcastle Bluebags is two steps closer to becoming a reality after the appointment of a coach and design of a jersey they plan to wear next season.
A foundation Newcastle Rugby League club in 1910, North won 15 first-grade premierships before they fell on hard times and merged with Nelson Bay in 1989.
Effectively defunct for more than a quarter of a century, they had been expected to remain so forever until a recent gathering of the club’s Old Boys.
Over a few beers, former players resolved to re-launch the Bluebags as a junior club. But those plans have been put on hold after they were surprisingly inundated with approaches from players hoping to form a senior team.
Spokesman Steve Doran, who played in North’s last grand final win in 1979, said there had been 80 inquiries from prospective players, and he was hopeful at least 30 would follow through by signing registration forms.
The club will hold a registration day at Carrington Bowling Club on Sunday, December 11, from 11am, that will also double as a reunion of former players.
Doran said former Gunnedah player Dennis Hoffman had been offered the coaching role.
“He’s coached and played in the bush, he’s a qualified personal trainer, and he’s been recommended,’’ Doran said.
“And quite a few of the blokes who have contacted us come from up that way, so we’re hoping he can be a bit of a drawcard for us.’’
Doran said North hoped to field at least one team in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League second-division competition.
“We’re a club built around mateship, and we want our players to play for the jersey and their community,’’ he said. “We won’t be offering anyone anything in the way of money, but what we can offer are the things money can’t buy like spirit and heart and soul.’’
He said the grade that North ended up playing in would probably depend on how they performed in pre-season trials.
The ultimate goal would be to eventually have the Bluebags return to the Newcastle RL first-grade competition.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’’ he said.
He felt a sense of nostalgia when he tried on the specially commissioned jersey the Bluebags hoped to wear next year, designed by Central Coast sportswear manufacturers, Zibara Clothing.
Anyone interested in playing for North, or supporting the club, can contact Doran (0429 680 077) or another former player, Gary Callaghan (0408 278 883), or simply attend the registration day.