After the longest preseason he can remember in years, Maitland's star recruit Luke Dorn is eager to finally start the season.
Super League star Dorn and former NRL and Super League giant Dane Tilse run out onto Townson Oval on Saturday with the expectations of the city on their shoulders.
“I’m really excited about wearing the Pickers jersey again and making us a success,” Dorn said on Thursday in parkland beside the new Maitland Sportsground.
“I’ve never been one to get nervous, I’m more excited. I’m jumping out of my skin to get out there and have a win.
“In Super League you start training in November and your first game is on Boxing Day. To start preseason in November and not play a game until April is the longest preseason I’ve had in many years and I’m just really excited to get out there and play.”
Dorn said the signing of Tilse had been an inspired move by the club and congratulated Luke Mercer, coach Trevor Ott and president Frank Lawler for a great job.
“He is a fantastic attribute for us to have. Trev and Frank and everyone involved did a great job in getting him on board. He’ll be one of the hardest people to stop in the competition,” he said.
“You’ve got experience with me in the backline and big Tilsey up front now with helping the young guys.
“You can see them sweating on every word Tilsey says, he is a great leader and leads with his actions and not just his words.”
Dorn said he believed the club was building for long-term success and exciting times were ahead particularly when the Pickers move into their new stadium
“I think we are building really well. We’ve got plenty of young players and me and Tilsey give a sprinkling of extra experience,” he said.
“There are some guys who have come with no one really expecting a great deal of them, but I think they will have people singing their praises soon enough.
“I think our squad is looking strong and it will be great for the Maitland community to have a strong Maitland team in the comp.”
Dorn said if hard work counts the squad deserved success.
“They have given themselves every chance by the way they’ve carried themselves and progressed through the preseason. It's exciting,” he said.
“They have trained so hard, harder than I expected guys who were part-time semi-professional working on a week day and then coming to training.
“Everyone trains a lot harder than I gave this competition credit for. I’m so impressed by their mental strength. To be able to work in jobs and then train as hard as they do.
“It’s been super impressive from the young guys and its now a matter of transitioning that from training onto the field.”
Dorn said he believed the Newcastle competition needs good Coalfields teams to be strong.
“We’ve got big followings and these are places where people live and breathe rugby league their whole life. Maitland, Cessnock and Kurri especially,” he said
“We need to be strong for the area and I think we are building that. We want some longevity out of it and I think the board and the club are doing the right things to achieve that.
“This new facility will certainly be a big shot in the arm for Maitland rugby league and for the Newcastle competition as a whole. This will be a really big drawcard. Being able to play at a really great facility, it might be just that last piece in the jigsaw to get players across the line in the future.
“Coming to the old ground was a bit of struggle, but this facility is so accessible for everyone. I want Maitland to get strong and if the boys start to a get a big crowd behind them then that breeds success and it becomes a bit of a cycle.
“The more success we have, the stronger we will be and the harder it will be for opposition sides to come here.
“I’m a proud Maitland boy and if I wasn’t playing I would be behind the club and certainly will when I stop playing.
“I want everyone to come down and see how great this facility is and how comfortable it is watch rugby league at. Hopefully everyone gets behind us and we make it a really difficult place for opposition teams to come and become a real powerhouse in the Newcastle Rugby League.”