While the Maitland Pickers take centre stage at the Maitland Sportsground on Saturday, the club made sure the spotlight was shone on Maitland City Council this week for ensuring a crowd of 2500 will be able to watch the Pickers in their historic President's Cup home final.
Maitland City Council major venues and facilities co-ordinator Kelly Baldwin successfully negotiated for the crowd limit at Saturday's semi-final against Hills Bulls to be lifted from 500 to 2500.
"We are just so thrilled with all the work Kelly has done on our behalf, we thank all those at the council who were able to pull this off," Pickers president Frank Lawler.
Lawler was joined by Pickers coach Matt Lantry and Maitland Old Boys president Matt Newcombe in thanking Baldwin and mayor Loretta Baker at the sportsground on Thursday, and urging Pickers fans and Maitland sports lovers in general to come along and support the Pickers on Saturday.
The action kicks off from 10.30am when the second-placed Pickers women take on Cessnock in Blues Tag, followed by the finals-bound under-19s in action against Macquarie Scorpions and the Pickers and Goannas in the Newcastle comp tier one at 1pm.
"We've filled our crowd limit of 500 most weeks at our games, but I think there have been a lot of people who probably stayed away thinking they may have been turned away because of the crowd restriction," Lantry said. "All those people can be assured there will be space for them in the stand or on the hills thanks to council being able to lift the crowd limit up to 2500.
"All the players are excited about playing in front of a big home crowd making a lot of noise.
"This means so much to not only the local boys such as Cooper Jenkins, Cal Burgess, Gary Anderson and Jayden Butterfield who have played right through the ranks here, but the other Maitland juniors like Matty Soper-Lawler, Brock Lamb and even Chad O'Donnell who has a link from the under-17s as well as all the boys who have come into the team this year.
"Everyone has really brought into the history of the Maitland Pickers."
Depending on how he pulled up after training last night, Soper-Lawler will be the main change to the Pickers squad from last week's 26-24 loss to Glebe Wolves.
"If he gets through training he will come into the squad and it is just a matter of what way we go whether we play him at centre or on the wing and who else in the squad that affects," Lantry said..
"Whether he is playing at centre or on the wing his contributions coming out from our own end have probably been the best part of his game.
"Matt has been noted for his try-scoring abilities but I've liked the other areas in his game that I think he has really improved since I last worked with him back in 2016 (at the Newcastle Knights NSW Cup).
"He is averaging over 100 metres per game with his carries and his defence as well has really picked up and improved and obviously that's being away a couple of years in the Queensland Cup."
Lantry was also delighted with Sam Anderson's form in his second week back from a break for concussion.
"I thought Sam was probably our best last week. He gave us a real lift with Faitotoa Faitotoa coming off the bench and I think that could be important in our match-ups this week," Lantry said.