In The Beginning
Lakes United Rugby League Football Club originated in 1945 when the local Belmont side applied for its own district in the Newcastle Rugby League competition. Until this time Belmont existed as a virtual second division outfit playing against sides such as Dora Creek and Raymond Terrace in a Sunday league competition. The Belmont area fell within the boundary of Western Suburbs therefore many local players found themselves called up for the Rosellas senior teams on numerous occasions. Ramsay Buckley, Albert ‘Butch’ Paul, Tom ‘Whimpy’ Pitman and George Sanderson were among those local players who strengthened West’s ranks.
In 1945 Belmont`s Secretary Mr Bill Dart drafted an application to the Newcastle Rugby League seeking a First grade district within the Lake Macquarie area with the proposed headquarters at Belmont. The initial application was deferred until 1946. Towards the end of the 1946 season an additional semi-final place was created in Reserve grade to gauge the strength of the Belmont club. The early pioneers of the lake acquitted themselves very well, defeating West and Kurri before succumbing to a Central side 23-4 which included a young Clive Churchill.
In September 1946 the application was finally approved so in 1947 under the banner of Lakes United a new club was born. Lithgow halfback Jimmy Scoular (who had experience with Newtown in 1942 and North Sydney in 1946) was appointed as the first Captain/Coach. Lakes United initial First grade match was against Cessnock at Belmont Oval (now known as Cahill Oval) on Saturday 19th April 1947. The match resulted in a 28-14 win for the home side. Don McKinnon was the first scorer in First grade with a goal and Ron Golden touched down for the first ever First grade try. Earlier in the day winger Max Walton had the honour of scoring the Club`s first ever points with a goal in Reserve grades 7-6 loss. Under Scoular`s leadership, individual play and ability to extract the best from his men First grade completed the premiership rounds as Minor Premiers and went on to defeat Northern Suburbs 13-0 in the Grand Final.
After the euphoric first season 1948 was a letdown with both grades missing the semi-finals. The highlight of the season was winning the Spicer Cup by inflicting Narrabri`s first home defeat for three years in winning 19-7. Scoular represented Newcastle, Country and NSW. Ron Golden was a member of the Newcastle side that went down 9-10 to New Zealand. Bert Sharp and Max Foster played for Country Seconds.
Scoular again led Lakes to a good season winning 11 out of 16 games (1 draw). Albert Paul returned from Newtown this year but had his jaw broken in the fifth game and missed the rest of the season. Lakes season ended when Kurri won the first semi-final at No1 Sportsground 12-5 (2-2). Tom Pitman and Ramsay Buckley represented Country whilst Ted Toole played for Newcastle in a match against Queensland.
In this decade Lakes were:
- Club Champions – 1959
- First grade Grand Finalists – 1952
- Reserve grade Grand Finalists – 1959
Former South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs player Allan Quinlivan (who also represented NSW) succeeded Scoular as Coach in 1950. A 9-7 record was not good enough to make the semis but individually Lakes had a higher profile. Ramsay Buckley and Jimmy Scoular played for Newcastle against the visiting Englishmen and Russell Naughton was chosen for Country Firsts. Lakes did have a noteworthy victory in 1950. Having the bye the Seagull`s played Balmain and ran out winners by 28-23.
Twenty three year old Albert ‘Butch’ Paul took over the First grade reins for the next three seasons. Lakes finished second on the Premiership table behind Northern Suburbs and defeated Kurri 20-7 (2-2) in the semi-final. Ivan Wolfe (who got special leave from the Army) and Ernie Richardson were outstanding in this match. In one of the most consistently brilliant Finals ever seen at No1 Sportsground Maitland scored a try after the bell to defeat Lakes 20-18. Albert Paul played for Newcastle against the visiting Frenchmen (won 12-8).
Lakes qualified for the second semi-final against Kurri and won 28-12 (HT 9-2). The Final was another favourable result defeating Central 21-13 (14-6). For the Grand Final the Seagulls were without their try scoring machine Ivan Wolfe (sick) and Captain Coach Albert Paul (in Britain touring with the Kangaroos). In Paul`s absence George Davies, a member of the `47 Premiership side took over as Coach (and carried on the good work) and Noel Sharpe Captained the side. Minor Premiers Waratah won an exciting Grand Final 5-4 (0-0). Newcastle representative players were Paul, Ivan Wolfe, ‘Sam’ Ekert, Kevin Hawkins and Noel Sharpe.
Albert Paul returned as Captain/Coach but the season was a poor one for the Club with First grade winning only three games to finish in 8th place on the ladder. Paul was busy on the representative scene playing for Newcastle against the American All-Stars (lost 19-10) and Country Firsts. Paul also toured New Zealand with the Australian side. In his absence George Davies took over the First grade coaching duties.
Former Balmain and NSW centre Col De Lore took control of First grade this season. In a vast improvement from the previous year Lakes won 12 games and made the 1st semi- final only to be defeated by Cessnock 9-13 (7-8). In August Col De Lore, Gus Gray and Ray Allsopp helped Newcastle Coalfields defeat the British Lions 28-22 (10-10). Tom Pitman was a reserve when Newcastle won the first encounter with Lions 11-10 in May. Kevin Hawkins also played for Newcastle this season.
THE BIRTH OF THE SPORTSMAN`S CLUB
1955 marked the formation of the Belmont Sportsman`s Club. The Club was the brain child of mainly three men: Searle Barton (Belmont Cricket Club President), Pat Cahill (Lakes United President) and Les Miller (Belmont Baseball Club President). Talk involving these men and other likeminded local enthusiast’s led to advertisements throughout the Belmont and Swansea areas informing local sporting bodies of a meeting for anyone interested in forming a sportsman club in the area.
This meeting was held under the wooden grandstand at the Belmont Sportsground on October 14, 1955. The attendance was disappointing so it was decided to call a public meeting one month later. On Friday November 18 the second meeting was attended by an enthusiastic cross section of the community. At this meeting plans were made for the drawing up of a constitution in which the aims of the club would be defined. It was also decided to call the club the Belmont Sportsman`s Club. The original clubhouse was ‘Benyons Shop’ which was moved from main street Belmont on December 22, 1955. With four poker machines but no liquor licence (beer was purchased from the Belmont Golf Club) the Sportsman`s Club began to function. The official opening came seven months later on September 29, 1956. It was the beginning of a tremendous support role the Sportsman`s Club would play over the ensuing years.
Tom ‘Whimpy’ Pitman made a quiet start to his two year reign as Coach. Lakes missed the semis but gained confidence for the future with some encouraging results against the top two sides (20-15 win v Cessnock and 4-4 draw v Maitland). Russell Naughton and Gus Gray were members of the Newcastle team that defeated the formidable French side 17-15. Naughton went on to play for Country Firsts.
1956 saw a marked improvement in the Seagull`s performance given four prominent forwards from 1955 were playing for Sydney clubs in 1956. Albert Paul was with Canterbury Bankstown whilst Harold ‘Gus’ Gray, Robert ‘Babe’ Heaney and Ron ‘Jake’ Moses played in Balmain`s Grand Final side against St George. Lakes finished behind Minor Premier Maitland who they met in the 1st semi-final. Lakes won this match 11-10 forcing a Grand Final to be played between Maitland and the winner of the Lakes v Cessnock. The Goannas outplayed the Seagulls 19-2 in the Final. Tom ‘Gus’ Sheppard and Neil McDonnell earned Newcastle guernseys in 1956.
Russell Naughton was appointed Captain/Coach but his team never really recovered from defeats in its first five games of the season to finish well behind the top four sides (Maitland, Cessnock, Kurri and South). Memorable moments were rare this year but the exploits of winger Ivan Wolfe would not be forgotten by supporters privileged to see his talents against Kurri in mid August. Wolfe scored 6 tries, including 5 in the last 30 minutes as the Seagulls won 32-4.
Jimmy Scoular was back in ‘hot seat’ as Coach in 1958. Four wins and a draw was a good start but come early August Lakes had to beat front runner Maitland to continue in the semi-final race. Minutes before full-time Maitland fullback Kevin Geelan sent centre Frank Threlfo racing clear to seal the Seagull`s fate 13-18. Five Seagull`s wore the red and blue of Newcastle during the 1958 season. Ivan Wolfe and Vernon Lee played against Sydney side Western Suburbs whilst Neil McDonnell (Game 1), Gus Sheppard (Game 2) and Gus Gray (both Games) played against Great Britain (lost 35-6 and 30-23).
The decade finished with the winning of the inaugural Club Championship in 1959. Coach Dick Higgins inherited the nucleus of a good team including Ron Davies, Gordon Jenkins, Vernon Lee, Russell Naughton, Arre Lammi, John Shields and Mal Stewart. Two former internationals were added when Albert Paul returned to Belmont and Rees Duncan Jnr moved into the area. Impressive regular season form (14 wins) continued in the 1st semi when Lakes defeated Northern Suburbs 15-3 (5-0). The Final against Maitland was a different story as Lakes failed to contain Terry Pannowitz and Richard Van Haren. The Pumpkin Pickers were to good winning 13-4 (2-4). On the representative scene Naughton, Duncan, Ron Davies and Johnny Craig played against New Zealand (lost 25-6).
In this decade Lakes were :
- Club Champions – 1979 (Tie with Cessnock)
- First grade Major Premiers – 1974 & 1975
- First grade Minor Premiers – 1975 & 1976
- First grade Grand Finalists – 1971
- Reserve grade Major Premiers – 1976
- Reserve grade Grand Finalists – 1975
- Third grade Major Premiers – 1978
- Third grade Minor Premiers – 1971
- Third grade Grand Finalists – 1971
Two new players destined to make a great impact in the near future joined Lakes United. They were Ron Burgess (Singleton) and Tony Shiels (Narrabri). Lakes began the new decade in much the same way it had left the `60`s. Former Eastern Suburbs centre Bob Hensby became Captain/Coach and immediately had success guiding the Seagull`s to the Major semi. Once again Maitland were their nemeses (18-28) then West added to the misery winning the Final 35-16. Peter Cootes and Brian Sullivan were members of the Newcastle side beaten 49-16 by Great Britain.
In 1971 Ray ‘Wagga’ Johnson led the Seagull`s to 3rd place after winning 13 games. After defeating Northern Suburbs 27-18 in the Minor semi Lakes faced a Waratah side coming off two hard matches against Maitland (the first Major semi finished 11 all). Waratah were no match for Lakes in the Final, the Seagull`s won comfortably 25-12. In the Grand Final a record crowd of 21,681 saw Maitland capitalize on an early scoring blitz to defeat Lakes 30-19 (22-4). Trevor Andrews, Ron Burgess, Peter Cootes, Des Kimmorley and Brian Sullivan played for Newcastle with Andrews, Cootes, Kimmorley and Sullivan selected for the City v Country fixture. Kimmorley capped a fine season with selection for NSW.
Englishman Frank Adams became Captain/Coach in 1972. After five good seasons Lakes performed poorly finishing sixth. In the last Round Lakes met South at No1 Sportsground in what was a virtual play-off for 4th place. South won 31-19. The only joy for Lakes was defeating Waratah 28-17 in the Final of the Marlboro Shield (a renamed competition for club`s who failed to make the semis).
Allan Thomson returned from Manly to take up the Captain/Coach position. Promising juniors Rob Crawford, Glen Golden and Tom Sheppard were all ‘baptised’ this season in First grade. Front rower Russell Devonshire was recruited from Parramatta. There was some improvement from the previous season but eight wins was never enough to make the semis. Another appearance in the Marlboro Shield Final (lost 13-19 v Kurri) provided some hope (and cash) for next season. Ron Burgess, Eric White, Devonshire and Thomson were Newcastle representatives and Thomson went on to Captain NSW Country.
As the 1974 season approached supporters had reason to feel a decent season was possible. The makings of a good side was already in place with Simon Booth added to the list of promising juniors about to make their mark in First grade. In addition Allan Thomson had new strength in the ‘engine room’ with the acquisition of two ‘no nonsense’ front rowers in Grahame Huggins (Murwillumbah) and Dennis Gardiner (Newtown). Eleven regular season wins was good enough for second place on the table and a place in the Major semi against West. Due to injuries Lakes were forced to make several changes to the side. Phil ‘Budda’ Murray, Wayne Cooper and Paul ‘Jughead’ Williams all filled in competently for the Seagull`s. A disciplined effort saw Lakes win 16-12 after being behind 4-7 at halftime. Two weeks later Lakes United finally lifted their ‘bridesmaid’ tag winning the Grand Final 7-2 in a dour struggle dominated by rugged defence. Gardiner and Thomson (for the 25th time) represented Newcastle this year.
Playing personnel changed little for 1975. Greg Thompson (Waratah) was brought in to cover Lindsay Gailey (also coaching Reserve grade) at halfback and Steve Proudlock (who would win the 1978 Stawell Gift) provided extra pace on the wing. A 13-5 record won the Seagull`s the Minor Premiership and another clash with Western Suburbs in the Major semi. A dominant display by the forward pack paved the way for a 28-9 victory over the Rosellas. The Grand Final was a dream start as Lakes had four converted tries on the board after 23 minutes to lead 20-0 and went on to win 30-17 (20-6). Simon Booth, Ron Burgess, Grahame Huggins and Tommy Sheppard were required for Newcastle duty and Sheppard, Booth and Dennis Gardiner won Country guernsey`s.
When Lakes hosted South in the last round of the competition the Minor Premiership hung in the balance. It was a hollow victory in some ways (39-3) as the Lions rested a number of their top line players. Maitland`s 18-10 over West allowed Lakes to snatch the Minor Premiership. The semi-final series was a disaster for Lakes as West won the Major semi 22-17 then South eliminated the Seagulls 25-18. It was a sad end to Thomson`s glorious career with Lakes United. Simon Booth, Ron Burgess, Peter Cootes, Glen Golden and Tom Sheppard played for Newcastle this year with Sheppard also representing Country.
Former St George winger Paul Mills took over as Captain/Coach with Gavin Gleeson and Rick Griffiths transferring from South. The 1977 season started well with two wins but turned into a disaster when First grade lost 13 of their next 14 matches to finish in 9th place. Mick Burgess, Rick Griffiths, Grahame Huggins, Paul Williams and Mills represented Newcastle. Mills also played for Country Seconds.
Grahame Huggins first year as Captain/Coach was a rebuilding season after the lean year in 1977. Alain Sauvage from Erina was signed to bolster the pack. After a good start to the season form dropped dramatically and Lakes were well out of semi final contention by the end of July. Peter Cootes, Michael Pitman and Sauvage represented Newcastle.
Huggins second term was much better with all grades making the semis and Lakes tied for the Club Championship with Cessnock. Young players like Mark Harragon and Dave Hartney developed into solid First grade players. In addition new signings Peter Dodds (Central), Terry Quinn (Penrith), Peter Kelly (Eden) and Glen Louge served the Seagull`s well. The season ended for First grade in the Minor semi when Maitland won 19-3. Newcastle players this season were Peter Kelly, Tommy Sheppard and Terry Quinn.
In this decade Lakes were :
- Club Champions – 1997
- First grade Major Premiers – 1996
- First grade Minor Premiers – 1990 & 1997
- First grade Grand Finalists – 1990, 1992 & 1997
- Reserve grade Major Premiers – 1990 & 1995
- Reserve grade Minor Premiers – 1995 & 1999
- Reserve grade Grand Finalists – 1992 & 1999
- Third grade / U20`s Major Premiers – 1994 & 1997
- Third grade / U20`s Minor Premiers – 1994 & 1997
- Third grade Grand Finalists – 1991, 1993 & 1995
Torrential rain constantly disrupted the competition and tradition was broken when a suburban ground, Harker Memorial Oval was used as the Grand Final venue. An unknown 18 stone giant of Samoan heritage James ‘The Fridge’ Pickering became a crowd favourite. After a slow start to the season First grade won their last competition matches to secure the Minor Premiership. In another Lakes v West classic (Major semi) Captain/Coach ‘Spider’ Walsh booted the Seagull`s home 16-15 (0-7) with a penalty goal after the bell. The Grand Final produced a fairytale finish for Waratah as the ‘Cheetahs’ won an exciting match 17-14 (14-12). Newcastle representative players this year were Brett Botham, Greg Hayward, Craig Hibberd, Chris Prigg and Brian Quinton.
Walsh was back as Captain/Coach aiming to add just one more premiership to his already impressive career. Former Australian schoolboy Mark Mulligan and Shane Young were added to an already competent line-up. A 10-8 record meant Lakes would play Waratah in the Elimination semi. The Seagulls won this hard fought match 12-8 but then came up against a Toronto side displaying the form that would eventually take them to a Major premiership. The Scorpions won 42-12 (16-12). Brian Quinton was the only Lakes player to represent Newcastle.
Former Lakes junior and Country Player of the Year Steve Walters took charge of First grade in 1992. Former Knights player Scott ‘Shitty’ Carter was a major signing to strengthen the forwards. Whilst not achieving the ultimate success of the mid 1980`s Walters coaching produced a very competitive side which played an attractive free flowing brand of rugby league. Season 1992 saw the Seagull make their 14th grand final , however the result was not good as Lakes were defeated 33-0 by an undefeated Western Suburbs side. Representative players for 1992 were Scott Carter, Kiel Emerton, Matt Harris, Craig Hibberd, Mark Mulligan, Brian Quinton (also NSW Country), Jeff Walters and Shane Young.
Under Walters leadership youth was given every opportunity in 1993. First grade threatened to make the Grand Final but were caught up in the emotional surge on an inform Kurri Kurri side. The semi finals would be remembered for their one-sidedness. In the Qualifying semi Kurri beat Lakes 30-10 then Lakes outplayed Waratah 30-8 before the Bulldogs were again the better side winning 40-12.
Captain/Coach Steve Walters was content to start the season with four wins, he was not however very happy when Lakes lost the next seven matches. One point ahead of 6th place North Nelson Bay Lakes lost their last two competition matches to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1981.
In his fourth term Steve Walter would again rely on players not long out of junior football to form the nucleus of his side. Steve Fulmer joined the Club from the Knights to add some experience. Given the reliance on youth First grade almost qualified for semi-final action. A loss to Kurri in the last Series and wins to South and Toronto meant Lakes season finished in late July. Whilst not the result he desired Walter`s untiring efforts had made First graders out of a number of junior players. Representative players for 1994 were Malcom Kim and Kiel Emerton.
History often demands a date, and the one celebrated in Lakes United`s 50th season will be September 1, the day the Seagull`s captured their 7th Major premiership. The Captain/Coach position was filled by former East and Newcastle centre David Smith. To bolster the forwards Max Chapman, Paul Jeffries and Troy Miles (Newcastle), Terry Pastourmoglou (Toronto) were signed. The backline was strengthened with the addition of Paul Allardice (Waratah), Adam Hall (Toronto), Daryl Johnson and Ewan McGrady (Kurri), Daniel Lewis North Sydney) and Jamie OcConnor (NNBay). A 15-3 record was followed by a 35-10 win over South in the Qualifying semi. The Major semi against West was exciting with Lakes prevailing 24-23 in extra time after the sides had drawn level 16-16 after 80 minutes. The Grand Final was a real arm wrestle but as the game wore on the Seagull`s began to gain the ascendancy knowing their opponents had played an extended amount of football in recent weeks (West 20-16 win over Kurri in the Final had also gone into extra time). Lakes were finally victorious 16-6 (12-6).
Lakes ranks were strengthened by the return of Paul Tideman from Queensland. Otherwise David Smith`s First grade squad remained very similar to the successful 1996 season. It was still an outstanding effort to complete the regular season undefeated and in doing so win the Club Championship for the sixth time. The semi-finals however were a major disappointment as Lakes lost the Major semi 26-22 to West after leading 22-8. Injuries to playmakers Ewan McGrady and Smith added to the Seagulls woes. Lakes booked a rematch with the Rosellas by defeating South 28-10 but again lost 26-16. Earlier in the year Smith represented Country in the World Sevens tournament then Kiel Emerton, Craig Hibberd, Shannon Barwick and Adam Hall were members of the Newcastle team that won the Country Championship with Hall among seven Newcastle players to be rewarded with a Country guernsey.
The Seagull`s added quality players to the Club by signing Jim Bell and Dean Creighton (Central), Ian Bourke (Knights), Troy Miles (Mariners), Jamie Lovett and Dean Noonan (Wyong). New Captain/Coach Max Chapman guided the Seagulls to a 14-4 record over the premiership rounds to finish second on the table. The semis were a struggle as Lakes lost at home to South (10-17) then got past Maitland 34-18. Lakes fell one game short of the Grand Final when West won the Final 24-10. Lakes were well represented in the Country Championships with Tony Herman, Troy Miles, Craig Hibberd and Adam Hall selected for Newcastle. Herman, Hibberd and Hall went on to represent Country Firsts against Sydney Combined Presidents Cup side.
Young talent like Glenn Agland and Andrew Ryan were elevated to fill gaps left by retirements. Max Champan`s side produced a solid season (13-4-1) to finish the competition rounds behind Minor premier West. Again supporters were disappointed in the playoffs, losing to Cessnock (24-28) at Cahill Oval in the Qualifying semi (first time the Goannas had beaten Lakes at Cahill Oval since 22 May 1988) before defeating Kurri 16-0 (16-0) in the Minor semi. History repeated as West won the Final 22-14. Adam Hall was the only Seagull to gain Newcastle selection this season.
In this decade Lakes were:
- First grade Joint Minor Premiers – 1968
- First grade grand Finalists – 1968 & 1969
- Reserve grade Grand Finalists – 1967
- Third grade Joint Minor Premiers – 1962
- Third grade Grand Finalists – 1962
Ron ‘Jake’ Moses returned from Balmain to coach First grade. It was not a standout year with lack of consistency a factor in the sides 9-8-1 record hence missing the semi-finals by three points. Newcastle representatives were Rees Duncan Jnr, Gordon Jenkins and Ron Moses. Duncan (Captain) and Moses played against the visiting French side (lost 14-10).
Season number 15 saw the Seagull`s field a young side (average age 23) including new Captain/Coach Johnny Craig. John ‘Killer’ Davies also returned to Lakes. The youngsters started well winning their first six matches but fell away towards season end to finish 4th. A try to fullback Neville Mayers two minutes from full-time enabled Waratah to escape with a 13-10 (5-7) win over Lakes in the 2nd semi-final. Newcastle representatives were John Davies, Ron Davies, Gordon Jenkins and Keith Smith.
Bill Halverston became Lakes seventh coach in the last 7 years. His task was aided by the acquisition of Jim Bailey, John Cunningham and ‘Babe’ Heaney (who would become one of Lakes United`s best ever front rowers). This season was very similar to the previous one with a good start spoiled by a string of defeats late in the second round to leave Lakes again five points shy of 4th place. Newcastle representatives were Mal Stewart and Babe Heaney. Heaney was a member of the Newcastle team which defeated Great Britain 23-18.
1963 was not a memorable year as the young side struggled against stronger teams like Central, Kurri, South and Waratah. Jimmy Scoular was brought back to Coach but could not emulate his deeds of 1947. Scoular`s men were never disgraced but most of the other clubs were just stronger this year. Lakes finished one place above the ‘wooden spoon’. This year saw the emergence of former junior Allan Thomson who made his debut for Newcastle against South Africa (27-17).
Little improvement was showed in 1964, evidenced by a 5-12-1 record. Scoular`s boys tried hard and were aided by the services of Central Coast players Bill Morelli and brothers Eddie and Wes Singleton. Babe Heaney and Allan Thomson were members of the Newcastle side that won the State Cup (14-7 v Parramatta in the Final) whilst Thomson also progressed to Country Seconds representation.
Personnel was strengthened with former Eastern Suburbs and Canterbury front rower Ken Dawson and 19 year old John ‘Sleepy’ Bucknell from Manly but a semi-final place still eluded the Club. Trevor Andrews from the Central Coast also began his career with Lakes. Allan Thomson who toured New Zealand with the Country side this year began his first term as Captain/Coach.
Lakes first winning season in five years (10-7-1) was still not good enough for semi-final football. New players who would make an impression were Alan Grady and Bill Locket (Yenda). Lakes did win a competition in 1966 by defeating Central 10-4 (2-2) in the Final of the Caltex Cup (for teams who did not make the semis). Captain/Coach Thomson reached the next representative level by gaining State selection.
1967 saw the Clubs fortunes improve when Captain/Coach Allan Thomson`s young side won 12 games before going down to Macquarie 9-18 (6-0) in the Minor semi-final. Former junior Des Kimmorley showed flashes of brilliance during the season and Brian Rohr (recruited from Gunnedah) proved a valuable addition to the forward pack. Thomson was the sole representative player for the year and what a year it was. ‘Braham`s’ incredible form (especially in defence) could not be ignored by selectors thus Thomson made his Test debut against the touring New Zealanders on June 10 in Sydney. His performance at Test level clinched Thomson a place on the Kangaroo Tour later that season.
Not since 1964 had Lakes been able to defeat West. All that changed in the Major semi when the Seagull`s fought hard to win 20-19. South Newcastle, led by former international Peter Diamond denied Lakes first Premiership since 1947 wining a much talked about Grand Final 9-6. Allan Thomson was a tower of strength all season representing NSW and being named the Country Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
Albert Paul, the new First grade Coach after Thomson`s move to Manly Warringah, had a forward pack equal to any in the competition with Brian Sullivan, Kevin Johnson and Roger McDonell in the front row ; hard running John ‘Bruno’ Cook and John Wilkins in the second row and Trevor Andrews last man down. Out wide the exciting speed of Peter Cootes, Des Kimmorley and Jimmy Porter constantly excited the crowds. Experience and tactical guidance was provided by halfback Neil ‘Sammy’ Hincks aided by Jimmy Campbell, Johnny Craig, and Bob Hensby. Lakes finished a comfortable 3rd and fought off Kurri 24-19 in the Minor semi-final. The Final against West was even tougher, Lakes winning 12-8. In the Grand Final even though Lakes pushed their opposition to the limit there was no doubting Maitland`s superiority (won 19-9) so for the second year in a row the Seagull`s wore the ‘bridesmaid’ tag. Andrews, Hensby, Kimmorley and Porter gained Newcastle honours whilst Kimmorley and Porter went on to represent Country Seconds.
In this decade Lakes were :
- Club Champions – 1983, 1985 & 1986
- First grade Major Premiers – 1985, 1986 & 1987
- First Grade grand Finalists – 1984 & 1988
- Reserve grade Major Premiers – 1983 & 1985
- Reserve grade Minor Premiers – 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 & 1987
- Under 23`s Major Premiers – 1983 (Undefeated)
- U/23`s / Third grade Minor Premiers – 1983 & 1985
- U/23`s / Third grade Grand Finalists – 1981 & 1985
After the previous season`s development plus the signing of Rick Griffiths (South), Paul Grob (North), Mark Humphries (North), Mick Screen (North), Roger Lavis (Penrith), Gary Sharpe (Waratah) and Ross Visalli (Wollongong) new Coach Wayne Cartwright was confident a good season lay ahead. In addition Peter Cootes and Steve Proudlock came out of retirement to add exceptional speed to the wings. Unfortunately the side did not play to their potential finishing 6th with 8 wins. Mark Humphries and Terry Quinn were Newcastle representatives.
The 1981 season was one Lakes supporters will care to forget as First grade won only five games to finish in 9th place. The lowest ebb of the season came in mid June when the Committee terminated the two year contract of Coach and former British international John Stopford (Lakes were 2-6 at the time). Tommy Sheppard was appointed Captain/Coach for the remainder of the season. Paul Grob was the only representative player (Newcastle and Country).
Momentum changed in 1982 when former international Johnny Mayes was appointed Coach. Mayes brought a professional approach to the Club and was without doubt the catalyst for the success Lakes United enjoyed over the next seven seasons. The Committee also played its part by signing quality players to blend with the strong junior program. Kevin Hill, Col Mathias, Guy Tully (Kurri), Jim Harvey, Grant Jackson and Grahame Sullivan (Dubbo), Robert ‘Rip’ Taylor, Todd Riley and Kirk Vidler (Bellingen), Gary Dodds (Tumut), Steve Bower (South) and Steve Lowe (Waratah) were added to the roster. In Mayes`s first term Lakes made it to the Final but were beaten by Kurri 25-18 (5-10). Terry Quinn, Rip Taylor and Todd Riley were Newcastle Representatives.
New faces this year included Mick ‘Bunsen’ Bates (Central), Grahame Beams (Cronulla), Kevin ‘Max’ Hardman and Mark ‘Mary’ Hanlon (South), Michael ‘Rowdy’ McKiernan (Smithtown) and Tamworth duo Alan Beresford and Doug Chester. Winning the Club Championship and finishing 3rd on the table were the rewards for Coach Johnny Mayes hard work. Once again the semi-finals were disappointing when the Rosellas scored on the bell to prevail 24-20 then the Goannas won the Minor semi 20-14. The representative scene saw Mark Brokenshire, Stephen Brown, Jim Harvey, Gary Johnson and Michael McKiernan selected for Newcastle.
The learning curve continued upwards in 1984 as Lakes extensive rebuilding program continued. Four members of Maitland`s 1983 Premiership squad Kyle Conner, Dave ‘Sponge’ Edwards, Phil Guest and Peter ‘Spider’ Walsh joined the Seagull`s. David ‘Freddy’ Grant from Tamworth was another signing. Under new Captain/Coach Robert Taylor Lakes won the Minor premiership on percentages. The Major semi was won by the Rosella`s 36-16 (22-2) but Taylor`s side made the ‘Decider’ for the first time in nine years with a 28-14 win over Kurri. Lakes had minimal opportunities in the Grand Final as West`s defence was exceptional to keep Lakes from scoring a try to win 10-2. Newcastle won the Country Championships for the first time since 1981. Lakes players selected were Kyle Connor, Stephen Brown, Robert Costello, Michael McKiernan and Rip Taylor. Connor and Taylor also played against the British Lions (lost 28-18).
The Seagull`s retained 60% of the previous year’s side and filled the gaps with Mark Bates (North), Mathew Callinan (Wingham), Gary Johnson (returning from Brothers), Mick Sullivan (returning from Ipswich), Jim ‘Chook’ Fowler and Greg ‘Jack’ Hayward (both Lower Clarence). First grade completed the premiership rounds in 3rd place then a 14-10 over West and a 34-14 (16-2) win against Cessnock gave Lakes a berth in the 1985 Grand Final. In an exciting match Lakes hung on to defeat Cessnock 12-6 (8-2). Mathew Callinan, Mark Bates and Mark Brokenshire were Newcastle representatives, and Trevor Tuckwell was a NSW Country representative.
A phenomenal season for Lakes United. First grade lost only one match during the premiership rounds in winning the Minor Premiership. The good form continued against Cessnock in the Major semi when Lakes won 22-6. The Grand Final against South Newcastle was a dour defensive arm wrestle – the only points scored in the entire match came in the 35th minute when Darren ‘Doofa’ Smith burrowed his way over the try line. Representative honours in 1986 went to Mark Brokenshire (Country Firsts), Rip Taylor and Rick Stone (both Country Seconds) whilst Jim Fowler, David Grant, Col Mathias and Peter Parsons donned Newcastle`s colours. Brokenshire, Fowler, Grant, Parsons and Taylor were members of the Newcastle side that lost 22-17 against the touring New Zealand team.
Lakes 41st season was among the Club`s best ever. The retention committee got three former Seagulls Kevin Hardman, Michael McKiernam and Mick Pitman to return. In addition juniors Brett ‘Frank’ Botham and Paul ‘Chief’ Harragon displayed form good enough to demand regular spots in First grade. Captain/Coach Peter Walsh guided Lakes to the semis where they kept West scoreless in the Qualifying semi (10-0) then accounted for South 14-4 (12-4) to move into their fourth straight ‘Decider’. The Seagull`s won an exciting Grand Final 24-16 over South who had themselves led the match on three separate occasions. On the representative scene Mark Bates, Jim Fowler, David Grant, Greg Hayward, Michael McKiernan, Peter Walsh and Steve Walters played for Newcastle. Hayward and Walters earned Country guernseys with Walter`s becoming the second Lakes United player to be named NSW Country Player of the Year.
With Newcastle entering the Sydney competition it was evitable that Lakes players (Brett Botham, Paul Harragon, Greg Hayward and Michael McKiernan) were recruited for the Knights debut season. Still the Club did well to appear in their fifth consecutive First grade Grand Final. Mick Pitman was caretaker Captain/Coach until Peter Walsh returned from England. Lakes won the Qualifying semi against Central 32-12 but were unable to score a point against South in the Major semi losing 8-0. Lakes beat West 16-10 in the Final to set up a rematch with the Lions. The Seagulls tried hard but South were the most consistent side all season (Minor premiers by 5pts) and deservedly won 29-8.
Peter Walsh`s team qualified for the Elimination semi by finishing 4th on the table. It was an early exit from the competition as the NRL`s newest club North Nelson Bay won 19-12. Lindsay Bowne was the only Lakes man to play for Newcastle in 1989.
In this decade Lakes were :
- First grade Major Premiers – 2001, 2006 & 2007
- First grade Minor Premiers – 2001, 2002, 2006 & 2007
- First grade Grand Finalists – 2000
- Reserve grade Grand Finalists – 2000 & 2004
- Third grade Minor Premiers – 2004
- U/20`s / Third grade Grand Finalists – 2002 & 2003
The Seagull`s welcomed back Robert ‘Rip’ Taylor as the Club`s first non-playing Coach since 1983. Major gains for the year included Danny Costelloe (Manly) and the return of Paul Jeffries from Sydney club Western Suburbs. Taylors methods produced immediate results with 12 wins and 2 draws during the premiership rounds followed by wins in the Qualifying semi (20-8 v West) and Major semi (40-8 v Waratah) to qualify for the Club`s 17th First grade Grand Final. In an exciting match at No1 Sportsground Lakes found themselves trailing Waratah 6-12 at half-time. A 90m intercept try by Craig Fogo six minutes from full-time clinched a 20-14 victory for the Cheetahs. Newcastle regained the Country Championship crown in 2000 with Lakes men Danny Costelloe and Adam Hall making significant contributions. Both went on to represent NSW Country.
Coach Taylor once more assembled a high quality squad including new recruits Mark Stubbs (Kempsey) Cain Garretly and Mark Rudd (Wyong), Matt Stildolph (Waratah), Jason Allen (West) and Shaun Buttons (Macquarie). First grade won the Minor Premiership and lost only one game before the playoffs. At Cahill Oval the home side was dealt a reality check when West won the Major semi 22-12. In a Final where the lead changed on six occasions and the Seagull`s were without key player Paul Allardice Lakes managed to prevail 28-22 to set up a seventh Grand Final clash with the Rosellas. On Sunday 26 August Lakes overcame muddy conditions and a determined opposition to grind out a 18-10 victory – the Club`s 8th Major Premiership. Andrew Ryan, Troy Miles and Adam Hall wore Newcastle`s colours in the Country Championships with Hall joining an elite band of players when he played his 25th match for Newcastle against the North Coast.
Lakes welcomed a famous name back to the club when Craig Kimmorley joined the Seagull`s. Rip Taylor`s team produced a consistent season to win the Minor premiership by three points. In the Major semi Lakes survived for 75 minutes with 12 men (Grant Coleman was sent off) to win 16-14 over West. The Grand Final was a classic encounter that required extra-time after the score was locked together at 16 all after 80 minutes. In the end the Rosellas finished the stronger winning 27 -16. On the representative scene Glenn Agland and Danny Costelloe played for Newcastle with Costelloe also gaining Country selection.
Paul Jeffries was appointed Captain/Coach for the 2003 season and his side did reasonably well to finish 4th on the table. Lakes were fortunate to secure the services of former Country hooker Brett Clements mid season after Ian Bourke suffered a season-ending knee injury in Round 3. In the semis Lakes snuck past the Northern Blues 28-26 (14-4) before the season ended 0-16 against Cessnock in the Minor Semi.
Ian Bourke after recovering from a knee injury that ruined his previous season took over as Captain/Coach in 2004. Among several new signings former Rosella Tony Hutton would add some vigour to an already formidable forward pack. The Seagulls completed the home and away series in 2nd place thanks to 14 wins and only 4 defeats. The Qualifying semi saw the Northern Blues side defeat Lakes 24-18 (16-4) but Bourke`s men responded with a 32-18 (24-6) victory against Wyong at Cahill Oval. Once again West were Lakes adversary in the Final and once again Lakes season finished at the Final losing 36-24 (24-12).
Languishing one point outside the ‘Five’ due to a 7-8 record Ian Bourke`s side lost their last five games of the season to miss the play-offs. The good news was Bourke would be retained as Captain/Coach and was already planning the rebuilding program for the following year.
Apart from keeping the bulk of the squad and the younger players from 2005 working towards their full potential Lakes bought well including Paul Skovgaard (Kurri), Martin Kelly (Maitland), Joel Rawlins (Tigers) and Daniel Frame (Storm). After the worst start to a season by a side that would go on to win the Premiership (a draw then two loses) Bourke`s men claimed the Minor premiership on the last day of the regular season with a 26-20 win against Raymond Terrace. The week off did Lakes no good as they succumbed to the Nelson Bay Blues 24-30 after Lakes led 24-10 at half-time. Lakes bounced back in the Final to defeat the Cessnock 24-2 and then won the rematch with Nelson Bay and their 9th Grand Final 40-24 (16-12).
In preparing to defend both Major and Minor premierships Lakes added depth to the ranks for season number 61. Blake Muller (Knights) Andrew Spicer (NNBay), Fletcher Hawkins (Central Coast), Shane Johnson and Todd Maddison (both West) would all make valuable contributions to Lakes success. A 40-18 won away to Macquarie sealed a second straight Minor premiership but again the week off proved disastrous as Wyong were to good for Lakes in the Major semi winning 24-15 (10-8). The Seagulls responded by beating Cessnock 28-16 (12-0) to set up a rematch with Wyong. In the Grand Final Bourke`s team played with patience in the first half before producing several lengthy tries to overrun the Kangaroos 32-12 (10-6). After many years of service Paul Skovgarrd played his last game for Newcastle this year. Another five Seagulls also represented Newcastle with Daniel Hagan and Joel Rawlins gaining NSW Country selection.
Lakes lost a lot of quality players before the start of the season which made new Coach Adam Brown`s job very difficult. Five defeats to start 2008 meant making the play-offs was always going to be difficult. The Seagull`s did win their last four games but still the hope of playing in August had vanished.
Once again Lakes experienced a difficult season fielding a young and inexperienced side. Against the stronger clubs the young Seagull`s played good football at times but struggled to apply pressure for an entire 80 minutes. Subsequently Lakes finished with a 3-15 record and for the first time in the Club`s history Lakes United won the ‘wooden spoon’.2010`s
In this decade Lakes were :
- First grade Major Premiers – 2015
- Reserve grade Major Premiers – 2015 & 2016
- Reserve grade Minor Premiers – 2016
- Open grade Major Premiers – 2016
- Under 19`s Major & Minor Premiers – 2016
Ian Bourke was brought back in an attempt to improve the Club`s on field performances but even his experience and coaching expertise could not prevent another poor season. Records for all the wrong reasons were broken during 2010 and winning only three games meant ‘The Spoon’ was again Lakes.
Tom Trow took over as Coach but he also experienced the frustration of a disappointing season. The players were giving 100% but like the previous seasons ‘rookie’ mistakes were made and sustaining constant pressure on the opposition proved difficult.. In mid July the young Lakes men threatened to pull off the upset of the season when they led Western Suburbs 16-0 at Harker Oval. In the end however the Rosella`s won 44-20. A 4-14 record meant Lakes finished above only one club.
Former Storm and Cowboys player Matt Bartlett was appointed Captain/Coach for 2012. The cause was aided by the recruitment of Adam Woolnough (Knights). The now familiar poor start to the season was evident again with four losses before relief came against Macquarie at Cahill Oval when the home side won 24-14. Inconsistency was once more a problem with the First grade side able to win only three of 18 matches. It was the fifth season in a row Lakes had failed to qualify for semi-final football in First grade, equalling the unwanted record set between 1962-1966. Again Lakes finished in 2nd last place.
The Seagull`s welcomed back ‘Rip’ Taylor for his third stint as Coach in the hope he could make the Club competitive again and install his trademark discipline into the Club. Although the First grade side was competitive in most of its matches the season would be remembered as statistically the worst in the Club`s history. Whilst the points scored and points conceded were not the worst ever the failure to win a game certainly was. Lakes finished with the ‘wooden spoon’ for the 3rd time in the last five years.
Incoming Coach Dean Noonan acknowledged the challenge he faced and responded by attracting more experienced players and continuing to develop the promising junior program. Noonan apart from working previously with the Knights NSW Cup side was also a former local junior well versed in the Club`s culture and history. Danny Kerr (Burleigh), Honeti Tuha (Knights U/20`s), Anthony Seeto (Logan) and Jake Hawkins (Cronulla U/20`s) were among the new faces at the Club. The season started ominously with five loses before ironically winning 20-18 (10-12) at ‘The Graveyard’ (Kurri). The Seagull`s would win on four more occasions during the season playing good competitive football in most games. Given the Club`s recent past a 5-11 record was a reasonable start to Noonan`s rebuilding program.
It was beyond the wildest dreams of Lakes supporters that the Club`s 69th season would see their side crowned champions of the Newcastle Rugby League. Dean Noonan and his formidable back room staff had recruited wisely with Chris Adams (Cessnock), Kallin Adams (Toukley), Tim Harlow (Queensland), Hayden Jeans (Kurri) and Brad Murray (West) all making significant contributions to a successful season. In addition there was talent nurtured from the previous year including former Juniors Jay Sullivan and Ben Sams who were now recognised first graders. Importantly there was depth in the grades as well. Consistent form for most of the Premiership rounds saw the Seagull`s finish second on the table behind Western Suburbs with 10 wins and 4 loses. The Qualifying semi against Macquarie was a torrid encounter with solid defence in the closing stages getting Lakes home 16(10)-12(2). In the Major semi at Harker Oval Noonan`s men produced a massive effort to defeat the Minor Premiers 20-14 after being down 4-14 with 17 minutes remaining. The Grand Final against a determined Macquarie side will be remembered as one of Lakes United`s finest days. After being down 4-18 at half time Lakes fought back to win 24-18. Newcastle representative players this year were Dylan Hartin, Marcel Ikinofo, Tama Koupu, Brad Murray and Chris Adams. Adams capped of an outstanding debut season for Lakes with selection for Country Bulls.
The character of a sporting organisation can sometimes be defined by their performance following a significant season. For Lakes United 2016 produced another great season. With playing and coaching personnel similar to the previous year all four sides were competitive. First grade lost six games during the regular season to finish 4th and defeated Kurri 30-10 in the Elimination semi before bowing out to Western Suburbs 18-26 a week later. On September 18 at Hunter Stadium Lakes supporters experienced another unforgettable Grand Final day when the Under 19`s (12-8 v Central), Open Grade (18-12 v Kurri) and Reserve grade (22-20 v West) all won nail biting matches. Never before had the Seagull`s won three times on Grand Final day. On the representative scene the Newcastle side that won the Country Championship included Seagull`s Josh Charles, Marcel Ikinofo, Brad Murray and Chris Adams. Charles, Ikinofo and Adams also gained selection for NSW Country with Adams becoming the third Lakes player to win the Country Player of the Year award.