Fans of the Newcastle-based Lakes United Seagulls are eagerly awaiting the start of their club’s 2022 season, which will mark its 75th anniversary in Rugby League.
Coming off two back-to-back disappointing seasons in the Toohey’s Newcastle Rugby League competition in which they failed to reach the finals, the Seagulls look set for redemption this year.
Bolstered by the signing of Ian “Bubba” Bourke as head coach, the blue-and-gold club is looking to rejuvenate itself following those two earlier lacklustre campaigns. Key members of the squad say there is a “great feel” around camp early in the pre-season.
“Having Bubba back as head coach is very exciting and there is a great vibe around the joint,” says veteran Lakes forward Nick Glohe. “It’s great being back around the boys and in that environment.”
Bourke, a former Cowra Magpies junior who joined Lakes United in 1998 after a stint with the Newcastle Knights, heads back to Lakes with a focus on culture and foundational success. He sees this as the key year for the Seagulls to bounce back to their previously renowned best.
The milestone year for the club will be welcomed by the Lakes United faithful, who are keen to see the team win another premiership – their 12th since the Seagulls were founded in 1947, and first since 2015.
Former Lakes United player and clubman Jackson Davis is revelling at the prospect of an end to that seven-year drought.
“I am really looking forward to seeing familiar faces return to the club in both playing and coaching roles,” Davis says. “Lakes has always revolved around a huge junior base that not many of the other clubs in the competition can match.
“I think anything other than a top five finish this season will be disappointing, especially given it’s such a milestone season for the club.”
The 2022 premiership efforts of the club, based in the Newcastle suburb of Belmont, will be strengthened by the re-signing of key players, particularly crafty hooker Daniel Peck.
Peck, heading into his fifth season with Lakes United, is determined to work harder following those two “below average” performances.
A former West Tigers player and 2017 captain of the National Youth Competition team, Peck is now proud to call Lakes United home. He says the club’s success in 2022 will lie in the leadership group stepping up and guiding young players, as well as including key signings into the system.
“Jack Kelly comes back to Lakes after a season with Central [Butcher Boys] and we [Lakes] struggled without a genuine seven [halfback] last season. Jack is that [halfback] and his leadership is invaluable,” according to Peck.
Glohe, a Scottish international and premiership winner with Lakes United, is eager to get stuck into the 2022 season and is full of optimism about the upcoming campaign. “Celebrating the 75th year of the club is going to be massive,” he says,
“Pre-season has just started and all the boys are turning up and ripping in, and I can’t wait to get on the field.”
After a tough defeat to cross-town rivals Wyong at Cahill Oval in 2021, Glohe says his goal is “ultimately … to be the best forward in the competition”. Like Davis, he believes anything other than a top five finish this season would be “unacceptable” – and he holds out hope of a grand final win in the club’s 75th anniversary year.
Davis says: “It will be exciting to see juniors who have been exposed to senior footy over the past couple of years link up with some of the more experienced players returning to the club – the likes of Glohe, Peck and [Shaun] Boss, who leave it all on the pitch week in, week out.”
Both Peck and Glohe laud the Seagulls’ culture. “It’s a blue-collar club that earns everything they get and that’s why we love it,” says Peck.
Glohe agrees. “The saying ‘Lakes are mates’ is something you only truly understand if you’re part of the club.” he says. “The club is a family and looks after their own. It holds a special place in my heart, and [that] has a lot to do with those key values that the club is built around.”
The Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League is set to kick off in March, with the season shaping up to be the strongest in a decade.
Rugby league fans in the steel city are anticipating a gripping competition, reinforced by the addition of Maitland, South Newcastle and Cessnock, and the inclusion of Central Coast first grade teams Wyong Roos and The Entrance.