The Thirroul Butchers are the reigning Illawarra Coal Cup premiers and will have more celebrations to look forward to this year as they mark their centenary season.
The Butchers would like nothing better than to top off their centenary celebrations with back-to-back premierships for the first time in the club’s long and illustrious history.
Phil Ostwald will coach Thirroul again as they prepare for the 2013 season.
‘‘Everyone’s pretty excited, 100 years is a great achievement for the club,’’ Ostwald said.
‘‘There’s a lot of history in the club and everyone’s starting to talk about it. There’s going to be a lot of things happening on that [Queen’s Birthday] weekend.
‘‘We came from nowhere last year and we’ll be trying to go back-to-back this year.’’
The Butchers have retained the core of last year’s premiership team including captain Bryce Forrest, Aaron Beath, Brent Grose, Ty McCarthy, Mitchell Bate, Daniel Perkins and Joel Ruskin.
They have lost Paul McGregor-Medallist and Illawarra player-of-the-year Joel Johnson, who was best on ground in the grand final, to NSW Cup club and Canberra Raiders feeder team, Mounties, while their two English imports Shane Grady and Ewan Dowes have returned home.
Grady, who represented Illawarra and Country last year, has earned a contract with English Super League club, London Broncos, while Dowes has gone back to England with his wife and baby.
‘‘We’ve lost nine out of our 17 players from last year’s grand final which is a big hole for us to fill,’’ Ostwald said.
‘‘Joel [Johnson] has gone to the NSW Cup and he’ll definitely be a big loss. The two English lads have gone back home, a couple of other guys are travelling overseas, some guys aren’t playing.
‘‘They’ve left a void but we’re working hard to fill those gaps and do the best we can.
‘‘But everyone’s very excited about the year.’’
Though Grady and Dowes have gone home, Thirroul acquired two English players from Leeds in Danny Bravo and Matt Syron.
Utility player Bravo and front-rower Syron have come from the English equivalent of the NRL under 20s competition.
A centenary book will be launched in late May.
Thirroul’s major celebrations will take place on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend from June 8 to 10.
The Butchers will host the Shellharbour Sharks at Gibson Park on June 8, followed by an auction at the Thirroul Bowling Club that night.
A formal lunch will be held at Panorama House on Sunday, June 9, where there will be presentations, speeches and book sales.
For more information call Mark Wilkinson on 0412161267 or email butchersoldboys
Story & photo courtesy of the Illawarra Mercury