Depleted Nelson Bay Gropers remain a force in Newcastle Hunter Divisional Rugby

Jubilant Nelson Bay Gropers players celebrate their trophy win at the recent Crescent Heads Sevens Womens Rugby tournament.

THEIR playing stocks have been severely ravaged but everything points to another competitive season in 2023 for the Nelson Bay Gropers Rugby Club.

The loss of 60 players through retirement and unavailability is a crippling blow to the famous Gropers, who underlined their depth of talent with a creditable fourth placed finish in the Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union Premier Division Club Championship last season.

But just like their logo of the fighting Blue Groper – a revered local fish known for its power and tenacity – the club is determined to chalk up strong performances in the 2023 Divisional Sub District competition.

Gropers Club President Gavin Rocher told News Of The Area, “The loss of so many players was unfortunate but not a deterrent to our Men’s squad for the season ahead.

“With so many of our talented youngsters taking a break from the game it hasn’t been the ideal preparation for our 2023 campaign,” revealed Rocher.

“We still have a core of senior experienced and promising players back on deck that can lead us to the finals in this year’s Sub District series,” he said.

Established for 54 years and based at Bill Strong Oval, Nelson Bay Gropers will field a mens team this season in Hunter Divisional Rugby; junior sides ranging from Under 8s to Under 18s in the Newcastle Hunter Rugby competition and hopefully a women’s team.

Players to watch in 2023 include talented flankers Sam Rocher and Nathan Oliver, prop Nathan McLeay and stalwart centre Michael Hotene who continues to give the club sterling service.

The Nelson Bay women’s team – under the expert guidance of Girls co-ordinator Leigh Byfield – are looking to consolidate their numbers and have opened their 2023 campaign on a positive note by winning the recent Crescent Heads Sevens pre-season trophy.

The girls are also in strong contention for the Women’s Summer Sevens title.

Former Wallaby centre and respected sports commentator Morgan Turinui was a special guest at the Gropers season launch last Wednesday night.

Turinui, who made 20 appearances for the Wallabies and 65 with the NSW Waratahs, has spent the past sixteen years playing and coaching rugby at the highest level in both hemispheres.

He has great insight into the running of High Performance systems and the building of relationships in high pressure, results driven environments.

Players who would like to be a part of the Gropers 2023 campaign can email an expression of interest to

By Chris KARAS

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