Hornby, Linwood coaching adversaries reunite to lead Bulls after grand final showdown

Jed Lawrie (white hat) and the Hornby Panthers after winning the Pat Smith Trophy on Sunday....
Jed Lawrie (white hat) and the Hornby Panthers after winning the Pat Smith Trophy on Sunday. PHOTO: MATTHEW MUSSON
Jed Lawrie has a new twist on the old 'if you can't beat them, join them' mantra after coaching Hornby to a long-awaited Canterbury Rugby League premiership victory over arch nemesis Linwood.

Once celebrations marking the Panthers first title since 2013 subside, Lowrie will team up with the coaching adversary that caused him so much angst as Linwood racked up four successive Pat Smith Trophy-winning campaigns at Hornby's expense from 2016.

Lowrie reprises a clipboard partnership with former Keas mentor Andrew Auimatagi, whose try-scoring double while playing in the halves during Sunday's grand final was not enough to prevent Hornby winning 22-16 at Nga Puna Wai.

"I'm excited about helping Andrew with the (Canterbury) Bulls after a year off," said Lowrie, who coached alongside Auimatagi at the Bulls for three seasons up to 2020.

"I stepped away last year to start my own business and now I've had the opportunity to come back in. Andrew's broken my heart a few times as a coach in grand finals but we've always had that respect as coaches working together for the Bulls."

Lowrie said a 37-strong wider training squad would be whittled down to 25 before the Bulls head to the capital to play Wellington for the new Adrian Shelford Memorial Trophy, which honours the Kiwis enforcer who represented Canterbury and Wellington before he died from a heart attack aged 39 in 2003.

The Bulls struggled in the four-team NZRL premiership last year, losing heavily to the Akarana Falcons and Counties Manukau Stingrays. Their only win was against cellar dwellers Waikato Mana.

Lowrie was still basking in the afterglow of Hornby's premiership on Monday, an accolade that extended beyond the 17 players who denied Linwood a sixth consecutive title.

"This is for everybody who worked hard those four years we lost, even the boys that worked hard the last eight years since we last won it," he said.

Lawrie's brother Corey and fellow veteran James Baxendale were part of the 2013 championship-winning squad, while fullback and captain Sincere Harraway is very much the Panthers future, providing the 20-year-old isn't scouted elsewhere.

Harraway was logically awarded the Mel Cooke Trophy after scoring solo tries in each half and providing the assist for another.

"He played a couple of prems games two years ago to introduce him to the group. Last year he played a big part, this year we gave him the captaincy and told him: 'This is your team, go out and be the best you can'. You saw it on Sunday, and all year how good he is," Lowrie said.

"How far could he go? The only trouble is the Aussie's don't like small bodies, but he more makes up for small body with toughness."

In other grand final day highlights, Marist Papanui edged the Northern Bulldogs 6-2 in a try-less premier reserve grand final. The Sydenham Swans defended their women's title with a comfortable 32-12 victory over the Woolston Rams.

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