Lebanon Legend Profile: George Ndaira

An unassuming player whose NRL career last just 25 games, George Ndaira made his biggest contribution to Rugby League on the international scene where he was a stalwart for Lebanon.

A talented junior, Ndaira came through the St George Illawarra Jersey Flegg side in 2005 that played and won the Grand Final, a team that featured the likes of Jason Nightingale, Josh Morris, Chris Houston and Beau Ryan.

He made his top grade debut in 2006, coming off the bench three times. Unable to supplant Aaron Gorrell or Dean Young for the No.9 jersey, Ndaira packed his bags and headed to Redfern to join the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

His best season in the NRL came with Souths in 2008 where he played 14 games in a good hooking tandem with Issac Luke. That year he kicked two goals for his only four points in the top grade.

Chasing opportunity, Ndaira headed north to Newcastle to join the Knights. Though he played just eight games – seven off the bench as he was stuck behind Isaac De Gois in the pecking order – he has stayed a long time and enjoyed plenty of success.

Following his time with the Knights, Ndaira plied his trade in the Newcastle local competition with the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs.  Trying to play his way back into NRL contention, Ndaira had a brief stint with the Wests Tigers in between his Kurri Kurri stints but could not break into the NRL side.

It was back at Newcastle though that Ndaira had his most unexpected – and arguably finest hour – in senior club football. Having moved into coaching as an assistant with the Newcastle NSW Cup team, having taken an interest in the caper at Kurri Kurri, Ndaira came out of retirement at the behest of coach Matt Lantry when a wave of injuries hit the club. Using his experience to help settle the young Knights team, he led them through an epic finals campaign that netted them a memorable Grand Final win over local rivals Wyong and a trip to play the Ipswich Jets in the State Championship. It was a massive thrill for a warrior who thought his playing days were behind him.

While he achieved plenty at club footy, arguably his proudest moments came representing the Cedars.

Taking the reins handed over by Hazem El Masri, Ndaira led the charge to qualify for the 2008 World Cup. While he represented Lebanon on nine occasions, scoring 34 points, it was his passionate play in the ’08 qualifiers that have gone down in Lebanese Rugby League lore. Ndaira played with class in a win over Wales and draw with Ireland, claiming man of the match honours, before a loss to Samoa left the Cedars a heartbreaking win short of qualification.

Ndaira returned to Sydney in 2017, taking on a role as an assistant coach at the Newtown Jets, hoping for the big break as a coach that often eluded him as a player.

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