Former Australian winger Nathan Blacklock might make a comeback at Gulgong this weekend.
The ex-Sydney City Roosters and St George-Illawarra Dragons star, who led the NRL tryscoring tallies for three successive years (1999-2001), is preparing to run onto the field for the Kootingal Roosters.
At this stage, he said, it is just a trial game to help out against the Gulgong Terriers on Saturday 27 February.
He is co-coaching the Roosters under-18s this season with Nathan Rush and will have three or four playing in the Kootingal senior hit-out.
“I’ll have a go at Gulgong,” Blacklock said.
“See how it goes.
“My mind says yes but the body says no.”
The talented winger enjoyed a star-studded career in the NRL, starting at the Sydney City Roosters (5 games) before joining the St George Dragons when they merged with Illawarra.
He played 137 matches for the Dragons and scored 120 tries for them as well as touching down on 35 occasions in 51 fixtures for Hull Football Club in the English Super League.
He also represented NSW Country as well as two games for Australia, scoring two Test tries.
Kootingal coach Geoff Sharpe is delighted to have someone of Blacklock’s talent and experience on board and will be hoping he comes through the trial well.
So does his co-coach with the Roosters under-18s, Rush, who hails from the South Coast.
“Born in Nowra,” he said.
“Grew up there then moved to Goulburn.
“I played for the Bomaderry Swamp Rats many moons ago.”
His wife moved to Tamworth and “her son played at Kooty”.
“So I was always here helping out,” Rush added.
“Then the president’s job (Kootingal Junior Rugby League) came up so I did that for half a dozen years.
“My son, Tyrone, then played in the 16s here and a lot of his mates moved out here and I coached them.”
He met Blacklock recently “and asked him if he’d get involved with our juniors” as he’d helped Tom Learoyd-Lahrs out at Norths with their 18s.
“His (Blacklock’s) stepson, Riley Reid, is playing out here, too.”
It’s a big family and Rush said his days as president of the juniors is a big help as well.
“I always tried to get the youngsters involved with the seniors out here and keep a pathway going,” he said.
“Then Nathan and I started the 16s last year with a bunch of union boys from Farrer.
“We’re confident we’ll get an under-18 side, they’ve just been a bit slow with their registrations.
“We’ve got 16 on our group chat and anywhere from eight to 11 and 12 turning up for training.”
Jordan Leota is one of those keen young former rugby union kids.
He lives in Tamworth and currently studying a nursing course at Tamworth TAFE.
“I was a rugby boy,” he said.
“But, a lot of my mates came out here and my mum (Heather Turriff) loves Kooty and always wanted me to come out and play here.”
Leota hopes to overcome a knee injury before the season starts and received some helpful strapping from Rush at Tuesday’s training session.
The Kootingal Roosters start their campaign with senior men and women’s (ladies league tag) trials at Gulgong this Saturday.
They also have trials against Singleton (at Kootingal) on 6 March and away to Guyra on 13 March.
- by Geoff Newling