HE was a noted hothead but now Chris Vidler is a team leader and one of the most respected and feared players in Group 4.
Funnily enough, he hasn’t won too many premierships despite the fact his West Lions are lining up for a record fifth successive Wests Cup Group 4 first grade premiership at Scully Park tomorrow.
West Lions coach Tony La Chiusa, who retires after tomorrow’s grand final after 16 years at the first grade helm, is Vidler’s greatest admirer, plucking him from North Tamworth’s grasp as a wayward young 18-year-old.
“He was hung out to dry,” La Chiusa recalled.
“He went berserk after a grand final at Jack Woolaston Oval.
“But he was just a kid.
“We got him to come over here.”
An angry young man, Vidler has matured into a fearsome prop forward, a rampaging bull, La Chiusa describes him.
He could see the talent in the then teenager, it was just a matter of harnessing that and ridding “the rubbish” from his game.
“He’s now matured into one of our best players, a real leader. All the boys look up to him.
“It’s his first grand final at Scully too.
“I didn’t realise it until he said something the other night at training.”
While West has won the last four Group 4 first grade premiership and is aiming to better North Tamworth’s run of four straight in 2005-06-07-08, Vidler has yet to play in a winning side at Scully Park.
“Yeah, he missed one through injury and the other through suspension,” La Chiusa said.
“ So he wants to make this one special.”
So too, do La Chiusa and his able lieutenant, Brendan Hunt.
“Brendan’s retiring too,” La Chiusa said.
“I’ve had enough, especially after the rubbish that went on at Wee Waa last Sunday.
“That was a disgrace.
“No wonder people are leaving the game.
“But Brendan deserves to go out a winner.
“He’s missed a few of the grand final wins too with injury.
“To have come back from that knee injury is outstanding,” he said.
Hunt is one of the generals, forming what the Lions call their diamond, a four-man attacking group made up of Brendan Hunt, Chris Hunt, 17-year-old halfback Mitch Doring and freakish Matt Nean.
All of the Lion attacking plays are generated by those four, either in unison or individually and on the back of some storming runs by Vidler, Scott Rolls and Shane Salvador.
“We’ve had some good sessions,” La Chiusa said.
“Last week we did our King Of The Mountain run up to the back of the lookout.
“We trained well last week and tapered off a bit this week.
“That week off was good for us.
“Everyone’s fit and ready to go.
“Matty (Nean) has hit form at the right time and Chris Hunt is playing out of his skin.
“He didn’t play Norths last time and Sean Nean is also back too.”
Sean, older brother of Matt, doesn’t receive as much publicity as the other stars but is one of the best centres in the Northern Inland region.
Strong and quick, he can finish a try or set it up.
His tussle with either Brad Marshall or Kyle Avery will be a highlight.
The young outside backs, Latrell Hampton and Janson Doughty, benefit from his attacking ability and are also helped by his defensive
capability. That tussle out wide with the Bears’ young backs AJ Burns and Callum Hayne will also be a highlight.