CHRIS Darlington used to be a hooker.
Today he runs out in the Wests Shield Group 4 Second Division grand final against Barraba Bulldogs as Quirindi’s lock.
Dustin Munn was the Grasshopper lock until he was injured earlier in the season.
Darlington was initially picked to fill in but has played so well he has retained his spot, club president Luke Austin said.
“He was on the bench at the start of the year,” Austin said.
“He’s usually a hooker but when Dustin got hurt he stepped up.
“He’s not big but he gets through a mountain of work.
“He and Ian Reid don’t get the recognition.”
They are two of the unsung heroes in a side where hooker Matt McCulloch has been a galvanising agent since transferring in from Kootingal.
The little hooker eats up the metres and gets the Grasshoppers on the front foot, with props Damien Allan and Nick O’Leary building a big platform for the likes of Steve Nean and Josh Crittenden.
The two halves have also been in good form.
Barraba’s two halves, Brad Craddock and Joey Latham, have also been in good form for the Bulldogs and will play huge roles at the Barraba Recreation Ground.
They are also the Bulldogs’ two “imports”, both hailing from Bingara.
“Brad did play with us when we won it in 2011 though,” Coombes said.
“And we do have three boys – Luke (White), Mick (Rutherford) and Kahlan (Duncan) – who have moved to Tamworth for work.
“But they are all born and bred.
“Their parents all still live here.”
Latham and White are two of the stars of the Group 4 Second Division.
Coombes has no doubt both would play and be key men in any first grade side in country football.
Indeed, White played for West Lions last season when they won the West Cup.
Coombes also played for North Tamworth and his hulking runs put the Bears on the front foot in many games.
He’s been doing the same for Barraba too as well as providing a wealth of experience.
He won a first grade premiership with Norths in 2003 “but I’ve lost a couple too”.
A win and a loss with Wauchope in the mid 2000s were followed by the 2011 premiership success with the Bulldogs at Barraba.
“I know what it takes to win one,” he said.
“And I know what it feels like to lose one.
“You can have all the great ideas in the world but it all comes down to getting the boys to turn up on the day.”