League players help Magpies muscle up

LIONS and Bears are becoming Magpies again as the Tamworth Rugby Club pumps up its backline for the new-look 2014 season.

The club has had a very busy off season recruiting players, and is  looking to earn a spot at the top of the new tiered competition.

Five-time Wests Lions rugby league premiership-winning captain Brendan Hunt will once again pull on the black and white this season, after a stellar rugby league career.

Hunt was a former Maggies junior player and has had plans to change codes for some time.

“I came back from the Knights to play rugby in 2008,” Hunt said.

“But I ended up playing both codes in that first year before staying at Wests.”

“We achieved some special things at Wests and I will miss it but now I am looking for something different. 

“I want to prove to myself that I still have something to offer.”

Cross-town rivals will become a dynamic combination as former North Tamworth Bears back Pat Strong also re-joins the club.

Before playing the last two years for the Bears, the man they call Gudge also had a stint for the Magpies.

Before that he played rugby for the Armidale Blues for ten years.

He will likely play fullback with Hunt to be the muscle in the middle at inside centre.

“I feel more comfortable in rugby and have missed the sportsmanship and atmosphere,” Strong said.

“It is more of a free-flowing game as well.”

Another former player is also returning to the backline, with fly-half Bryce Daniels set to take the playmakers’ role again.

Daniels played for the Magpies for three years from 2009-11, before a broken ankle playing for his hometown Coonamble ruined his return last season.

The final edition to the revamped backline is Wesley Rooney.

Rooney played fly half for the Papua New Guinea national side last season before moving to Tamworth with his family.

Tamworth coach Ross Duncan said the club had been actively looking for backs in the off season and was lucky to get the returning players at the same time.

“We have the forwards but were lacking a bit in the backs the last few years,” Duncan said.

“We didn’t quite have the class and skill to keep up with the better teams.”

Whilst the coach would love to swoop in on the premiership, his priority is to make the top tier of the new format.

For the first time, Central North will be split into a top and bottom tier after the first round of the home and away season.

The Magpies have lost prop Stuart Geard for 2014 after the vet moved out of the region.

Fittingly, he will be replaced both at work and in the front row by Tim Quast, who is returning after finishing university to work at the Piper Street Surgery.

Anyone looking to have a run for the Magpies in 2014 is encouraged to turn up to training at Rugby Park any Tuesday or Thursday at 6.30pm.

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