IT’S A Pirates-Tamworth Magpies local derby game with a unique twist for good mates Matt Blanch and Cameron Young.
The two 20-year-olds have grown up together, went to school together at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School and played football together in the school’s and Central North Rugby Union junior teams.
However, tomorrow the pair of halfbacks run out onto Tamworth Rugby Park in opposing number nine jumpers, Blanch for his Tamworth Magpies and Young for the Pirates.
It’s a novel situation for the two.
Until this season, Young had also been at the Magpies but, after returning to Tamworth from a stint with Clutha in New Zealand’s South Island, elected to move across the river to the Pirates.
Originally from Muswellbrook where his family has a dairy, Young completed his Higher School Certificate at Farrer, starring on the rugby field as a fullback in various junior representative teams.
He and Mikey Carr then spent a season playing in the South Island (near Dunedin) with the Clutha club.
“It was awesome,” Young said.
On his return, he decided to move to Pirates where a halfback spot was on offer and debuted in last Saturday’s 20-18 loss to Narrabri Blue Boars at Ken Chillingworth Oval.
“We blew it big time,” Young said of that two-point opening loss.
Which places more pressure on him and his new teammates to get the Buccaneers back on their winning way.
It’s not the first time he’s played against his good friend, workmate and former schoolmate.
“When we used to play as Quirindi juniors we also played Tamworth,” he recalled.
“It’s been an interesting week,” he said of the joking and teasing “banter” that has flowed between the two nines and their Country Auctions workmates where Young has been working as a yardman for the past nine months or so.
Blanch joined Country Auctions out of school and has been there almost three years where he has worked his way up to auction co-ordinator.
He loves his job as well as playing rugby for his Magpies, where his grandfather, the late Bill Mullens, is a life member.
While a number of his schoolboy teammates have left the Magpies, he has remained loyal.
“I just love the club,” he admits with a shy grin.
“It’s been good fun this week but this (the banter) has been going on for two months.”
The Maggies are coming good too, he said.
They were more than competitive against Moree in the first half last week (12-5 at half-time) before falling away in the second half for a 47-15 loss.
“Cameron has made me lift a lot so I’ve stuck him with all the hard jobs this week,” he joked.
Young said he would have to be at his best to counter Blanch in their personal on-field halfback duel.
“If he steps me I won’t get him. I’ve got lead feet,” Young said.
“That’s a lie,” Blanch countered.
“It’s going to be a very physical game.”