THE Country gold still fits Pirates breakaway Josh Stewart pretty well it seems.
Stewart made his return for the Cockatoos against NSW Suburban last week and was adjudged their man of the match.
Today another challenge awaits, with the Cockatoos tackling the Australian U20s at Chatswood as part of their preparations for the upcoming World Cup.
It will be a huge test and Cockatoos coach Shannon Fraser is under no illusions about what his team will be up against.
“The team the U20s will field will be the team which will play in the opening match of the 2014 U20 World Cup in New Zealand,” Fraser said.
Stewart will again be joined in Cockatoos colours by Scone hooker-prop Ryan Jackson after he made his debut last week.
For Stewart, it was a catharsis after enduring a 2013 season dogged by a groin injury.
Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it, he said.
“It was a year I’d tried to set up for a long time with the Lions game,” he said.
“At the end of the day I did a little bit too much and the body didn’t hold up.”
He was ruled out for the Cockatoos after injuring himself in Central North’s first game of the Country Championships.
Then came Pirates’ finals disappointment.
It was a complete contrast to the highs of the previous year – a premiership and the Will Tanner Trophy as the Country player of the year – and had Stewart a bit disillusioned.
“I was considering not playing rugby after the horror year I had last year,” he said.
But after tossing up whether to have a year off or not, he decided to give it another crack.
That then meant the Cockatoos came into the frame.
“I was very happy to make the side. That was my main aim,” he said.
It has only quenched his thirst for more though and the ultimate goal would be to make the Country Eagles side for the new National Rugby Competition.
The Eagles have expressed interest in having players playing in the regional competitions involved.
There’s a lot of rugby to be played before then though and Stewart has more pressing engagements with the Cockatoos and Pirates.
He said if the Cockatoos can play their game today they should be right on the strength of what they showed last week.
When they had ball in hand and were attacking they looked like a seasoned team.
Just a bit of panic play hurt them at times.
Stewart’s involvement with the Cockatoos means he will again be missing for Pirates.
But he’s not alone. They’ve got six out for their clash with Quirindi.
The forwards are most affected but they are also without five-eighth Andrew Moodie.
Jake Hartmann will shift from fullback to 10 with coach Andrew Verrell keen to have a bit of a look at him there.