TOM Apthorpe has had an arguably tougher initiation to first grade than most but seems to be taking it in his stride.
Not only has the 18-year-old been thrust into a position he hasn’t played a lot of but straight into the coalface that is the front row.
He’s done a good job there though and was Inverell coach Scott Bremner’s pick as their best in Saturday’s win over Tamworth.
“He’s just a young fella stepping up every week,” Bremner said.
He said he was growing in confidence and likes what he’s been seeing.
“He’s doing a lot of second efforts, which I love,” he said.
At 18, Apthorpe is the baby of the side, but not by that much.
It is a pretty young side.
Normally a second-rower or blindside breakaway, Apthorpe moved into the front row when injury left them needing a prop.
It certainly wasn’t what he was expecting stepping up from the 18s.
“I thought I was going to be in second grade the first few games but I got put up to first grade the first game,” he said.
“I played Central North U20s – that helped me with a bit of fitness.”
Last year, Apthorpe played a bit of every where.
As well as the forwards he “played a bit of centre and played one game of fullback”.
He was firm though that he is a forward.
Even still, he understandably had some trepidation about packing down in the front row.
“I was a bit scared to start with,” he said.
“But I had my first game and thought I wasn’t too bad.”
Not surprisingly, he’s found scrummaging the biggest challenge, especially against blokes a lot bigger.
He’s taken some blows along the way but is feeling more comfortable with each game.
“I’m feeling more confident with what I can do on the field,” he said.
While he got the three points from Bremner, second- rower Graham Dick got the two and winger Tom Scotton the one.
Breakaways Amanaki Pakalini and Siaki Maea also both had big games and figured in the zone best and fairest points.
Pakalini got the three for the second consecutive week, with Maea picking up the one.
The win puts the Highlanders in contention to make the top tier and they’ll be looking to cement their spot at Quirindi on Saturday.
In other games, Gunnedah is home to Tamworth, Narrabri travels to Walcha, Scone to Moree and Pirates host Barraba.