TOM Hine and Jake Cocking are two of the young guns starring in this season’s Group 4 Cup competition.
Last weekend they both picked up three points in The Northern Daily Leader -sponsored Group 4 Player of the Year Award, Hine helping West Lions to a 56-20 win over Oxley Diggers at Scully Park and Cocking also picking up North Tamworth’s players’ player award in the 74-20 success over Wee Waa Panthers at Wee Waa’s Cook Oval.
Cocking’s strong game was his second three-pointer this season and enabled him to join bandy-legged second- rower Hine on six points in the Group 4 Player of the Year Award.
They share equal third with Wee Waa powerhouse Sam Power, just four points astern of Gunnedah skipper Trent Hilton.
Hilton is two points ahead of another lock, North Tamworth Bear Nic Dobson, and is determined to help his Gunnedah Bulldogs to a crucial win over West Lions at Scully Park this afternoon.
Gunnedah sits second on the Group 4 first grade ladder, two points ahead of West Lions and that makes this afternoon’s match vital for both sides.
22-year-old Hine, who is following in family footsteps at West, knows how vital it is.
Delighted to have won another three-point award last Saturday night in the win over Diggers, he knows the Lions cannot lapse.
“Our second half was a bit ordinary,” he said.
“We played well the first half but just didn’t come out of the sheds in the second half. We didn’t get into the game.”
He said the lapse, which saw Diggers claw their way back to trail 40-20, was corrected for the final 15 minutes.
He also scored the final try of the game on fulltime to cap a good evening for him.
That the new-look Lions, who had won five premierships under former stalwart coach Tony La Chiusa, are a work in progress is evident.
Hine is part of that new look but with an old link.
His father, Mick, and uncle, Tim Hine, played first grade for the West Tamworth Robins before they morphed with the Tamworth City Lions to form the West Lions.
“I love playing here,” Tom said.
“It’s a great club and a great bunch of blokes. Chris is doing a great job,” he said of captain-coach Chris Hunt.
While today’s game is a crucial one for West and Gunnedah, unbeaten North Tamworth Bears also have a dangerous foe in Narrabri Blues to overcome at Jack Woolaston Oval tomorrow.
The Bears welcomed back Sean Ferguson last weekend and the former captain-coach’s work rate and nous around the ruck is a bonus for the Bears.
Also scheduled in Tamworth tomorrow is the wooden spoon battle between Wee Waa and Oxley Diggers at Scully Park.