TOM Hine moved within a point of Trent Hilton on The Northern Daily Leader Group 4 Player of the Year Award table when the backrower and his young Lionhearts overran the Gunnedah Bulldogs at Scully Park on Saturday.
The Lions turned an 18-10 halftime lead into a 38-20 victory with a second-half surge.
They joined Gunnedah in equal second on the Group 4 first grade table while Hine almost joined Bulldogs lock and skipper Hilton at the top of the Group 4 Player of the Year Award.
His three points in Saturday’s win took him to nine, a point behind Hilton.
It was Hine’s second three-point game in as as many weeks.
The young second-rower was a standout, with many strong runs, and almost scored a try only to be penalised for not playing the ball.
He had just busted through some Bulldog defenders and raced 30m in a diagonal run to be pulled down just short of the line.
Thinking he was not held, he dived over under the posts only to be denied by the referee’s decision.
It didn’t affect the outcome.
Hine was a little taken aback when told he’d won his second successive player of the match and his third overall.
“I didn’t expect it,” he said while showering.
“There were a lot of good players for us out there today.
“It was a good tough game too, very tough.
“But things are starting to come together.
“All the boys did dig deep today. Our defence was real good – we scrambled well.
“It’s also good to see the things we’re working on at training are coming together.”
North Tamworth lock Nic Dobson was joined in third place by fellow Bear Shane Wadwell after his big effort on Sunday against Narrabri.
The Bears beat Naarabri 86-nil and would have hit the century if goalkicker Abel Carney had had his radar working.
North scored 18 tries, with Carney and Zac Russ picking up four each.
Wadwell was at his bustling best with some big runs against a strung-out Narrabri defence.
One occasion saw Wadwell even shake off Lachie Cameron with some good footwork before storming downfield again to finish with a perfect off load for a gift for Carney.
Cameron got the one point and may lead the tackle count just from this one game, but it was the Bears’ defence that was impenetrable.
In the first clean sheet of their season, the Bears’ defence never let up and kept the Blues on the back foot.
Captain Marshall Barker said the team was looking forward to the challenge of Gunnedah this weekend.
The forward is 30 on Sunday and is determined not to let the Bulldogs spoil the party.
“The boys are ready for a big game,” Barker said.
“We are playing some really good footy at the moment.”