HE lit up Tamworth Rugby Park two weeks ago and Tamworth will be hoping Pat Strong can do the same at Walcha on Sunday as the Magpies chase a berth in the Tier 2 grand final.
Strong was electric for the Magpies in their minor semi-final win over Barraba, highlighted by a stunning take in the air to score their second try.
He leapt up and plucked one-handed a cross-field kick from Ben Roughley – a la Brett Morris as he likened it.
It was the first of three tries for the game for Strong, and the kind of spectacular effort he is capable of producing.
But until recent weeks he has had limited opportunities to showcase his talents.
Not that the Magpies haven’t wanted to but, as co-coach Ross Duncan said, they “haven’t been able to for whatever reason get him the ball”.
The decision to push Bryce Daniels into five-eighth has certainly brought a bit more zing to the attack and seen the ball going wider.
The likes of Strong and Lachie McIntosh have profited from that and, in turn, the Magpies.
For Strong too, the move back to fullback has made a difference.
“I feel a lot more comfortable playing at 15,” Strong said.
It’s where he’s played most of his football.
The Rams’ game marked the Magpies’ first foray into the finals for a few seasons.
It was Strong’s first finals with the Magpies, and first for a couple of years.
His last was when he was playing league with North Tamworth.
Before that he played in several finals with Armidale, and won a few premierships with them.
This is his second stint with the Magpies.
He played a few years ago before crossing over to league for a season, and then missing most of last season after breaking his finger.
The Magpies will take in the momentum to the match-up with the Rams after finally getting the better of them when they last met last month.
It was, Duncan said, their best performance of the season.
Part of what solicited that was the way the backs played.
Strong said it was probably the game where the backline clicked.
“It found its rhythm,” he said.
He said they have got a bit of improving to do from the Barraba game.
“The first half was really great. All our attack and defence was spot-on,” he said.
“In the second half we got a bit complacent and took our foot off the pedal.”
A couple of quick penalties and they were on the back foot and really struggled to get back on the front foot.
They can’t afford to do that on Sunday.