Pirates extended their winning sequence to 24 games in a 53-14 home defeat of Moree on Saturday – a clash also notable for Pirates wrecking ball Andrew Moodie trying to alter the DNA of Bulls players and Simon Trappel equalling the record for most caps at the Tamworth club.
Post-match, Moodie bore a deeply satisfied expression. Like a man who gets paid to break bones for a living and loves his work.
Early in the first half, Bulls prop Hayden Wiblen hit Moodie in a brutal front-on tackle. Moodie, suitably built for dispensing pain, then spent the rest of the match causing, or trying to cause, grievous bodily harm.
It was as if the tackle served as a kind of smelling-salts hit, or a slap to the face, such as a trainer might give a boxer.
Even with ball in hand he was brutal. Ask Bulls teen Lockie Smith, who had the misfortune of being in front of Moodie when he crashed over the tryline from close range midway through the second half.
Moodie rose straight away – Smith did not. The veteran checked to see if the youngster was okay – he was, sort of – and then continued the search and destroy mission.
Smith and the other Bulls players nursing sore bodies because of Moodie should blame his mother. Because her fear of him getting hurt meant he had to play soccer for most of his childhood. He joined Pirates in 1998, playing in their under-16 side.
It’s as if the 35-year-old, who wants to keep going until he is 40, is still trying to make up for lost time.
“I just do what I do,” he replied post-match when asked about his aggressiveness. “I love playing football. A lot of people ask me why I haven’t retired. It’s because I still love it and I still get around the park all right.”
He added: “Mum thought I was never big enough to play football … I just had to con my old girl up to let me play.”
Trappel is four years Moodie’s junior but expect him to retire before his long-standing teammate does. Trappel played his 217th game for Pirates on Saturday, equalling David Barnett’s record.
He said he had played “about 118” first-grade games and the rest were second-grade and junior matches. The feat was achieved over “about 15 years”, he added.
Trappel came back this season to break Barnett’s record, after initially planning to retire following last year’s grand final. Returning from an off-season hamstring injury, he entered the action late in the match on Saturday.
He is savouring Pirates’ bountiful years after enduring plenty of barren ones. “Seeing the club with so much success now is really good,” he said, adding that Moree flogged Pirates when he made his first-grade debut.
He was more nervous about Saturday’s game than he was for last year’s grand final, partly due to it being his first match back from injury and him wanting to impress. He played in Pirates’ 14-12 reserve-grade win on Saturday. “I was just nervous for the occasion, really,” he said.
In the top-grade encounter, Pirates were always in control. But it was not until the second half that they overwhelmed Moree, although they were down to 13 men in the first half when hooker Barton Leach and prop Andrew Collins were sin binned.
A combination of Bulls grit and poor goal-kicking by Pirates halfback James Trappel meant the home side led 22-14 at halftime, after they opened the scoring in the second minute when James Trappel sliced up Moree on the right edge and passed to winger Lewyn Rapana to score out wide.
Rapana scored the first try of the second half. He utilised his ample pace and strength inside Moree’s 22m to beat fullback Kyle O’Connor and cross out wide in the 43rd.
James Trappel missed the conversion and it was 27-14.
Pirates scored four more tries, including a long-range solo effort by skipper Conrad Starr that gave him a double for the match.
Pirates fullback Jake Hartman also posted two tries.
Meanwhile, Tamworth came close to recording their first New England win in a 19-16 round two away loss to the Armidale Blues on Saturday.
Pirates 53 (L Rapana 2, C Starr 2, J Hartman 2, J Shelton, S Collins, A Moodie tries; J Trappel four goals) d Moree 14 (D Coulthurst, M Adams tries; B Williams 2 goals)