SCOTT Blanch starts his coaching career in a wary frame of mind at Bendemeer Oval on Saturday.
The new North Tamworth captain-coach takes over from multiple premiership winning coach Brad McManus hopeful of steering the Bears to a fifth successive Woodleys Isuzu Ute Group 4 first grade title.
Blanch has played in the last three grand final wins, two of them as skipper but tackles the extra mantle of captain-coach as an excited young and versatile footballer. Some rate him the best player in the Greater Northern region, a jinking stepper who can carve sides up from hooker, in the halves or at fullback.
Indeed he has played in all positions for the Greater Northern Tigers and for the Bears. In their last trial against Dungowan Blanch had the number one (fullback) jersey but turned up everywhere, scoring two tries and being a catalyst in some sparkling backline and middle of the park attacking raids.
Quick hands, changes of the point of the attack and scintillating finishing were a highlight of that 56-12 romp.
The Bears second grade side also played Bendemeer that night and had a tough battle to beat the Mountain Men 36-22.
They tackle Bendemeer on Saturday determined to start their defence of their premiership in the new look Group 4 on a winning note.
“Excited, definitely excited to finally get on the ground. We’ve been training on and off since December so it’s going to be good to get the first game (as captain-coach) out of the way,” Blanch said.
As a skipper the past two years his involvement has been mainly on-field.
Now as the captain-coach he’s got a lot more responsibility off the field. Little things like arriving half an hour to set out training regimes and attending club functions.
“I am enjoying it too,” he said of the extra distractions.
“We’ve got a similar core of senior players. Lost a few like Brady Barwick (before he could make his Bear debut), Alec Cocking is having a year off for work and Jack Cameron has signed a two year deal with the Knights.
“We’re relying on players like Bill Jeffery. He’s been there for a long while but missed the back end of last year with a knee injury. Great having someone of his ability and experience. He’s fit and ready.”
Others such as Shane Wadwell, Nic Dobson, Brad Marshall and Kieran Fisher are all multiple premiership winners.
Centres Richard Clegg and Jake McManus add attacking strength with the likes of Heath Falkenmire, Dan Boland and Matt Sheridan pacy finishers.
Colby La Chuisa also showed the former Pirate will be a handy recruit.
Blanch said Bendemeer are an “unknown” opponent.
“We don’t know much about them,” he said.
“We’re definitely very wary of them but will be concentrating on ourselves and how we play. We need to play well.”
It means playing strong and forceful up the middle before instigating some of the one-touch passing in and around the ruck and poses an interesting start to the new season for the premiers.
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