Matt Schwager is enjoying being back in Narrabri colours and helping unlock the potential of a young and talented backline.
An instrumental figure in the Blue Boars back to back premierships in 2014 and 2015, the former Australian schoolboy and NSW Country rep had last season off.
He admittedly “tried to stay away” knowing that he “probably would have got the itch” but when Blue Boars coach Dylan Duncan approached him about on coming back on board this season he thought he’d see how things went.
“I didn’t want to full commit. But once I got in there and got amongst the young fellas I really enjoyed it,” Schwager said.
It is a bit of a different style to what he is used to playing and is testing his fitness.
“Keeping up with them is the hardest part,” he joked.
Considered the best half-back in the competition, he said the main thing is to give them a bit of direction.
“They are very quick and love running it from everywhere. It’s exciting and great.
“But sometimes they do need reigning in,” he said.
There is arguably no-one better equipped to teach them that balance than Schwager. His ability to sum up the situation and control a game is second to none, and was evident at Gunnedah on Saturday as the Blue Boars held on for a 38-29 win.
Early on it was dejavu to last years semi final, only the roles were reversed with the Blue Boars blowing the Red Devils away.
Playing with the attacking intent that Schwager alluded to, and backing that up with some strong defence, they skipped away to a 19-nil lead after just 10 minutes.
“Our defence was very good. Just our line speed getting off the line. They’ve got a very big forward pack and they like to rumble forward but if you can stop that, I don’t think they like being run around a lot,” he said.
“We’re probably the opposite we’ve got a young fast team and we played with speed at the start and that’s how we got on top of them early.”
It proved the difference in the end.
After that initial burst from the Blue Boars the game turned into a bit of a battle of the power and strength of the Red Devils forwards and the youth and flair of the Blue Boars backs.
“I think it was probably the best game some of our outside backs have had all year. They got some good fast ball and showed just what they can do when we get some good fast ball to them early,” Schwager said paying credit to the way the forwards stuck tight and set a great foundation for the backs.
They were again missing Matt McDonnell and Mitch Wheaton, and lost Daniel Kahl early in the game, and didn’t have an easy time of it in the set pieces with the Red Devils dominating the scrums and disrupting their lineout.
Leading 29-12 at half-time the Blue Boars just kept the scoreboard ticking over in the second half, opting to take the penalty shot when it was available, but had to withstand a late surge from the home side.
“That last 20 minutes of our game was great. But it was all about that start,” Red Devils coach Jason Waerea said.
“I’d like to take that 12 minutes back.”
Sanimo Navatu scored their first two tries, winger Luke Tuckey similarly crossing twice for the Blue Boars after getting them on the board after just five minutes.
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