Richard Clegg is North Tamworth’s Great Wall of China: a permanent part of the topography at Jack Woolaston Oval and used to repel countless attacks.
“He is a gritty player who does the tough stuff,” said Bears captain-coach Scott Blanch. “He’s a no-nonsense-type operator.”
As teammates have come and gone and rivals have been vanquished, Clegg, a 28-year-old centre, has remained.
When the Bears play Gunnedah in the grand final at Jack Woolaston Oval on Sunday, it will be their eighth straight season finale. Clegg, halfback Kieran Fisher and prop Shane Wadwell are the only Bears to have played in the previous seven.
Clegg has missed only two games since 2014, when the Bears started their run of four successive titles, defeating Gunnedah in the grand final. “I’ve just been lucky, I guess,” he said.
“I haven’t had any major injuries. People might say that because I’m out near the wing I don’t do too much.”
He should have plenty to do on Sunday, marking in-form centre Reece Jaeger, a former Sydney Roosters and South Sydney under-20 player who went on to win two first-grade premierships in Wollongong before returning home this year.
Much has been made of Norths’ left edge – the side’s main source of points. But Clegg’s confrontation with Jaeger could be telling.
Clegg rates his defence as his prime asset: “I like to pride myself on my defence.”
And he agrees with Blanch’s assessment of him.
“If there’s something that needs to be done, and I can see that our forwards are struggling a bit and I need to get in and take a bit of the workload off them, I’ll get in and do that job.”
Clegg is confident Wadwell will play, after he missed the major semi-final win over the Roosters with a leg infection.
Having old heads like Wadwell and Fisher in the side allowed the Bears to transition seamlessly into grand final week, Clegg said, adding: “It’s pretty familiar, nothing much changes.”
That may also be the case at about 5pm on Sunday at Jack Woolaston Oval.
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