Due to the Canberra Covid-19 lockdown, Tumut travelled to the border without regular stars Jed Pearce, Ron Leapai and Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai on Saturday, but that didn’t stop the top of the table side hammering the Albury Thunder 46-6 in their round 17 Group 9 match.
Under 18s duo Ethan Gilchrist and Brodie Mirtschin made their first-grade debut in the big victory, and the pair played a telling hand in the result, changing the momentum of the contest in the first half, adding plenty of energy and vigour to the side when only ahead 6-0 after 20 minutes.
Gilchrist looked at home in first grade, having a heavy hand in two of Tumut’s tries, while his bullocking runs and quick play the balls helped get the Blues on the front foot.
The youngster, who only recently represented NSW Combined High Schools at the Australian Schoolboys Championships, admitted it was a challenge, but he loved the opportunity.
“It was a big step up from under 18s, a lot quicker and tougher but it was a good experience,” Gilchrist said.
“It can’t get much better than this really, getting a win in my first game, it was good.”
Mirtschin joined Gilchrist in making multiple strong runs, while the Yenda product that travels for training and games, even scored on debut.
“I loved it; it was great to get the chance. I’ve been looking forward to it and took advantage of it,” Mirtschin said.
“It was a lot faster and way quicker. They were talking about adding energy when we first came on and that’s what we did, we just ripped in.”
Blues co-captain/coach Zac Masters said the pair deserved the chance to finally crack a talent-laden first grade side, explaining they both played well above expectation.
“They deserved that crack today. They have played some great footy for the under 18s and we were down on troops today and they finally got that opportunity, and I couldn’t be happier with their performance,” Masters said.
“They added a lot of energy and made some strong carries, and I was very impressed.”
Gilchrist and Mirtschin follow on from the likes of Tom Hickson, Jack Hillier, Mal Aitken and Billy Bridgeman, who have all progressed from the under 18s and reserve grade teams in 2021, proving the future is looking very bright for Tumut.
“It’s looking really good. We have a great 18s side, the 16s boys are starting to put it together and the reggies are getting better and better every week,” Masters said.
“We are building a really strong club and hopefully we can keep pushing forward in the next couple of years.”
With the Covid-19 enforced state-wide lockdown now casting a shadow over the future of all community competitions, the Tumut Blues don’t know whether they will be hosting the Temora Dragons on Sunday, or if the Group 9 competition will proceed.
Masters just hoped Tumut would get a chance to play for the premiership, with the Blues almost assured of winning the Group 9 Minor Premiership.
“Obviously I would like to play a grand final and win that, it doesn’t feel like we’ve done the job until we do that, but we have put ourselves in a good position,” Masters said.
“We have a great bunch of boys, probably the most enjoyable bunch I’ve played with, and I think the boys would say the same thing.
“Hopefully we get to play these final rounds and finals, but we will have to wait and see what happens.”
Tumut Blues 46 (Tries: Mitch Ivill 2; Tom Hickson 2; Zac Masters, Adam Pearce, Brodie Mirtschin, Jesse Bellchambers; Conversions: Toppin 7) def Albury Thunder 6 (Try: Mason Fuller; Conversion: James Olds).