Veteran finisher Matt Richards turned back the clock on Saturday when crossing for two tries in the Tumut Blues 24-18 victory over Wagga Kangaroos at McDonalds Park.
The four-time premiership winning player doesn’t look to have lost a yard of pace either, especially after his first try that came towards the back end of the first half.
Richards followed Michael Fenn, who was making a barnstorming run down the right edge, before he received the ball 20m out from the try line.
The winger then darted infield to beat three Roos players, including fullback Eddie Jackson to fight his way over for a well-earned try.
The 37-year-old had previously only played one first grade game since retiring in 2012 and only turned out this year to help the struggling Blues reserve grade team.
Unfortunately, a shortage of genuine finishers has left the Tumut first grade team with little option but to use Richards on the wing.
Richards was happy to be back with the Blues but suggested he had an easy job playing outside the Blues pack.
“It was pretty good and it was enjoyable to be back playing footy but it was just catch the ball and put it down really, there wasn’t much more to it,” Richards laughed.
The Blues stalwart was taking it week by week and said if the Blues got a few more backs, he might be back to reserve grade.
“I don’t know what will happen. If they get a few more outside backs maybe it will change but we’ll see what happens,” Richards said.
Blues co-coach, Dean Bristow said it was good to have Richards back in first grade, indicating he was still as sharp as ever.
“It’s unreal. I had limited opportunities to play with him when I started to come through but to get him back is great,” Bristow said.
“Everyone can see what he did today, he is experienced but to be honest, I don’t think he has lost anything over his time away from the game.”
Richards fills an obvious void for the Blues, who are struggling with their outside backs, after injuries to Connor Massen and Brayden Draber and the occasional unavailability of Austin McDougall due to work commitments.
“If we have got someone playing there, they are going to be pretty young and the experience he (Richards) can pass on to the younger boys that we have got out there on the edge is invaluable,” Bristow said.
“He couldn’t come at a better time, especially since we are light on out wide.”
Bristow would’ve liked to have had Richards playing a week earlier against the Tigers, but with McDougall returning for the game and Richards so long out of first grade, the timing worked out well.
“We tried to get him in there last week but he wanted a game under his belt, so it sort of fell into place this week with Austin away for work and Richo readily available,” Bristow said.