Six-times a premiership winner, the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins’ Mid North Coast Axeman rugby union representative centre of yesteryear, Thomas Harris, had a day to remember on Saturday.
The 37-year-old father of five led the Dolphins out on to Peter Barclay Field at Tuncurry, scored a try and helped create a second with younger brother, Colin, in his 200th first grade appearance for the Dolphins in a 50-17 defeat of the Gloucester Cockies.
Ever the modest one, Tom’s post-game comment wa,: “It was an honour and a privilege.”
Individual prestige apart, the bonus point win kept the Dolphins in the hunt for the Kennards Hire minor premiership, a win behind the title-holding Wallamba Bulls, 42-21 winners of their clash against the third-placed Manning River Ratz at Taree Rugby Park.
The Dolphins and Bulls lock horns at Nabiac next Saturday.
This was Tom Harris’ day.
A self-confessed Central Coast “scoundrel” in his youth before his family’s move to the Great Lakes, Harris was an early starter for the Dolphins in their re- formative year of 2004, introduced to rugby union by a New Zealand fanatic.
At one stage, he was lured to rugby league with the formation of the Hallidays Point Mako Sharks only for the club to fold and players lose money which led Harris to return to the Dolphins’ rugby ranks.
Although no heavyweight, Harris’ brilliant running at centre was an important factor with the dexterous skill of former NSW Country representative five-eighth, David Birch, and industrious Singleton breakaway, Mark Hudson, in claiming the Dolphins’ first premiership in 2008 under coach Ron McCarthy.
Speed diminished in a catastrophic lesson in water skiing, stripping his hamstring from the bone, Harris moved into the forwards, becoming a hard-working breakaway or halfback.
The Dolphins’ win on Saturday was marked by coach McCarthy’s decision to return rangy centre, Sean Hassett, to number eight forward where he won important lineouts in Jack Woods’ absence, and the welcome reunion of half Liam Brady, five-eighth Matt Nuku and inside-centre Mark Hagarty, a key to previous successes.
Hooker Michael Wooster’s knee ligament injury has troubled the Cockies, but five-eighth Ryan Yates’ weaving run paved the way for winger Brodie Doherty’s try followed by a slashing try by centre John Cornelius only for tackling to fail the visitors, the Dolphins running in eight tries.
Ball retention and sure handling and tackling are crucial elements of Sevens rugby.
Gloucester’s women’s team development has been swift, but they were stretched all the way by the Dolphinettes for whom rising field games athlete, Jedda Marr, was outstanding with two tries.
Hannah Yates and Courtney Whitby have enjoyed splendid seasons for the Cockies, Hannah’s two tries proving the difference in an entertaining game.
Later, Dolphinettes’ captain, Emily-Jane Brady, made presentations to two Gloucester players, Meegan Hardy and Bridget Nagle, for their progress in the MNC women’s development squad.
Forster Tuncurry 50 (M Hagarty two, T Harris, T Haines, M Nuku, N Johnson, T Holman, Z Palmer tries; M Nuku five goals) beat Gloucester 17 (B Doherty, J Cornelius, tries; M Wooster two goals pen goal).
Wallamba 42 beat Manning River 21.
In the women’s sevens, Gloucester (Yates two, S McBride tries; C Whitby goal) beat Forster Tuncurry 12 (J Marr toe tries; B Rugari goal).
Wallamba 24 beat Manning River 7.
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