SERVICE RESUMED: Newcastle and Maitland halfback Jono O’Toole has made an explosive start to the season. Picture: Port Macquarie NewsMAITLAND halfbak Jono O’Toolewas preparing to tie the knot overseas and begin the next chapter of his life this time last year. Rugby was on the back-burner.
After marrying Kelly in Fiji last May, he returned to his beloved Blacks and playedlower grades at the tail-end of the season.
“It was a breathe of fresh air to be honest,” O’Toole said.“It got my hunger back.”
Still the 29-year-old halfback didn’t expect such an explosive start to 2017.Selected largely on reputation by Newcastle coach Stu Pinkerton to fill a trouble spot, O’Toole helped steer the Wildfires to the Caldwell Cup.He and Blacks teammate Travis Brooke were among seven Newcastle players selected in the NSW Country squad.
“I was just stoked to be playing first grade for Maitland,” O’Toole said.“Going up there (country championships),I was hoping to play good rugby. Country wasn’t in the equation.”
Next is a date with Merewether at Marcelin Park on Saturday.O’Toole benefited from playing behind a dominant Newcastle pack and hopes for a similar scenario against the Greens.
“The Newcastleforwards set such a good platform,” O’Toole said.“Maitland has played a forward-dominatedgame over the past few years. Now we have the personnel and the confidence in the backline to score tries and keep the ball in hand.”
As well as Kiwi-bornBrooke,prop James Robinson (Merewether) and Sapati Peniata (Waratahs) are fresh faces in a Maitland pack led by Nick Davidson, James Johnston and James Curran.
Merewether co-coach Jode Roach has no doubts where the Blacks will attack.
“They showed against Hamilton (14-all draw) they have the physicality to match it with anyone in the competition,” Roach said.
Jaden Hetherington comes in at outside centre for Sam Fogarty, who has joined Sydney club Easts, and young front-rowers Duncan Shumack and Seb Cutts-Jones also get an opportunity.
“We have a nursery of talented young blokes and a lot of them haven’t had an opportunity that they deserved in the past,” Roach said.
Elsewhere Saturday, hooker Ryan Jackson will make his debut for Wanderers against big improvers Nelson Bay at Strong Oval. Dan Collins returns for the Gropers.
Lake Macquarie have been boosted by the return from Brisbane of breakaway Marvin Tauhinu for the visit by The Waratahs.
Adrian Delore movesto fly-half for Southern Beaches’ clash with Universityat Bernie Curran Oval and Hamilton travel to Singleton.
* Go totheherald南京夜网419论坛for the Bar-TV video livestream of Maitland v Merewetherat3pm.