Hulme seems right at home in top grade
By MITCHELL DALE
COFFS RUGBY 62 MANNING RIVER 12
ONE touch of the ball.
That was all it took for first-grade debutant Alex Hulme to prove his worth in the top grade as Coffs Rugby clouted Manning River Ratz by 50 points on Saturday.
In one of those dream debut moments, Hulme, 25, burst onto a short pass from halfback Buster McCowatt after play was switched to the right from a scrum on halfway in the ninth minute.
Hulme, playing at outside centre, hit the ball at pace, slid through a gap before gliding around the Manning fullback to score.
"Yeah, it was a pretty nice way to start," Hulme said.
"Butch (Coffs Rugby first grade coach Paul Butcher) only showed me the move for the first time at training on Thursday.
"I just thought it was a crash ball and that I would get smashed.
"Luckily the gap opened up so I pinned my ears back."
From that moment the Coffs Rugby second graders, who were sitting in the stands with a few ales, realised they would be watching Hulme more than playing beside him in 2005.
As Hulme jogged back into position following his five-pointer, the second grade lads bemoaned that they had 'lost him for good'.
There's a pretty good chance they were spot-on with that assessment, especially given Butcher's comments after the match.
"I think we have found a replacement for Kevin Simpson while he is away playing for NSW Country," Butcher said about Hulme.
"Even when Kevy gets back, I think Alex is definitely a first-grade player and he can play anywhere in the backline."
Hulme's try was one of the few highlights of an otherwise lacklustre affair, in which Coffs was always in control without ever needing to flex their prodigious attacking muscle.
Although the match never reached any great heights, Butcher was still reasonably happy.
"Six of our 10 tries came from set plays that we have practised all season but hadn't been able to pull off in a game yet," Butcher said.
"The second half was pretty scrappy, but after we scored four tries in the first 15 minutes, the boys were always going to chance their arm a bit."
The only area of the game that didn't please Butcher was Coffs' lack of intensity in defence.
"We didn't get up off the line in defence, we waited for them to come to us," he said.
"But it was one of those games where we were more interested in attack and were not as switched on as we should have been in defence."
The game capped a quick rise for the equally fast-footed Hulme, who has only been with the club for three weeks after previous stints in Sydney and Lismore.
"I didn't play at all last year and was going to give up because of injuries," Hulme said.
"But I work with Paul and he conned me into playing.
"I'm glad he did because I'm loving it."
COFFS RUGBY 62 (Jay Webber 2, Andrew Lynn, Connor Barrett, Chris Webb, Buster McCowatt, Hugh Campbell, Brendan Hoy, Alex Hulme, Ritchie McGillvray tries; Campbell 6 conv) MANNING RIVER 12 (Carl Pattern, Nathan Spencer tries, Glen Mathiske goal)
UNDER-19s: COFFS RUGBY 61-0.