Lee?s feeling right at home
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
LEAVING the shores of England with nothing more than a suitcase full of clothes and hopes of an adventure, Coffs Harbour Comets' prop Lee Ashford thinks that he couldn't have found a better place to settle or found a better football club to play for.
"I love just chilling out and walking around in shorts and T-shirt and not having to worry about getting wet most of the time," he said of the weather that he's come to love in this town.
"Good thing about it is that when it does rain, you know that in about four hours it's going to be red-hot again."
Coming from the Coventry Bears, Ashford was steered in the direction of the Comets by former Aussie Troy Perkins who coached him back in England and maintained a close relationship with Mick Hales who is Coffs Harbour's under 18's mentor this year.
"Basically, I came out with nothing organised whatsoever, I was just going to come out here, send out my CV when I got here and see what happened," the 25-year-old said.
"The Comets are superb, a really friendly club, they're good lads to be with really, it's just great."
Ashford had his first taste of Group 2 football in the curtain-raiser for the Newcastle and Cronulla match and after only one game against Woolgoolga he's already found that there's a few differences in the style of play between the two countries.
"I found the lads we were playing against were much bigger pack-wise and more physical, definitely more physical," he said.
"And the speed of the game is a lot faster as well. I think that's mainly because of the amount of support play.
"The support play isn't high back home, there tends to be a lot of one out rugby so it gives you a bit more time to set yourself in defence."
The easy-going prop has only recently crossed over from his union background but he feels that he's made the right decision for his own personal style of play.
"This is only my third season of rugby league," he said.
"The reason why I came from union to league was because I wanted to get into more tackling and more ball carrying."
The Comets pack is one that doesn't exactly instill fear into the opposition but from what he's seen, Ashford believes that any team would be foolish to underestimate the ability of fellow forwards Josh McShanagh, Joel Thompson, Brenden Pellegrino and Michael Spence.
"There's a lot of fitness there, we haven't got the size of some of the teams like Woopi but there's a lot of fitness and that can take a lot of the heat off everyone without needing to interchange every five minutes like some sides," Ashford said.
"'Mo' (coach Scott Mieni) has talked to the forwards and said 'all I want you to do is go forward, especially in the early part of the season, just take the ball forward and not be too worried about flicking miracle balls, just get us going forward'."
The Comets pack is sure to get a decent workout this Sunday at Advocate Park in their trial game against perennial reigning premiers Macksville.
Ashford is hoping that it's the start of a season long adventure with great rewards at the end.