By MITCHELL DALE
THE term 'freakish' is not out of place when describing Mark Pledger's ability to sniff out a try. As a rugby union winger with Coffs Harbour Snappers and Coffs Rugby, Pledger snaffled up more 'meat pies' than a fat kid at the footy. He then switched codes this year in search of greater challenges. It took the 27-year-old less than one season with Coffs Harbour Comets to establish himself as the most prolific try scorer on the Mid North Coast in rugby league and rugby union. After topping the try-scoring lists with a whopping 35 touchdowns for Coffs Rugby last year, Pledger claimed the rugby league equivalent at the VB Group 2 presentation dinner on Saturday night. Pledger set a goal to win the award when he switched codes, but didn't expect to do it in his debut season. "It happened a lot sooner than I thought it would," he said. "This year I was really just testing the waters, outside of the Coffs Harbour area I didn't know much about the guys I was playing against." Making the lightning-fast Comet's achievement all the more remarkable is that he missed nearly a third of the season after tearing the cartilage in his left knee. Pledger sustained the injury after notching his third hat trick of the year against Woolgoolga in round 15, which took his season tally to 19 tries from 12 games at a strike rate of 1.6 tries a match. He watched from the sidelines as the injury-ravaged Comets limped into the play-offs, only to be knocked out by Orara Valley in the minor preliminary semi-final. "You play the whole season to be in the semi-finals so it was frustrating to miss out," he said. "But I don't see the whole year as a disappointment because of how it ended. I enjoyed every game I played in." Rumours have surfaced linking Pledger back with Coffs Rugby next year, but the man himself has heard no such stories. "I want to get my knee right before I even think about next year," he said. "I wouldn't mind having a run in reserve grade (with Coffs Rugby) and play league with the Comets on Sunday, as long as league allow it. "At this stage I would probably say I will stick with league. "I am looking forward to next year; this year was a bit of a learning curve and hopefully I can kick off next year where I finished this year."