Youngster has talent to burn
By MITCHELL DALE
IT'S any given Tuesday or Thursday afternoon and, although Nambucca Heads Under-18s rugby league training isn't due to start for another half-hour, halfback sensation Mitch Edwards is already pounding the turf at Coronation Park.
Edwards builds up a lather of sweat as he kicks, runs and steps while running through his own personal work-out.
The Nambucca High School student is working on his kicking game and honing the skills that have seen him split up the most potent halves combination in Group 2 last year.
Few would argue that Nambucca halves Greg Nichols and Jack Lhuede were not the most dangerous six and seven in the under-18s competition in 2004 and the pair looked certain to fill the same jerseys this season.
That was until 16-year-old Edwards turned up from Sydney to live with his father, Gary, a star centre in the Roosters first grade side, and forced Nichols to five-eighth and Lhuede to left centre.
"At the start of the season, I was certain that Jack and Greg would be our halves this year," Nambucca Under-18s coach Anthony Field admits.
"But as soon as I saw Mitch with the ball in his hands on the park I just thought 'What have I got here?'.
"He astonishes me, he makes very difficult things look very simple and for his age he just knows his way around the park so well."
After a few training sessions with the Roosters, Edwards was given the halfback role for a trial against Kyogle while Lhuede was away.
From that match, he hasn't looked back, making the Group 2 and North Coast halfback jerseys his own.
In fact Edwards, who played Harold Matthews for South Sydney last year, has settled in so well that Field reckons Nichols and Lhuede are now picking things up from their younger teammate.
"He's making them better players," Field says.
"They are learning so much from him... just his vision on the park, he will go from the open to blind side and hit someone on the chest to set up a try."
But it's not just Field who is prepared to sing Edwards' praises from the rooftops.
Nambucca High School principal Hilton Humphries once coached former Test centre Jamie Lyon and says Edwards has more skill than the runaway Eel at the same age.
Then there are the talent scouts lining up along the Pacific Highway waiting to have a chat to the halfback prodigy.
Cronulla and the Sydney Roosters have already expressed interest in Edwards, while his favourite club, Brisbane Broncos, are also interested.
But for now, Edwards is happy to go with the flow and is enjoying the change of pace from life in Sydney.
"It's been good to get away from the city, I prefer the country because it is a lot more relaxing," Edwards says.
"My main goals for this year are just to finish Year 10 and play well in club football.
"I'd love to play for the Broncos one day, but I'll just wait and see what comes."