MINE: Southern Beaches’ Bleddyn Gant thunders for the line at Passmore Oval last year. Picture: Jonathan Carroll NCH SPORTNHRU at Passmore Oval, Wickham. Hamilton, in blue and yellow stripes VS Southern Beaches in dark blue. OUTA MY WAY! Picture shows Southern Beaches player Bleddyn Gant thunders over the line for a try.28th July 2012 NewcastleNCH SPORT PIC JONATHAN CARROLL
NCH SPORTNHRU at Passmore Oval, Wickham. Hamilton, in blue and yellow stripes VS Southern Beaches in dark blue. OUTA MY WAY! Picture shows Southern Beaches player Bleddyn Gant thunders over the line for a try.28th July 2012 NewcastleNCH SPORT PIC JONATHAN CARROLL
BLEDDYN Gant is looking forward to returning to No.8 and the extra freedom it provides.
But the Southern Beaches Welshman is not expecting life to get any easy against The Waratahs at Allen Davis Oval, Gateshead, on Saturday.
After spending most of his career, including the 2011 season at Eastwood, in the engine room, Gant made the switch to the back of the scrum on returning to Newcastle and Southern Beaches last year.
The move proved a masterstroke. The bull-neck metre eater was one of the dominant forwards in the competition, with strength from the scrum base a feature.
He finished second in the Anderson Medal voting and was the leading forward. But the arrival of Va Talaileva at Cahill Oval this season forced a change in plans.
Gant had stuck his hand up to play tight-head prop for Newcastle at the Country championships, where he was outstanding, and stayed in the No.3 jumper on returning to club level.
But with Talaileva in Melbourne for NSW Country’s clash against the Rising Rebels development squad, the opportunity arose for Gant to turn back the clock.
“It will be good to get the running game going again,” Gant said. “At No.8 I have a bit of freedom to do that.
“I had no dramas in the front row. I played a fair bit of tighthead back home.
“Scrummaging wise it takes a fair bit out of you. By the time you have two or three scrums you are blowing and it makes it harder to have an impact running.”
Gant could not have asked for a tougher first-up assignment. The Tahs, one of his former clubs, are sitting pretty at the top of the ladder with three bonus-point wins and boast power-packed No.8 Pala Palupe.
Palupe, one of five new Kiwis at the Tahs, including former Beaches fullback Tim Riley, has been a stand out in the opening three round.
The former captain of Auckland club East Tamaki, Palupe has picked up six points from three games to lead the Anderson Medal race.
“I am always up for a good battle,” Gant said.
“If we can get our set piece going and put pressure on them in the scrum, hopefully we can tame their No.8 a bit.”
Beaches have lost enforcers Adrian Sutter and Mark O’Brien from last season, but Gant has no doubts they have the size and power to match it with any pack in the competition.
“Every game is won up front first of all,” Gant said.
“We have a similar size pack to last year so I think we can give anybody a run.”
After beating Wanderers 25-21 in the first round, Beaches have dropped back-to-back games against Lake Macquarie (30-24) and Maitland (39-29).
Though disappointed with the results, coach Tim Chidgey said they were not totally unexpected.
“We are still probably four weeks away from being at our best,” Chidgey said. “It is a long season and we decided to take a different approach after our performances in the semis for the past two.”
Tahs coach Hayden Pedersen said it was no secret Southern Beaches would aim most of their traffic through the forwards.
“Their game is based around their pack,” he said.
“They have a lot of good players there and like to keep it tight. It will be a good challenge for the boys.”