CENTRE Tim Bridge only found out on Friday that he had been cleared to play for Wingham Tigers in the Group Three Rugby League game against Taree City at the Jack Neal Oval on Saturday, where the sides played for the Krystylea Bridge Cup.
Bridge is Krystylea's cousin. He now plays for Kurri in the Newcastle competition and he required permission from the club to make the trip home. He had a brief training run with the Tigers on Friday night, before playing an instrumental role in Wingham's 28-14 win.
He was edged out in voting for player of the match by another ex-Kurri Bulldog, halfback Jarom Haines, however, Bridge still produced a blinder in front of the season's biggest crowd at the Neal Oval. This consisted of strong contingent of the Bridge family.
He either step up or threw the final pass in four of Wingham's tries in what was a hard fought, if scrappy encounter.
"It would be handy to have him every week,'' Wingham coach Mitch Collins said at fulltime.
"Hopefully we can change his mind and snag him up here for next year. He was unreal and it would be good to see him back here.''
"It was a good game, it's good to get out here,'' Bridge said.
Bridge said he had a half hour run with the side on Friday evening.
"But I sort of know what's going on, I've played here enough before,'' he added.
Bridge was non-committal on whether he might return to the Tigers in a fulltime basis next year.
"I'll see what happens in the off-season. I'll leave it until then,'' he said.
There was plenty of merit in Wingham's performance. The Tigers were backing up for their third game in a week and then lost top forward Aaron Groom with a knee injury in the first half. They also trailed 8-0 in the first half when the Bulls looked full of running.
But the Bulls make too many errors to maintain pressure for too long. When Taree stumbled, the Tigers, led by halfback Haines took charge. The clever Haines was a handful for the defence all game.
"I was pretty happy with it,'' Collins said.
"The boys dug deep and good on them.''
Taree City captain-coach Trae Clark said the Bulls just can't produce an 80 minute performance.
'We made some progress last week against Wauchope, but we were back into the same old bad habits today,'' he said.
"You can't take one step forward and then two steps back, which is what we seem to have done today.
"We led in the first half but errors came back into our game again. That cost us.''
Clarke agreed that prop Harry Wallis continues to improve.
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"He's growing in confidence. He's a big boy and he runs hard and he's playing good footy,'' Clark said.
"Individually there's some good lads there, but as a team we're not completing well. Our completion rate was under 50 per cent.''
Going into the game the Bulls had won just one of eight cup matches but they started confidently with tries to centre Barry Wells and fullback Nav Willett, who sprinted onto a smart pass from prop Josh Northam and raced 50 metres to the line. Both attempts at goal hit the upright.
However, the Tigers responded with two tries to Haines, the second after Bridge beat tackles down the right and positioned the halfback who darted over. Fletcher Lewis converted both, although he was perhaps lucky to get the decision with the first that looked to have swung wide.
Wingham increased the lead by four in the second half when Bridge produced a classy pass to give winger Liam Phillips space down the touchline and he held off the cover to score an unconverted try.
The Bulls drew within two via a try to Phil Smith and a goal to Logan Wallis, but fittingly, Bridge had the last say, sending a pass to Ryan Weatherall to score before combing with Haines to put Josh Griffiths over for the last try of the game.
Wingham upset Taree in the league tag game to keep their finals hopes alive while the reserve grade was a 20-20 draw.
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