LINCON Smith is a big unit – but not as big as he was.
The teenage prop, who burst on to the first-grade scene last year with impressive displays for the Bulldogs, has shed a huge amount of weight over the past year, after getting more serious about fitness.
Since Gunnedah lost 34-28 to North Tamworth in the grand final in early September, a game in which Smith started and came in for heavy-duty treatment by the Bears’ rugged pack, the 19-year-old has lost up to 10 kilograms.
And since the start of the 2018 season, he has lost up to 22 kilograms – plummeting from about 132 kilograms to about 110kg.
The boiler maker thanked his bosses at TKM Engineering, Rory Harding and Jack Fenn, for helping him become fitter. Harding trained Harding “just about every day”, Smith said, while Fenn put him on a “good diet”.
Smith will test his newer, svelte chassis when he lines up for the Bushrangers at the Greater Northern Tigers Divisional Championships, at Scully Park, on Saturday. The Bushrangers will play Group 21 in the morning and Group 19 in the afternoon.
“I have been doing a fair bit of training with a few of the boys at home,” he said after the Bushrangers’ final training session at Jack Woolaston Oval.
He said he had mainly been training with his Bulldogs teammate, Reece Jaeger, who played under-20s for the Roosters and the Rabbitohs and then played first grade in Wollongong for five years. Jaeger is part of Gunnedah’s new leadership group.
Smith took big strides, on and off the field, last year – in his first season out of the junior ranks.
“It was a big year,” he said.
But he recognised that he had to be fitter for the 2019 season.
“I just want to have a good crack this year,” he said. “It’s my first senior rep side, too. [I] played for the Group 4 under-13 and 14s.”
Lining up with Smith for the Bushrangers will be two more of the region’s most exciting players, Scott Berry and Mitch Doring.
Berry, the Bushrangers’ fullback, is hoping for a belated 22nd birthday present in the shape of a Greater Northern Tigers under-23 championship, and maybe a spot in the Tigers side for the Country Championships.
“It [the championships] would be good to win,” he said.
He is coming off a wonderful 2018, in which he helped the Magpies become a major player in the Group 4 first-grade premiership.
“We had a good year too,” the Magpies halfback said. “We were the dark horses.”
“We’ll have a similar side [to last season’s side],” he added. “Ron [Dellar] is coaching again too.”
While he will start at fullback on Saturday, he could turn up anywhere on the field.
“I don’t mind where I play – halfback, fullback, winger, in the centres – even second row,” the slightly built playmaker said.
He’s the sort of dynamic and determined player who throws every ounce of his small frame into the action
Doring is similar.
He has returned to Manilla to captain-coach the Tigers this season, after playing fullback for the Roosters in 2018 while the Tigers sat out the year due to a lack of players.
He can play any of the spine positions. At the Kooty Roosters, he was a constant threat for sides.
The 22-year-old concreter is looking forward to the Divisional Championships, as well as the Group 4 season.
“I coached them two years ago,” he said of the Manilla Tigers. “Love it out there.”
He lives in Manilla. “The RSL Club is our main sponsor and we had 11 players register the other day,” he said.
Playing rep football is nothing new for this talented young player, who has represented Country under-16 and under-18 sides.
“We’ve got a good side – tough and mobile with plenty of speed,” he said of the Bushrangers.
“Group 21 (who Group 4 play in their first game at 10am on Saturday) are always big and mobile.
“I’ll be 23 in February so this will be my last year [of eligibility for the championships].
“So I want to give it a good crack. Playing Country again would be awesome. That’s what I want to aim for, that’s my goal.”
The Bushrangers: 1 Scott Berry (Werris Creek), 2 Jermaine Walford (Werris Creek), 3 Ryley Taylor (Kootingal-Moonbi), 4 Jamarley Jerrard, 5 Brayden Jerrard, 6 Mitch Sheridan (North Tamworth), 7 Mitch Doring (Manilla), 8 Lincon Smith (Gunnedah), 9 Ryan Ingram (North Tamworth), 10 Isaac Harris (Boggabri), 11 Jack Patterson (North Tamworth), 12 Zac Leonard (Werris Creek), 13 Jock Small, captain (Narrabri), 14 Matt Gillham (Boggabri), 15 Nick Pascoe (Kootingal-Moonbi), 16 Pat Ferguson (Manilla), 17 Jack Rumsby (Kootingal-Moonbi), 18 Hayden Smith (Gunnedah), 19 Leroy Livermore, 20 Miles Kerney (Werris Creek). Coach – Paul Hyson; assistant coaches – Craig Power, Nathan Blacklock, Will Jerrard.