WHEN Macquarie Scorpions signed Queenslander Kelly Benson to replace premiership-winning dummy-half Chris Hyde for the 2018 Newcastle Rugby League season, coach Adam Bettridge spelled out exactly what he wanted from the new hooker.
“One of the things I said to Kelly was I want Kelly Benson to play Kelly Benson football. I don’t want Kelly Benson to play like Chris Hyde because there is only one Chris Hyde,” Bettridge said.
Macquarie fans will get their first chance to see what Kelly Benson football looks like when the Scorpions take on Lakes United in the season opener at Toronto this Saturday.
Bettridge said Hyde’s return to Central Coast club Woy Woy would inevitably impact on the style of football that Macquarie would play in 2018.
“Chris Hyde is one of the top three blokes that I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached a few who have played at the higher level. Chris is a very unique player,” Bettridge said.
“But we encourage all of our players to be themselves.
“And Kelly is more of an old school hooker who will service off the ground, or he’ll have a go from dummy half and run. You’ll see a more direct style of football, I would imagine, in the middle of the field.”
But Benson also possessed plenty of stopping power, the coach said.
“Kelly is an extremely strong defender. So there’s different traits with footballers.”
Bettridge said one of the consequences of having Benson delivering more early ball from dummy half was the attacking opportunities it would create for Macquarie’s middle players.
“It will open up Andy’s [Sumner] running game a lot more, and open up our middle to get more football.”
Also among the new recruits to make their premiership debuts for Macquarie this Saturday will be fullback Kyle Eather, from Illawarra.
The quick-stepping custodian will be a handful for tiring defenders, and if his highlights reel from the Illawarra Cutters is any indication, he knows his way to the tryline through traffic.
Bettridge cautioned that Macquarie’s new style would continue to evolve over the course of the season.
“It’s not going to happen overnight because we have a totally different spine with Kyle Eather there at fullback from Illawarra,” he said.
“But the old Macquarie traits will still be there: we will be plenty tough and rip in for each other.”
Macqurie Scorpions will take on Lakes United at Lyall Peacock Field this Saturday, April 21, at 3.30pm.