Positional reshuffles paid dividends for the Maitland Pickers when the two-time defending champions returned to winning ways with a 26-16 victory against Lakes United on Saturday.
It was the Pickers first triumph since May 12 and the success at Maitland Sportsground was highlighted by changes to the starting line-up.
Ryan Walker, who was with the Penrith Panthers last season, shifted from centre to fullback and regular custodian Joel Osborn went to the wing while Darcy Etrich moved to halfback in the absence of injured Newcastle representative Jade Porter which saw 2011 premiership winning skipper PJ Ellis slot into the familiar role of hooker.
“It seemed to work,” Pickers coach Ron Griffiths said.
“Darcy [Etrich] equipped himself quite well in the halves while PJ [Ellis] was at ease at hooker.
“Ryan [Walker] went to fullback and had the ball in his hands a lot more which was good while Joel went to the wing.
“It’s not set in stone but I thought we needed a bit of a reshuffle because if we kept doing the same thing in the same positions things wouldn’t change.”
The Pickers had lost consecutive matches to South Newcastle and Cessnock, which forced Griffiths to reassess the situation.
The mentor said it was pleasing to see the combinations come to fruition and Walker, in his new role, helped set up two of Pickers centre Geordie Connelly’s three tries.
Connelly bagged a hat-trick for the Pickers after playing just a few games in the black and white jersey since returning from Newcastle Knights junior representative duties.
The Pickers led 10-4 at half-time and extended that to 26-4 before Lakes crossed for two late tries.
“If we had gone to half-time behind I wouldn’t have been too worried,” Griffiths said. “We turned up to play today [Saturday] and for 60 minutes our attitude was spot on.”
Griffiths said prop Damien Frize was the Pickers best after playing 75 minutes.
In other results yesterday, a field goal from Newcastle Knights NSW Cup player Adrian Davis helped Central to a narrow 23-22 victory against the luckless Wyong while Western Suburbs smashed the winless Port Stephens 54-4.
Undefeated competition front runners Cessnock did not take to the field with their match against South Newcastle washed out at Townson Oval.
Maitland Pickers 26 (Geordie Connelly 3, Ryan Walker, Matt Marshall tries; Joby Patten 3 goals) defeated Lakes United 16 (Nathan Ross 2, Tyson Pickavance tries; Kris Shepherd 2 goals)
LADDER: Cessnock 14**, Macquarie 12*, Kurri Kurri 10, Western Suburbs 10, Maitland 8*, Central Newcastle 8, South Newcastle 6**, Wyong 4, Lakes United 4, Port Stephens 0
*Maitland v Macquarie rescheduled June 9. **Cessnock v South Newcastle washed out yesterday.