The Maitland Blacks go into Saturday’s Newcastle rugby union grand final blessed to have several players with the X-factor to turn a game with inspirational play in key moments.
They also have one with the Max-factor, club and fan favourite scrumhalf Max Stafford.
Think of all the qualities you would want in a scumhalf and Stafford possesses them in abundance.
“Hopefully we can put on a really big performance and bring the show home,” Stafford said after the Blacks booked their spot in the grand final with a late try to beat Merewether Carlton 26-24 in the preliminary final.
Cheeky, creative, hard-working, irrepressibly positive and above all able to think outside the square when required, Maitland fans and his teammates love the former Singleton Bulls junior.
“His enthusiasm and energy lifts the team whenever he is on the park. He always has the opposition guessing, if he spots an opening he will take off and run straight into it,” Blacks co-coach Ryan McCormack said of his young charge.
“He reads the game really well and we trust him to take the game on.”
McCormack said Stafford was also a very capable and enthusiastic defender.
“I think at times he thinks he is a forward, he’ll take on anyone when it’s his turn. We love him.”
Stafford has called on the Maitland fans to come out in force to support the team in Saturday’s grand final.
“Our support is great and we want them in full force on Saturday,” he said.
“It’s unreal, all the hard work throughout the season, the pre-season, everything is coming together.
“All the boys are absolutely stoked, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“Not many people thought we could do it, but it’s just belief in each other and all that training we have done that’s paid off.”
Stafford said persistence and patience would be the key to victory on Saturday.
“We’ve been practising trying to close out games every week and each week it has been getting better and better,” he said.