MEREWETHER Carlton coach Stacey Sykes said he did not field Dan Kevill in his side’s 20-3 win over Wanderers partly out of respect for his rivals in a dramatic opening round of Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union.
The Greens started their premiership defence with victory at Townson Oval on Saturday but all eyes were on Kevill, the 2009 Wanderers and 2011 Merewether premiership winner who switched back to the Greens on Friday.
Kevill was part of Merewether’s unbeaten 2011 season but was registered to return to Wanderers for this season.
But after failing to see eye to eye with new coach Ellis Meachen, Kevill and Mitch Gibson – both part of Wanderers’ leadership group – quit the Two Blues and went to Merewether.
Kevill played in the third- and second-grade games, which Merewether lost, and refused to shake the hand of at least one Wanderers player after the reserve-grade match.
Meachen poured fuel on the controversial switch before the match by suggesting in the Herald that Kevill was not a team player.
Sykes said he did not want to inflame the situation by giving the 2009 Anderson Medal winner a run in the top grade.
‘‘We didn’t participate in any of that,’’ Sykes said yesterday. ‘‘I could have put him on the field in firsts but, partly out of respect for Wanderers, I thought it was best not to.’’
Wanderers president and top-grade prop Tony Sambell said it was disappointing to lose Kevill to Merewether after what he thought were fruitful discussions between Meachen and the skilful back-rower last week.
Sambell said the pair had a disagreement because Meachen wanted to play a more structured game and refine Kevill’s role in the side.
As for Meachen’s comments in the Herald, Sambell said the New Zealander was a ‘‘straight shooter’’ who was trying to implement change at the club.
Meachen and Kevill could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Sambell said the club was keen to move on from the drama and he believed the performance on Saturday was a step in the right direction.
He said the score did not reflect the closeness of the game, which was locked at 3-all until early in the second half.
‘‘It was the first time the first 15 had played together and there were some good signs there,’’ he said.
Sykes praised the performance of Greens halfback Gareth Ernst and centre Mick Gill, who both scored tries, and made special mention of prop Mick Burke.
The 32-year-old, who was making his first appearance in Premier Rugby after seasons in the second-tier competition, was one of the Greens’ best.
In other games, Southern Beaches defeated Maitland 21-12 at Marcellin Park, Hamilton thumped University 68-3 at Passmore Oval, Nelson Bay downed Lake Macquarie 29-20 at Walters Park and The Waratahs beat Singleton 43-6.