Hard lessons from Beaches big man

BLEDDYN Gant is adamant he has a lot to learn about playing No.8.

Rival forwards may beg to differ.

Gant, a hooker by trade, has been a revelation at the back of the scrum for Southern Beaches since returning to Newcastle after a season at Sydney powerhouses Eastwood.

At the halfway point of the campaign, the Welsh enforcer leads the Anderson Medal best-and-fairest voting on 12 points, two clear of Tim Alliston (University) and Steve Sione (Hamilton).

Not bad considering he had played one game at No.8 – the second-grade grand final for Eastwood – before this season.

‘‘I love it,’’ Gant said. ‘‘You get all the time in the world at the back of the scrum.

‘‘I still have quite a bit to learn about what lines to run and the finer points of playing No.8.’’

Gant, who came up through Ospreys’ system in Wales, played 10 first-grade games, all at hooker, for the Woodies.

He shifted among the top three grades, depending on who of the club’s Super 15 players were available.

‘‘It was the best rugby I have played,’’ Gant said.

‘‘To get the chance to play with and against Super 15 players was awesome.

‘‘I played all season at hooker but there was an injury on the eve of the grand final and they picked me at No.8.’’

Gant hasn’t looked back.

He had opportunities to stay in Sydney, but disliked the ‘‘rat race’’and opted to move back to Newcastle and reunite with Tim Chidgey, who had brought him out from Wales to play for The Waratahs in 2010.

Charl van Niekirk was hooker at Beaches and, not wanting to disrupt the apple cart, Gant stuck his hand up to play No.8.

‘‘I spoke to Tim about it a fair bit before I came up,’’ Gant said.

‘‘Charl was the hooker and he is younger and I thought it would be better to keep him at hooker and me go back to No.8.’’

Chidgey said Gant, who has dropped five kilograms to 110kg since his season at the Tahs, had improved greatly from his season in Sydney.

‘‘There were times when he was playing first grade that he was the only player in the pack who didn’t have a Super Rugby contract,’’ Chidgey said.

‘‘He was packing down with Matt Dunning, Chris Alcock ... you have to improve by training and playing with the calibre of those blokes.’’

In the end, lifestyle was more important for Gant.

‘‘I didn’t like living in Sydney,’’ he said.

‘‘Where I am from back home, Port Talbot, it is a small town. Newcastle is busy for me. Sydney was a rat race.

‘‘To come back to Newcastle and catch up with Tim again was appealing.

‘‘I have also started work [as a bricklayer] with a construction company who have have agreed to sponsor me, which means I am here for four years.’’

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