Like father, like son for Nelson Bay's Kiwi import

THERE is a sense of deja vu at Nelson Bay.

A decade after Kiwi halfback Jeff Sollitt inspired the Gropers to the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union finals, his son, Chad Northcott, has made the trek across the Tasman to try to do the same.

Northcott has been a revelation for the Bay this year and was their best in a 35-22 loss to Wanderers at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.

Playing at fullback, he sparked an 80-metre try with a chip kick and regather, and started and finished a 70-metre five-pointer.

Emulating his father’s feat of sparking the Gropers to the play-offs appears a long-shot given Nelson Bay have only three wins from 11 games this year and are eight points off the top five, but there is no doubt the 20-year-old is having a similar influence.

‘‘He was one of our best on the weekend and he’s been consistently one of our best players all year,’’ assistant coach Michael Maher said.

Northcott, from Morrinsville in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island, came from his home-town club to experience the Australian culture and spend time with his father and two younger brothers.

Sollitt played for the New Zealand army side and was halfback when the Gropers last made the semis, in 2001 and 2002. He enjoyed his time so much he moved to the Bay after leaving the army.

Northcott came to Nelson Bay for a trial in March last year but put back the move until this season. It proved a good decision for the Gropers.

‘‘I wasn’t really sure about the move then. By the time I handed my notice in at work and moved over, it would have been halfway through the season, so I told them I’d come back next year and bring a couple of the boys with me,’’ Northcott said.

‘‘So they came over, had a couple of pre-season games and liked it over here, so we ended up staying and playing rugby for Nelson Bay.

‘‘It’s going good – we’re enjoying it.’’

His mates were centre Mick Hotene and prop Erasmus van Zyl, who have both become integral parts of the top-grade side.

The odds are against Nelson Bay making a play for the finals, but Northcott believed the team had the potential to match it with the competition’s best. ‘‘I reckon we’re going good,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve got the team and the players to take out the comp, but we’ve got to keep gelling as a team. We’ve got the players but there’s a few things to work on.’’

Northcott has switched between fullback and halfback for the Gropers with ease, but said he preferred the extra room to move at No.15.

‘‘I’m playing fullback at the moment, but I’ve jumped from halfback to fullback, to first fly to halfback then back to fullback,’’ he said. I’ll play anywhere for the team, but I enjoy fullback better.’’

He hoped to line up a playing stint in Scotland after the season but was open to extending his stay at the Bay.

‘‘Hopefully I make the rep side here and then I might stay over the summer,’’ he said.

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