NO-NONSENSE former Country prop Jon Runchel is enjoying one of his best seasons for Maitland on and off the field.
When the 31-year-old is not anchoring the Blacks scrum, he is working as coach Geoff Golledge’s assistant.
The more the season has progressed, the more Runchel has taken to the coaching side.
‘‘I always wanted to get into coaching,’’ Runchel said.
‘‘Geoff asked me to help him out and I jumped on board.
‘‘I have a newborn at home, so things are pretty busy.
‘‘Once they settle down, I’d like to get into it full-time.’’
Most of Runchel’s coaching work has been with the forwards, concentrating on mauling and the breakdown.
He has introduced ideas and techniques he picked up playing in Canada and the US.
‘‘He has been a great asset,’’ Golledge said.
‘‘He has some good ideas on phase play, which we are slowly implementing.
‘‘He puts a lot of thought into it, mainly around the ruck and maul areas and how we can vary our pace of the ball.
‘‘They are probably not new ideas to a lot of people, but Maitland have not been exposed to those in the past.’’
Runchel played five seasons for the Calgary Saints, from 2005 to 2009, and also had stints at the Las Vegas Blackjacks and in England with Tabard.
In Calgary, he played under former England A and Leeds prop Mike Shelley.
‘‘He was a really big influence on me and passed on a lot of good knowledge and a lot of good things,’’ Runchel said.
Runchel met his wife, Tara, in Calgary. They live in Adamstown now but travel to Canada at least once a year.
Runchel would like to coach in Canada.
But for now his focus is on the Blacks and completing some unfinished business.
‘‘After 2010 [losing the grand final] I would like to get a win up,’’ Runchel said. ‘‘Last year the missus was pregnant and I didn’t play.
‘‘This year Perko [Adam Perkins] and a few of the boys were coming back and my brother [Dan] was still playing. This will probably be it, I’m guessing.
‘‘We have some good young players who rip in, and I think we will give the top teams a bit of a worry.
‘‘Hamilton are definitely the team to beat. Southern Beaches are up there and Merewether are thereabouts too. The competition is strong across the board.
‘‘There are eight teams who could go close to knocking any team off on their day.
‘‘It has never been like that since I have played.’’
Golledge certainly appreciates having Runchel on deck.
‘‘The scrum just doesn’t move when he is there,’’ the coach said. ‘‘He has that experience and helps out the younger blokes. If we are going to win this comp, we need him fit and healthy.’’
■ Maitland stormed home to beat Lake Macquarie 27-21 at Marcellin Park last round, ending a two-game losing streak and holding onto fifth place on 33 points.
They are away to fourth-placed Wanderers on Saturday.
Key men Mick Howell, Matt Jarrett and Mick Hendry missed the win over the Roos with injury and though tempted to rush them back for the battle with the Two Blues, Golledge will err on the side of caution. There is a general bye the following week.
‘‘The guys who came up did well and for the sake of rushing them back for a week, then having another off, it is safer to leave them out,’’ Golledge said. ‘‘We want to be back to full strength for Nelson Bay at the Bay. That will be a hard enough game as it is.
‘‘We will give them that extra couple of weeks and they should be fine.’’