Until this season and outside a couple of matches with the Newcastle Knights a decade ago, Steve Gordon hadn’t really played anywhere else but Western Suburbs.
But on Sunday afternoon, this time sporting a Central Newcastle uniform, the 29-year-old centre returns to Harker Oval for the first time since parting ways with his old club.
Gordon won’t be the only Butcher Boy in a similar situation with halfback Brad Murray and coach Craig Miller both having claimed multiple premierships with the Rosellas previously as well. However, the past will be put aside for this top-of-the-table clash according to mentor Miller.
“He [Gordon] has always played at Wests and I’m sure he probably played a couple of hundred first grade games there,” Miller said.
“But he’s an ultimate professional and I know he’ll give his best on Sunday even though there’s probably some tough feelings there for him.
“He knows he has a pretty strong leadership role at Central now and I think he’s enjoying the change.
“That’s the polish he got from Wests and I know he thinks highly of Wests still, but he’s also got a responsibility at Central now.”
Central, who finished seventh and within a loss of the wooden spoon last season, remain undefeated after the opening four rounds of the 2017 campaign, while Wests’ only slip came against fellow premiership contenders Macquarie last Saturday.
Steering the Butcher Boys around the park, minus injured representative prop and former Rosella Jake Finn (knee), has been former NRL playmaker Brad Murray.
The classy No.7 leads the player of the year standings with eight points while Central teammates Jake Maizen (six) and Jace Delaney (four) also feature in the top 10.
“There’s no doubt we’ve got some experienced players there that have really made a difference and they’ve been instrumental in supplying a lot of leadership and strength to some very good juniors,” Miller said.
“That’s been the pleasing aspect of coaching out at Central at the moment.”
Utility forward Matt Baker (ribs) remains in doubt for Central and will be given until match eve to prove his fitness.
Wests coach Matt Lantry said fullback Callan Richardson (hamstring) would struggle to be right for the fifth-round encounter but his replacement would depend on how Rosellas trio Willis Alatini, Mao Uta and Sam Keenan pull up after representative duties with the Newcastle Rebels 24 hours earlier.
The Rosellas will celebrate “old boys” on Sunday (3pm).
Elsewhere in Newcastle Rugby League, defending champions Souths will wear a specially-made Indigenous jersey against Kurri Kurri at Townson Oval on Sunday.
Saturday sees Maitland host a depleted Lakes outfit at Coronation Oval, while Cessnock, down winger Cal Orchard (broken hand), are at home to Macquarie at the slightly later time of 4.35pm.
Earlier at Cessnock Sportsground, the Rebels have a NSW Country Championship double header.
Newcastle’s under-23 (12.10pm) and ladies league tag (11.05am) teams tackle North Coast in round two fixtures after opening their campaigns with wins against Northern Rivers at Wauchope last weekend.
Sam Keenan replaces the injured Nick Newman (ankle) at halfback for the under 23s, while in the ladies league tag, Gabby Miller swaps for Jacqui Moriarty.
Round three of the knockout competition is scheduled for next Saturday with finals to follow on June 3.