HONE Edwards had not long turned 17 when he made his first grade debut in Darwin and a year later helped the University Pirates to a premiership win.
And it was Edwards’ maturity and rugby smarts that Newcastle University coach Chris McCaskie picked up on in his first conversation with the fly-half.
Edwards is one of seven players on a scholarship at the club.
McCaskie was involved in the recruitment process and was immediately impressed by the play-maker.
“When you have a 17-year-old playing first grade against men, no matter what the level, they smarten up pretty quickly,” McCaskie said. “Hone played under his father, who is a skillful coach and has won premierships continually up there in Darwin. Hone has silky hands, a good pass and a strong running game when he gets it going. What impressed me most was his level of maturity.”
Edwards and Pirates teammate Jimi Fitzgerald, who was also awarded a scholarship, moved down together and live on campus.
“The scholarship was a big attraction,” Edwards said. “I wanted to get out of Darwin because the level of rugby up there is not as good as down south. I came down here to study business and improve my rugby. I didn’t know anything about the place. Before Christmas myself and Jimi Fitzgerald came down and met with [University vice president] Paul Tracey and the whole executive. They were really inviting and keen to have me here.”
Edwards represented Northern Territory schoolboys in 2016 and was apart of the senior sevens squad last season.
“The depth in Newcastle is so much stronger than Darwin,” he said. “AFL and rugby league are the main sports up there. Rugby is more social. The first game here I definitely felt it. Big boys, stronger, faster … you have to play smart if you want to get around.”
Edwards, a fly-half for Uni, played smart enough to be selected at inside centre for the Newcastle and Hunter under-19s side, which dominated the Country championship.
They beat Central West 51-10 in the final and Edwards was among 11 players named in the Country Colts side to take on Gen Blue (NSW under-19s) in Camden on Sunday.
Edwards ran at inside centre at Country training camp in Singleton a fortnight ago.
“The coaches want to see what the players had to offer and tried to nail done a few structures,” he said. “We got sent our play books on Tuesday. There is a bit of info but it is easily absorbed.”
Country go into camp again on Saturday and given the limited preparation, it could be a Hunter backline from halfback to outside centre.
Eli McCulloch (Merewether) is the likely halfback, with Connor Mulhearn (Hamilton) fly-half, Edwards at 12 and Rhys Bray (Merewether) at outside centre.
“It would be good for our combinations, especially after how well we played in Warren,” Edwards said. “With all the training we had, we built relationships and hopefully we can take that into the Gen Blue game.”