KADE Robinson was the NSW Country junior player of the year in 2015, captained Country Colts for two years and had Sydney clubs banging on his door.
His talent has never been in question.
But it took a rev-up from Merewether forwards coaches Jode Roach and Trent Considine for the rugged lock to knuckle down and rip in.
Now both player and the Greens are reaping the benefits.
Robinson, 20, was one of Merewether’s best in the gripping 31-29 win over Maitland in the qualifying semi-final.
“He always had ability,” co-coach Mick Gill said. “The signs were there last year and he was in the mix for first grade. But with work and being a young bloke, he got distracted. Jode and Trent chatted him in the pre-season and got him to commit more to rugby. He has really stepped up. He has a huge motor and a smart rugby brain. With the ball, he makes tough carries and also knows how to run into space.”
A No.8 throughout juniors and colts, Robinson has handled the move into the second-row.
“The coaches were keen for me to step up last year but I had work commitments away in Tamworth,” the third-year apprentice electrician said. “They worked with me this year and made me knuckle down in pre-season.
“Playing lock is challenging but I like challenges. Patty Ireland and I aren’t the tallest blokes. It is more about speed off the ground and finding mismatches.”
Robinson, although still eligible for colts last season, helped steer the Greens to a second-grade premiership. As well as play grade, he captained NSW Country Colts to a last-second 23-20 win over Queensland Country at Ernie Calland Oval.
The year before, he led Country to a rare victory over City under-19s.
“At the start of this year, I was on the phone to Norths fairly regularly,” Robinson said. “They wanted me to go down there. Warringah also rang. I thought about it but I’m a third year electrical apprentice and I want to finish that and have a couple more years playing here.”
Robinson started the year alongside Brendan Jackson in the second-row. Jackson suffered a season-ending wrist injury in round seven and, although the junior of the pack, Robinson was entrusted with controlling the lineout.
“BJ was the lineout captain and Kade learnt a lot from him,” Gill said. “When it got handed to him halfway through the season it wasn’t a big jump. Early on, the quick lineout was working for us, but teams woke up to that. In the meantime we have been working on creating mismatches. Kade has a good eye for it and we have been improving every week.”