Warren Schillings has ventured into new territory this season.
Not only has the uncompromising forward started coaching his two sons in the Cardiff Cougars under 6s, the Barnsley 31-year-old was on Wednesday night officially appointed as Newcastle Rebels captain for the first time.
“I coach the boys and then come over here [Harker Oval] to training, so it keeps me pretty busy,” the Western Suburbs veteran said.
Formally in the Knights system and the 2011 Central Coast Centurions players’ player, Schillings is no stranger to the representative scene having run out for Newcastle on multiple occasions and touring with NSW Country at least once in 2008.
However, this latest opportunity to don the Rebels jersey comes after a forced year off when the NSW Country Championships changed formats from opens to under 23s.
But with Newcastle Rugby League’s off-season switch in organisational bodies from Country Rugby League to NSW Rugby League, a new representative fixture was born with the Rebels now meeting a Sydney-based Ron Massey Cup team at Maitland Sportsground on Friday night.
A combined squad will also be selected and announced following full-time ahead of a June 17 clash with the Queensland Rangers in Burleigh.
These chances seemed like a distant memory 12 months ago.
“It felt like it sort of just disappeared,” Schillings said.
“When it [Newcastle Rebels] went back to 23s not much was said about it. Now it’s gone back to opens and it shows the boys that are a little bit older can still play with the best.
“It’s good to get back in there ... some more experienced players with a couple of young guys.”
He described it as a “buzz” and “honour” to wear the Newcastle uniform again, especially after being part of the successful country title campaign in 2016 but missing the final with suspension.
Schillings’ club coach Matt Lantry endorsed the role as skipper saying “he’s a quiter leader but he talks, everybody listens”.
Meanwhile, fitness tests at Wednesday night’s final training session provided mixed results for the Rebels with Lakes back Kyle Kennedy ruled out with injury while Macquarie utility Randall Briggs was cleared to play.
Lakes hooker Chris Randall is also unavailable for Newcastle despite being named initially having now played too many NSW Cup matches for the Knights this season. Cessnock prop Kurt Warden is 18th man.
From the opponents camp, former Maitland player Kurt Aldridge will wear the No.9 jersey for the Ron Massey Cup side.
Kick-off is 7:30pm.
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