Opening a gym in the midst of a global pandemic wasn't part of the plan for Jacob McCudden.
Two years in the pipeline, McCudden and his business partner were lucky to get through a fortnight in March before the coronavirus lockdown took hold.
However, the Pickers second-rower reckons launch 2.0 hasn't been all that bad for Tuggerah-based Castle Functional Fitness.
"It was stressful at the time when we had to shut but in hindsight it allowed us to open up, have a test and gain a bit of interest. We re-opened in June so we've got a couple of months under our belt now. There's still some restrictions in place, but it's going really well," he said.
The Forresters Beach 24-year-old grew up playing for The Entrance and most recently helped the Tigers claim back-to-back premierships on the Central Coast.
McCudden, who has enjoyed junior and lower grade stints in the state capital with North Sydney and South Sydney, was set to continue in familiar surroundings at EDSAAC Oval before the competition was cancelled on season eve in July.
But it was his connection with former housemate, Rabbitohs under-20 teammate and current Pickers five-eighth Chad O'Donnell which saw him switch clubs and join Maitland midway through the statewide President's Cup campaign.
"We were both playing at South Sydney and lived together for two or three years down at Maroubra. So when the opportunity came up to play with Chad again at Maitland I jumped at it," McCudden said.
The existing relationship between the pair was on show when the Pickers hosted the Bears in a top-of-the-table clash earlier this month.
While being tackled to the ground, McCudden managed to get his arms free and produced a spectacular offload for O'Donnell, who was backing up and ran the remaining 80-or-so metres to score a runaway try
"If it didn't come off, I might've got hooked," McCudden said.
"Chad's got a pretty distinctive voice so it made it a lot easier knowing he was there."
McCudden said combinations were starting to "click" ahead of Saturday's elimination semi with Hills Bulls at Maitland Sportsground despite the minor premiers suffering their first loss on the weekend.
Meanwhile, Pickers coach Matt Lantry said centre Matt Soper-Lawler (quad) was a "50-50 chance" of returning but a final decision wouldn't be made until after training on Thursday night.
Pickers president Frank Lawler said, as of Wednesday afternoon, "almost 400" tickets had been sold online. The club has been approved to host 2500 people at the NSW Rugby League event.
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