BLAIR Rush was on the radar of coach Scott Coleman from the moment the Hunter Wildfires were given the go ahead in December to compete in the 2021 Shute Shield.
Coleman sent out feelers through Rush's Wanderers teammates who played for the Wildfires in a COVID-19 shortened Shute Shield last year.
He heard nothing back so in February Coleman picked up the phone.
On Saturday, Rush, 26, dominated in his starting debut at loosehead prop in the Wildfires' 23-3 loss to Norths at home.
"I asked a few of his mates if he was keen and didn't hear anything back," Coleman said. "I decided to give him a call. He was unsure but said he would come and have a look. That was a week before our boot camp in late February. He has excelled ever since."
The front-row of Rush, Chris Ale and Nick Dobson led a Wildfires scrum that had Norths under pressure for the opening hour. Rush and Dobson earned their start after changing the tone of the game in the second half of the opening-round 56-24 loss to Sydney University.
"Against Sydney Uni, they came on and changed our scrum and were really dynamic," Coleman said. "He is a really good footballer. He has a high skill set. He can catch, pass, offload, has a bit of footwork and his fitness is improving."
Rush's dad, Eric, is a former All Blacks winger and sevens legend.
His son, who stands 193 centimetres and clocks the scales at 130 kilograms, spent five season at lock for Wanderers until making the move to loosehead prop in 2018.
Rush said the shift was simply a case of drawing the short straw. He had made the pilgrimage home to Northland for an annual rugby tournament involving his family.
"I got home and the first thing dad said to me was 'we need a prop and you drew the short straw'," Rush told the Herald after making the transition.
Coleman concedes that Rush "is still learning his trade" but "is getting better and better each week".
"We are working hard with him on his set piece," Coleman said. "He wants to learn and doesn't take a backward step."
Next for the Wildfires are winless West Harbour at Concord Oval on Saturday.
"West Harbour have a really big scrum and will be a challenge," Coleman said.
Coleman is unlikely to make many changes from the loss to Norths, a match in which they bombed two tries and were held up twice.
"We came through the game unscathed injury wise," Coleman said. "It was definitely a step in the right direction. We have to get more clinical and detailed in how we play. "We got held up over the line twice. There are lots of little things we can do better."
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