Preparing for his side’s Round 3 encounter with the Newtown Jets, Illawarra’s Shaun Nona says he was only too happy to see club prodigy Jai Field named to play alongside him in the halves.
Field – a live-wire talent who caught the collective eye at the NRL Auckland Nines in February – went about reminding all comers of his ability, as he streaked away to score his side’s first try against the Jets on Saturday afternoon.
Trailing by six on the cusp of half-time, the 19-year-old sensation collected a loose ball and dashed some 80 metres downfield for points, crossing for the first of four-consecutive tries and setting the tone for the action that would follow.
“It was our first time playing together, he played well in the first half,” Nona tells NSWRL.com.au.
“Whenever there’s an opportunity, he definitely grabs it with both hands. He showed what he can do for us, running the length to get us back into the game.”
The sparkling effort, though, would be the young flyer's last involvement in the match.
Weaving his way through the would-be Newtown defenders, Field twinged a troublesome hamstring – an injury which kept him out of action last weekend.
While yet to face the rigours of the NRL consistently, Nona says the glimpse of brilliance was an assurance that Field is ready to rise to the Dragons’ top 17, on a week-to-week basis.
“I think he is ready, he’s pretty mature for his age, his talk on the field is pretty good. I think if he gets another opportunity in first grade, he won’t let anyone down,” Nona says.
“Unfortunately for him he tweaked that hamstring, the physios didn’t want to rush him in the second half so they took caution.”
As Field watched on from the sideline, Nona took full control of his side in the second period, guiding the Illawarra outfit to the eventual 10-point victory.
The match played in wet, slippery conditions, Nona stresses it was a case of ‘back to basics’ for the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Premiers.
“That second half, I put a real emphasis on just getting our forwards around the park, executing the kick and pinning them down in a corner,” Nona says.
“(Newtown) came out and put us on the back foot, but we made it hard for ourselves.
“Once we got through our sets and started to build some pressure, we were able to execute our plans and points came of it.”
Illawarra return to WIN Stadium next Saturday to host the undefeated NZ Warriors in Round 4 of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW competition.