Clydsdale leading the way for Mounties
Blake Austin's hand injury has opened up the door for Raiders hooker Adam Clydsdale to take on extra responsibility for the Mounties ahead of their Intrust Super Premiership qualifying final against the Newtown Jets on Saturday afternoon.
Austin's hand surgery meant stand-in Mounties skipper Sam Williams was promoted to the NRL to partner Aidan Sezer in the halves.
With the Mounties already losing veteran captain Glen Buttriss (pectoral) and young gun Lachlan Croker (ACL) for the season, Clydsdale is now the most experienced member of the spine for the minor premiers.
Clydsdale has played 44 NRL games to date and will have to lead young halves Sam Duggan and Maurice Kennedy and two-NRL-game-fullback Zac Santo around the paddock.
What the Mounties lack experience in the spine, they make up it for practically everywhere else on the field.
New Zealand international Jeff Lima and veteran lock Shaun Fensom headline Mounties' 17 this weekend and they'll be joined by fellow NRL players Brenko Lee, Jarrad Kennedy, Scott Sorenson and Willie Mataka.
Throw in Papua New Guinean sensation Kato Ottio and Holden Cup Team of the Year alumni Brent Naden and you get a sense why Mounties have dominated New South Wales Rugby League competitions in 2016.
"It was good to get the minor premiership but I suppose the job's not over is it?" Clydsdale told NRL.com.
"It's up to me lead the boys around the park. We have a couple of new boys in there now in Sam and Maurice so I'll have to run the show a little bit.
"Those boys are both good players. It took us a while to get going but our second half (in last weekend's 22-17 win over Wentworthville) was a lot better. We started combining really well and we'll only improve on that this weekend.
"It was pretty tough without [Williams]. There's no doubting Sammy's a bloody good player so we had to grind through with him gone. We have people there to do their bit for the team though and we all have to work harder without Sam."
Clydsdale had only played one reserve grade game prior to joining the Raiders at the beginning of the year – the former Knights player immediately transitioning from the Holden Cup to the NRL under Wayne Bennett.
While the 23-year-old joined the Raiders to play NRL football this year, Clydsdale couldn't deny the form of Josh Hodgson or Kurt Baptiste after being restricted to four appearances for the green machine.
The Scone junior said his time spent at the Mounties has been helped by the amazing depth Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has developed in the nation's capital.
"To play with Mounties, with such a good bunch of blokes, it makes it a lot easier," he said.
"Coming back to play for the Mounties along with blokes like Shaun Fensom helps too. It's not like you're the only bloke going back there from Canberra then.
"Everyone just wants to play footy and do their job for the Mounties. We have a pretty good attitude about it all. The depth at the club is unbelievable and it shows with both grades winning games at the moment."
Clydsdale labelled the Jets as their toughest opponents this year, no coincidence considering Newtown's partnership with the NRL heavyweights Cronulla.
"They have heaps of big boys and they just smash it forward so we'll have to rip in," he said.
"[ISP] is near as tough as the NRL and always physical so this competition's standards are very good."
Intrust Super Premiership Finals Week One fixtures
Illawarra Cutters (2nd) v Wests Tigers (3rd) at UOW Jubilee Oval, Saturday September 3, 12:40pm.
Mounties (1st) v Newtown Jets (4th) at Pepper Stadium, Saturday September 3, 1pm.
Wyong Roos (6th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (7th) at Pepper Stadium, Saturday September 3, 3pm.
New Zealand Warriors (5th) v Penrith Panthers (8th) at Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday September 4, 1:35pm.
For more information head to NSWRL.com.au