Rugby union: Teenage sensation on fast track to success with Singleton

WING AND A PRAYER: Teenage sensation Ethan McGloughlin gets a pass away under pressure in the Bulls' come from behind 36-22 win over Wanderers. Picture: Matt Mockovic (NBN News)
WING AND A PRAYER: Teenage sensation Ethan McGloughlin gets a pass away under pressure in the Bulls' come from behind 36-22 win over Wanderers. Picture: Matt Mockovic (NBN News)

TEENAGE Singleton winger Ethan McLoughlin watches some of the feats his Fijian teammates perform on a rugby field and thinks: "I have no idea how you did that".

Truth be known, the 17-year-old flyer is creating a handy highlights reel of his own.

And it's growing every game.

After making his debut in a coalfields derby against Maitland in round one, McLoughlin grabbed the spotlight with a brace in a 31-27 loss to Nelson Bay.

Both tries were runaway efforts, burning past noted speedster Chad Northcott each time.

In year 12 at Singleton High, McLoughlin now has seven five-pointers.

"He is 17, playing first grade and holding his own with flying Fijians all around," Singleton coach Tim Partridge said.

A ball nerves before his debut, McLoughlin has emerged as one of the best finishers in the competition.

"It has been a pretty big step up physically," McLoughlin said. "I was used to being a big body in my age group, which is completely different in grade. I had to change how I play and think a lot more, alter my running lines and use my speed because I can't really run over people."

That's where the Fijians have proved invaluable.

Opposite winger Sili Are is the competition's equal leading try-scorer alongside Merewether fullback Sam Rouse with 12.

Alifereti Joji and Epeli Ratabacaca, who each scored in the 36-22 triumph over Wanderers last round, are equally devastating with the ball in hand.

"I have learnt so much playing with them and watching them," McLoughlin said. "Some of the things they do are pretty amazing. You think, I have no idea how you did that."

A NSW representative athlete in the 200 metres and 400 metres, McLoughlin spent two injury-interrupted years at Brisbane Boys College playing the 15a's and 16a's before returning home half way through year 10 in 2019.

He started last season with the Hunter Wildfires colts, before playing out the season with the Bulls under-18s.

"Coming into grade, I was pretty nervous," he said. "I wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't too worried about attack. If you get hit hard, you get hit hard. Defence was the biggest thing. If you miss tackles, people notice. The first few weeks, once I knew I could make the tackles, my confidence grew. I lost a lot of the nerves."

Partridge couldn't be happier with McLoughlin's development and maturity.

"He is a really smart rugby player," Partridge said. "He knows all the subtleties of the game and does them almost text book. One of his great attributes is what he does off the ball and what he does in defence."

"He could easily play in the centres but I find he is better with space. The earlier we get him the ball, the more opportunity he has. He runs a great support but he can also offload at speed."