Forward making most of chance

North Otago loan player Charles Elton is expected to be a key figure for his adopted team in the Meads Cup semifinal against Wairarapa Bush in Oamaru on Saturday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
North Otago loan player Charles Elton is expected to be a key figure for his adopted team in the Meads Cup semifinal against Wairarapa Bush in Oamaru on Saturday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Charles Elton winces a little when you ask him about playing lock. The 26-year-old hates the utility tag even more.

The North Otago and Harbour forward sees himself very much as a No 8 who can play on the blindside and at lock if required.

Versatility can sometimes work against a player.

''I'm kind of used to being moved around a wee bit,'' Elton said.

''And I have been getting 80 minutes most weeks, so I'm happy with that.

''But I think [the utility tag] does [damage your opportunities] a wee bit. I don't like to class myself as a lock at all, just because I'm not tall enough.

''You don't see many locks that are shorter than 1.92m, so I definitely want to keep myself in the loose forward mix.''

Elton is no shrimp at 1.88m. But his strength lies in his ability to get through a heavy workload and carrying the ball into contact.

As far as North Otago co-coach Jason Forrest is concerned, though, Elton is one of the best locks in the competition.

''He has been absolutely outstanding for us in everything he does,'' Forrest enthused.

''He is an absolute workhorse. Heartland is a good level of football and he has probably been one of our best and probably one of the best in the Heartland competition at the moment.

''I think he is highly under-rated. Hopefully we can open some doors for him with what he has done for us this year.''

That is certainly the plan for the loan player.

''I'd love to have an opportunity to play at Mitre 10 Cup level at some stage,'' Elton said.

''I'm looking to play sevens [for Otago] again this year which I've done for the last couple of years.

''That is good exposure and it keeps you fit.''

Elton moved south from the North Shore to attend the University of Otago as an 18-year-old.

He linked up with Harbour the following a year after a stint with the Southern premier colts. He wanted to play premier rugby and there were more opportunities at the Hawks.

Elton, a sales representative, quickly developed a reputation as an industrious and robust player. He captained the side to its first premier title two years ago, although the Hawks had to share the spoils with University after the final was drawn.

North Otago contacted Elton about a week before its Heartland season opener and he was dead keen.

''I've played for Otago B for the last four years and wasn't in the picture this year ... so when I got the call I jumped at the chance.

There are half-a-dozen Dunedin-based players who make the trip north to play for North Otago, including Green Island lock Woody Kirkwood and University pivot Mike Williams.

North Otago is hosting Wairarapa-Bush in the semifinal of the Meads Cup on Saturday.

The Old Golds beat their opponent 25-11 in round two. The season has gone well, apart from a downward turn late last month.

But the side bounced back from narrow losses to the West Coast and Wanganui and will start as favourite.

Elton shapes as a key cog up front. It is an area in which North Otago will look to press a perceived advantage.

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