Yass's Tony McLean is tackled by Queanbeyan players Dwayne Connors, Troy Whiley and Aaron Gorrell. Photo: Graham Tidy
HE HAS the words 'Fear' and 'God' tattooed on each eyelid and Queanbeyan Kangaroos utility Matt James is back to terrorise Canberra Raiders Cup opponents.
The former Canberra Raiders junior came off the bench to score three second-half tries as the Kangaroos overcame a 10-0 deficit to beat the Yass Magpies 46-20 in the top-of-the table clash at Queanbeyan's Freebody Oval yesterday.
The match was in the balance 18-16 at half-time in favour of the Roos, until James scored two tries within three minutes to blow the game apart.
Yass's Tony McLean, right, and Queanbeyan's Troy Whiley endure a heavy collision. Photo: Graham Tidy
The second try was a rampaging and individual 70-metre burst straight through the guts of the Yass defence, while he closed the match with his third try in the dying minutes. James played a trial match for the Raiders in 2010, but has had to endure tragedy since.
He broke his leg playing for the Gungahlin Bulls, has had a back operation to replace a disc and, two years ago, lost two of his closest cousins in a car crash in Wagga Wagga. All that prompted him to question his faith, hence the tattoos.
The 25-year-old Valley Dragons junior, who also played Queensland Cup with Souths Logan, only joined the Kangaroos a few weeks ago.
Yass's Andrew Swaffield is tackled by Queanbeyan players Daniel Watt and Aaron Gorrell. Photo: Graham Tidy
''In the last three years I've only played a handful of games,'' James said. ''It's been a big recovery, but I'm glad to be playing footy again.''
Roos coach Aaron Gorrell said James, who used to be a centre but is now playing as a 110-kilogram back-rower, could become a strike weapon as the club pursues its third consecutive premiership.
Both teams went into yesterday's game undefeated and the underdog Magpies took control in the first half, completely dominating possession to jump to a 10-0 lead after 25 minutes.
But the Roos exposed the big Yass forwards through the middle of the ruck, hooker Jordan Macey and fullback Daniel Watt running riot. It was a brutally physical encounter, but the Roos maintained composure when under fire.
''Our defence was pretty good in that first half, they threw everything they had at us and we toughed it out,'' Gorrell said.
''They were tough, we had to work hard for the win, but we're still nowhere near where we want to be. We've come through a pretty tough side of the draw and we've just got to keep building.''
Yass has been the surprise packet to start this season and boasts plenty of skill, winger Junior Vatikani scoring a double yesterday. But Magpies coach Mark Bell admitted the defending champion had given his side a wake-up call.
''Let's face it, not a lot of teams are going to come here to Freebody Oval and win,'' Bell said. ''They're the toughest side we've played and it's only going to get tougher.''
In other games, the Gungahlin Bulls beat Tuggeranong 20-18 and the Queanbeyan Blues defeated Woden Valley Rams 36-22.