In his first season in Major League Rugby, Tristan Blewett has become a NOLA Gold fan-favorite with his strong running and hard hits.
Half-way through the season, the 22-year-old is currently tied for the league lead with six tries and is a big part of the MLR-leading Gold’s (6-1) success.
This season, Blewett’s made three of the MLR’s ‘First XV’ rosters, awarded weekly to players across the league for their performances. In addition, Blewett sits second on the Gold in meters carried (534), points scored (30), line-breaks (7), tackle assists (7) and dominant tackles (8).
Blewett’s breakout performance came in week eight against the Houston Sabercats, when he recorded a hat-trick, while setting an MLR single-game record 237 meters carried in the Gold’s 49-11 win.
“It’s an unreal feeling. It’s something you don’t really think about. When it comes along, it gives you something back for what you’ve worked for,” Blewett said.
For head coach Nate Osborne, however, he isn’t surprised with Blewett’s production so far this season.
“After watching his film and talking to him before we recruited him here, I knew that he was going to be an outstanding player for us,” Osborne said.
“Just his versatility of being able to shift from wing to center and even play a little bit of fullback and stuff like that.”
Through the first half of the season, he switched back and forth between wing and outside center, starting in all six games he played.
This versatility stems from his time playing back home in South Africa with the Sharks of Super Rugby, who deployed him all over the field, similarly to the Gold.
“We had some of the big names of the world,” Blewett said.
“Playing with them and training with them every day, I learned so much, especially in my short career so far. It taught me a lot.”
While Osborne wasn’t surprised by Blewett’s physical abilities, it’s the leadership, knowledge and help he shares with his teammates that has stood out to him the most.
But for Blewett, it’s just something he enjoys doing to help elevate the team and system.
“Coming over here, not all the guys on the team have been able to work with guys like that. It’s actually pretty nice and it gives me a job as well to sort of give a word here and there and help out where I can,” Blewett said.
“It’s a big key for a guy that’s played professionally before to come in and help everybody out and make sure that everyone’s on the same page and he helps out a lot. He’s a great guy and a great person and we’d love having him around here forever,” Osborne said.
Off the pitch, Blewett has been enjoying his time in New Orleans and soaking up as much of the city’s culture as he can during his down time.
“I’ve been trying to go out to the bayou as much as I can and go fishing. I love the outdoors and all that, so that’s where I try and run to,” he said.
After getting back into town fresh off the team’s win against Houston, Blewett and a few teammates went on a boar hunting trip.
“We didn’t get anything, but it was still nice to get out,” he laughed.
Aside from trying to get outdoors as much as he can during the grind of the season, he’s finding time to explore more of the Big Easy.
“I love the live music out on Frenchmen and all that. That’s pretty cool and then all the different spots to eat food,” he said.
“It’s very different food from back home. I’m still getting around to trying it all out.”
One of his favorite foods and experiences that he’s taken part in so far – and one that isn’t like anything he had back home – was attending a crawfish boil.
“I’ve done one of those and it was unbelievable,” Blewett said.
“That’s probably my favorite so far.”
Now that Blewett has stepped into a prominent role on the team, Osborne is looking for him to progress and build on the skill set he’s already established this season.
“I think we talk a lot about him being that second playmaker – a guy that can jump in at any stage and dictate what we’re doing with the ball and talk to people around him. We also talk a lot about defensively – he’s fast, so he can set a good line speed for us and use his communication and set a good width for us,” Osborne said.
“I can really see him developing his play-making ability in these last few months. Just being able to set people up, rather than just running and scoring the try himself, but he can do that when he needs to as we’ve seen.”
Osborne also added that the more the team puts the ball in Blewett’s hands – as evidenced in the game against Houston – the more explosive the Gold can be on offense.
“For me, it’s just finding him ways to get him the ball and finding ways for him to work off the ball so he can get himself in position to get more of those games.
Whether it’s starting on the wing, at outside center, or wherever the Gold need him, Blewett wants to continue his individual success, but most of all help the team achieve their goals of playing in and winning the MLR Championship this season.
“I want to try and finish the season on top with the most tries scored,” Blewett said.
“I just want to try and benefit our team as much as possible and finish the season off getting that championship.”
By: Brian Wollitz
Photo credits: Richard and JB Fletcher: Bigshots Snapshots | Craig Boudreaux
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