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Sports star of the week: Freddie Eschenbach

Freddie Eschenbach at his Masterton home. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

CHRIS COGDALE

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A chance to push for a spot in the Farriers Wairarapa-Bush Heartland team was hard to resist for Freddie Eschenbach.

The talented 19-year-old has been studying for a Bachelor of Commerce in Agriculture at Lincoln University, south of Christchurch, and has been travelling back weekly to play for Gladstone.

On Monday he moved back permanently, to take on a job as a dairy assistant on Christensen’s farm at Mt Bruce.

He has also transferred to Massey University to complete his studies by correspondence, although he will study two subjects a semester instead of four.

Eschenbach is the third of four sons to Peter Eschenbach – the national sales manager for FMG Insurance – and financial consultant Jane.

Oldest brother Harry is the regular first-five for Gladstone, while Jack, who is on the Canterbury representative radar, and youngest brother George, have also made sporadic appearances for the team.

Eschenbach is in his first full season with Gladstone, and is making every post a winner at fullback, having previously played at halfback or first-five at Rathkeale College and in Canterbury.

“Admittedly it’s taken me a few games to find my feet at fullback, and I think I’ve found my feet now, and I’m loving the extra space you get,” Eschenbach said.

“You have the ball, and you have a few seconds to have a look and see where space is and take it and help set your winger up.”

Eschenbach was in the thick of the action for Gladstone in their 36-24 win over Carterton. With his lightning pace and tricky footwork, he was a constant threat to the Maroons’ defence.

“I love the counterattack and they kept kicking me the ball and I had more opportunities, and the more opportunities you get, the more you get to make a break, and I was loving it.”

One such break led to a stunning try to flanker Eddie Cranston from the kick-off to the second half. Eschenbach started the attack from inside his own half and Cranston finished after an exchange of passes.

A brilliant solo effort when Eschenbach ran 30m from the base of a ruck gave Gladstone a commanding 30-10 lead.

“That’s where the halfback came back into me. I just looked at each side of the ruck and there was defender there and he got sucked in by one of our players who cleaned him out and I just took the metres that were there.”

Eschenbach believes the victory has Gladstone well-placed to push for a top two finish and a home semifinal, with the struggling Greytown and Eketahuna to play.

“That puts us in pretty good stead for the finals, and we should take out second pretty comfortably now I would hope, but the competition is so tight and there have been some real mixed results.”

Then hopefully a spot in the Wai-Bush Heartland squad beckons for the exciting young fullback.

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