The Townsville Stingers will travel to Belmore this weekend to take on the Cronulla Sharks in both the Under 16 and Under 18 National Championship Finals.
Interestingly – both underage teams from both clubs made the finals this year following wins in their respective state finals the Cyril Connell Cup and Harold Matthews Cup (Under 16), and Mal Meninga Cup and SG Ball (Under 18).
“It’s a credit to the Townsville district, to their talent and the Stingers academy,” Stingers Under 18 coach Dick Walsh said of having both teams represent the state in the national finals.
“Also to the coaching staff and administration of young up and coming players.”
His Under 16 counterpart Allan Petersen said it was good to see fans in the region throw their support behind the boys before their big games this Saturday.
“The atmosphere in the town has been pretty good, everyone is excited and getting behind us,” he said.
While both teams are preparing well for the challenge ahead of them – the Under 18 side take with them more expectations, having claimed the national honours last year with a win over the Sydney Roosters.
However, Walsh said while there might be external pressure to repeat the success of the 2014, it was not a main focus of the team.
“The boys might put pressure on themselves, but (there’s no pressure on them) from the coaching staff,” Walsh said.
“In my eyes, what they have achieved is already great and to go one better would be good, but what they have achieved is what they have worked so hard for and they deserve everything.
“We don’t speak about the win last year. We are two very different teams.
“Last year’s team was star-studded; they had about eight guys go into NYC with the Cowboys and some are permanent players there.
“This year’s side we will probably only have about two or three go into NYC, but we are just a champion team.”
Undoubtedly the biggest games many of their young players will be involved in, both Walsh and Petersen were taking a similar approach to their preparations with Walsh saying not much would change in the lead up to the game for his team.
“We’re taking this week like any other week,” Walsh said. “We are ... taking each game as it comes and (will) go in with a decent mindset.
Petersen was even more succinct - “We will go about our normal preparations,” he said.
The NSW sides played their grand final last weekend and will move straight into the upcoming games against the Stingers, while the Townsville sides have had a week off to let their win sink in before refocusing for their new challenge.
“It will be good to be fresh. It was a good effort from the boys to have a win last weekend and there have been a few injuries,” Petersen said of his side’s build-up to Saturday’s game.
“It was good to have a week off to get over them, so hopefully the week off will work to our advantage.”
Watch both National Finals via live stream on QRL.com.au - details announced soon.
Townsville Stingers v Cronulla Sharks at Belmore Sports Ground on Saturday, May 16 - 11am
Townsville Stingers: 1. McKenzie Baker 2. Caleb Souter 3. Jamaine Gillin 4. Tom Kenny 5. Thomas McCagh 6. Jackson Wyles 7. Jack Nosworthy 8. Jack Althaus (c) 9. Enemarki Shibasaki 10. Jaidyn McCall 11. Brendan Skinner 12. Nathan Barrett 13. Brayden Hall 14. Josh Williams 15. Kurt Schultz 16. Tyrone Chan 17. Ethan James
Coach: Allan Petersen
Cronulla Sharks: 1. Dylan Smith 2. Bronson Xerri 3. Semisi Kioa 4. Jack Gould 5. Julian Spanos 6. Kai Broadhurst 7. Luke Metcalf 8. Fine Kula 9. Tamati McCausland 10. James Roumanos 11. Jaeman Salmon 12. Jay Shearman 13. Lachlan Smith (c) 14. Pita Toamotu 15. Monty Raper 16. Trace Davidson 17. Rhys Ward 18. William Swann
Coach: Glenn Brailey
Townsville Stingers v Cronulla Sharks at Belmore Sports Ground on Saturday, May 16 – 1pm
Townsville Stingers: 1. Marshall Hudson 2. Enari Tuala 3. Bacho Salam 4. Cody Maughan 5. Richie Munchow 6. Mitchell Dunn (c) 7. Bradley Cross 8. Faron Morris 9. Calum Gahan 10. Kaleb Fuimaono 11. Lachlan Payne 12. Rhein Frank (c) 13. Ben Cocciolone 14. Jason Bail 15. Duarne Dempsey 16. Brayden Dee 17. Sione Veukiso
Coach: Dick Walsh
Cronulla Sharks: 1. William Kennedy 2. Josh Tuilagi 3. Curtis Scott (C) 4. Keenan Yorston 5. Cameron Scott 6. Kyle Flanagan 7. Jack Williams 8. Daniel Vasquez 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Brock Ilett 11. Jesse Savage 12. Luis Strickland 13. Billy Magoulias 14 Jaiden Brown 15. Reece Gair 16. Tony Matautia 17. Soakimi Tuitavuki 18. Justin Timu 19. Amo Lualua 21. Isaac Lumelume
Coach: Dave Howlett
Both matches will also be televised on FOX on May 22:
Under 16: National Championship Final – FOX SPORTS ONE HD – 2.30pm
Under 18: National Championship Final – FOX SPORTS ONE HD – 4.30pm
Both matches can also be viewed LIVE on the QRL's Live Stream page - click here.