Meninga Cup preview: Norths v Blackhawks
Through years of achievement at this level – there is an air of expectation surrounding this Townsville Blackhawks side who are aiming to claim three Under 18 state titles in a row.
However, while some sides would be feeling the pressure – coach Dick Walsh has made it clear to his team that those pressures are external and were not something to focus on going into the final.
“There is no real pressure with regards to what has been achieved (by teams who have come) before,” he said. “This is a new team with new players.
“But we (as a team) pride ourselves on achieving goals – and for most teams at the start of the year, that is to play in the grand final.
“We are there now, and we are really looking forward to it.”
That being said however, a handful of his current side have been in this exact same place before. This time last year in fact, there were four players preparing themselves for a grand final – two in the Under 16 division and two in the Under 18.
Jack Althaus and Tom McCagh (from last year’s Cyril Connell team) and Mal Meninga Cup veterans Marshall Hudson and Duarne Dempsey know what to expect, while there are other members of the team who were part of the successful Kirwan Bears schoolboys team.
“There is a bit experience under their belt, and a handful have been on that level before which ... will help us to play some level-headed and mature footy,” Walsh said.
Their opponents today Norths also have a strong history in this competition and are excited to have their Under 18 side challenging for the state title this weekend.
The two sides also have a growing rivalry in this age group, as this will be the third time the sides have met on grand final day.
Norths Devils CEO Jamie Dowse said not only was it a great reward for the staff and players; it was also a fantastic achievement for all of the junior affiliate clubs in the Northern Broncos Development program.
“We have tasted success in the state wide competitions since its inception and we hope we can get over the top of the Townsville Blackhawks side,” Dowse said – referring to his club’s 2011 triumph in this grade.
“We have played the Townsville sides a fair few times over the years with a few wins and losses.
“They are the benchmark in the competition, so the players are looking forward to the final.
“Head coach Kevin Carmichael has done a fantastic job with the side this season as has his staff.
“Our captain Ungoorra Harbour is a very good leader on and off the field and is a future leader for our club going forward.”
With both teams boosting a range of talented attacking players and standout defence as a team – fans are expected to see a high-intensity and high quality game of rugby league.
Read this and more in this weekend's special edition Game Day program - available only at the ground! Follow the scores for this game via QRL Live.