Under 18 National Final preview
An unwavering effort has helped the Townsville Blackhawks win their third consecutive Mal Meninga Cup state title, after defeating the Norths Devils 38-16 on Sunday at Suzuki Stadium.
Leading 20-0 at halftime, the undefeated Blackhawks were so strong defensively that the Devils were not able to cross their line until 45 minutes in.
Despite a solid and improved effort from Norths in the second half, they were unable to match the Blackhawks’ consistency, resulting in another solid win for the Townsville team.
“The Norths were very courageous in their efforts,” Blackhawks coach Dick Walsh said of his team’s opponents.
“We just knew what they were going to throw towards us and it showed on the scoreline on Sunday.”
With regards to preparation for big games such as a final, Walsh maintains that goal setting is key.
“We focus on mental prep just as much as physical prep, and that’s what’s allowed us to do so well this season,” he said.
“We just had to reassess after every game to ensure we were improving.”
The Man of the Match deservedly went to Duarne Dempsey, who had been out of the game for four weeks leading up to the state final after suffering an injury in the early rounds.
“For Dempsey to have the impact that he did after that amount of time off was very encouraging for him and for the Townsville community as a whole,” Walsh said.
This weekend, the Blackhawks will battle it out with New South Wales’ SG Ball winners the Penrith Panthers at Bishop Park in the hopes of taking home the national Under 18 title.
Walsh said that ensuring the boys stay focused in the lead-up to the match was crucial.
“We’re just going to stay consistent and do what we’ve been doing all season.
“We’ll do a video review of our match from the weekend, focus on a skills session and back to training as usual,” he said.
“We were unlucky last year against Cronulla in the national game, so we definitely deserve this one!”
Opponents Penrith made it to the national finals after their 25-10 win over the Illawarra Steelers in the SG Ball grand final over the weekend, marking their first state title victory since 2006.