Northern Pride coach Joe O’Callaghan is urging NRL scouts to scoop up the Far North’s best talents, a call made through gritted teeth at Barlow Park on Sunday.
Amid the excitement of the 40-16 defeat dished out to finals-bound PNG, local fans could be excused for dreaming of what could have been as the Pride showed their true colours in front of a packed house.
The win was a deserved send-off to Linc Port, David Murphy and the outgoing coach, as the Pride’s potential all season finally shone through.
The home side were “clinical” in the opening stages, quickly opening up the Hunters’ defence for Sheldon Powe-Hobbs to score the first of Pride’s three tries in 10 minutes.
After winning the physical contest, little men Port, Jared Allen and Jordan Biondi-Odo took control of the game.
A heated stoush on the ground between Sheldon Powe-Hobbs and Gahuna Silas put both players in the sin bin in the 67th minute, part of a physical end to the game that left one man on the Pride bench.
O’Callaghan said it was satisfying to put it together for 80 minutes for a number of weeks, compared to just glimpses of brilliance two months ago.
“I say to the boys all the time I can’t do what they do but they need to have faith in the game plan we give them,” he said.
“I thought we were pretty clinical there early on, that was something that impressed me.’’
O’Callaghan said the way the likes of Jack Svendsen and Sheldon Powe-Hobbs rolled over the PNG pack was a sign they deserved NRL attention.
The coach was dumbfounded by suggestions from some scouts Svendsen was “too small” for the NRL.
“I really hope some NRL scouts have a look at our footage from the past five or six weeks as the silly season starts,” he said.
“Traditionally you’ll see a lot of guys pull NRL contracts from this competition in finals footy, because they’re playing TV games
“There’s all this talk at the moment about keeping guys here but let’s not forget what the role of this competition is. It’s to see guys go up.”
This weekend, the Pride will travel to Rockhampton to play the Capras in their final match of the season, while the PNG Hunters are back at home and will host the Sunshine Coast Falcons.
NORTHERN PRIDE 40 (Sheldon Powe-Hobbs, Tom Hancock, Javid Bowen, Khan Ahwang, Jared Allen, Linc Port, Justin Castellaro tries; Khan Ahwang 6 goals) def PNG HUNTERS 16 (Timothy Lomai 2, Butler Morris tries; Noel Zeming 2 goals) at Barlow Park.