The Wynnum Manly Seagulls are hoping to end their regular season on a high as they travel to face the Townsville Blackhawks at Jack Manski Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The travelling Seagulls, who have confirmed their place in this year’s Hastings Deering Colts finals series, are level on points with league leaders Burleigh with only two weekends of regular season competition left.
The Seagulls were on the wrong end of a large score-line when these teams met last, going down 34-4 at home back in June.
Seagulls coach Joe O'Callaghan said the team’s form heading into the finals has been a major point of pride for him and his players.
“I want to be honest, the boys are in a great place right now, we’ve had a string of really great wins the past six weeks and we are looking forward to playing finals footy in a few weeks,” O'Callaghan said.
After making the finals series on the last day of the competition last season, coach O’Callaghan said the past 12 months of growth had been instrumental to the success of his side.
“Last season, 12 of our 17 lads were all still 19 years old,” he said.
“We’ve come into this season with a squad of lads who have an extra year under their belt of competition, which has given them all of the important qualities they need to succeed at this level.”
With only two games left in the regular season, and a minor premiership honours still undecided in the competition, O’Callaghan said although his team were tied for first place, they were focused on the bigger picture.
“It’s a bit of a cliché to say, but we want the boys to be taking it week by week and focusing on performing every weekend,” he said.
“We have a focus on winning the whole competition, instead of getting the boys ahead of themselves and worried about the results going on around us, we want them to be looking forward to play finals football and making a big impact on the competition.”
The coach was also quick to praise the changes going on at the wider club level, making mention to the wholistic changes to the systems of play at the club.
“We’ve had a full-time academy head coach in place for the last couple of seasons, which has given us unprecedented structure and similar systems at all levels for our players,” O'Callaghan said.
“Each player, from the (Auswide Bank) Mal Meninga Cup all the way to the Intrust(Super Cup) side have the same level of expectations now, we want them all to be practicing in the best ways and working towards common goals as a club.”
With their Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup side reaching the grand finals back in May, O’Callaghan said that two young NRL recruits have staked their claim to be future champions.
“The Meninga Cup side has given us a serious boost of energy in the last few months, Rhys Hoffman and Jake Simpkin both have played their hearts out for us and will be leaving for the West Tigers in the NRL next year,” he said.
“The boys are of course excited for their change of scenery, but they are also totally focused on the here and now and playing good footy for us leading up to the finals.”
Match: Blackhawks v WM Seagulls
Round 22 -
Venue: Jack Manski Oval, Townsville
Elsewhere in the competition, the Mustangs will host the Dolphins in the first game of the round on Saturday at 2pm; while there will be huge interest in the eighth v seventh clash between Northern Pride and Easts Tigers to see who will further strengthen their place in the eight.
Tweed Seagulls (ninth) will take on Souths in Sunday's only match, while Capras (10th) will want to beat Norths in the slim chance of fighting another week.