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Kirwan look to Nanai for schoolboy glory

As Kirwan State High School aim for back-to-back titles in today's Queensland Schoolboys final, the Townsville powerhouse will lean on barnstorming second rower Jeremiah Nanai to top off an incredible season with another Phil Hall Cup win.

After dominating as the player of the match in last year's Queensland Under 16 City versus Country clash, the dynamo has been a prodigy in this year's Aaron Payne Cup, topping the polls to claim the Michael Morgan Medal as the competition's best and fairest.

But coach Todd Wilson said it was Nanai's leadership qualities off the field that had really been the catalyst of his success with the Bears.

"Jeremiah is a great young man who has a good attitude and is a genuine leader amongst the group and he certainly listens and takes everything on board," Wilson said.

"He's well respected in the school by all his teachers and that's got nothing to do with his football, just the person that he is.

"He certainly is someone we hold in high esteem as one of our players and the younger guys certainly look up to him and follow what he does."

Mixing this with his natural playing ability, Wilson said Nanai was one of best he'd seen.

"I think he's been certainly one of the best players that's come through Kirwan in a number of years," Wilson said.

"He's worked hard on being fit. Last year, he was a bit lighter and was quite agile so he needed to make sure he could retain that movement, which he has.

"He's good on his feet for a big fella and he's quite skilful.

"He's got a pass in him before the line and through the line, but that speed and footwork he possesses is his greatest attacking weapon and he's worked really hard on being a consistent defender.

"He'll get forward pretty hard but knows he's got to be effective to do his job on that edge."

Nanai was the player of the match in last year's Queensland Under 16 match.
Nanai was the player of the match in last year's Queensland Under 16 match.

Looking ahead to today's highly-anticipated clash against Palm Beach Currumbin, Wilson knows whats to expect from the undefeated Allan Langer Trophy champions.

"They've got a pretty handy pack. They're big, mobile and skilful," the Kirwan Bears coach said.

"They certainly don't have any problems rolling forward, so the key is being strong defensively on them.

"Also, their halves are clever and sharp - they throw a good long ball and they're good on their feet.

"If we let them go forward and play the ball with some speed, those halves are going to have some time to pick their passes so we certainly can't allow that because their outside backs will take advantage of it."

Because of this, the number one focus at Kirwan's training sessions this week has been defence.

"It doesn't matter how many points you think you can score, you have to defend well, so we've had a real defensive focus this week," Wilson said.

"You only win these games if you're strong defensively and have a real focus on working together defensively and just working together in general.

"That's what we're going to have to do today.

"We're also going to have to build some pressure on them.

"They had a heavy weight of possession against Keebra Park last week and that comes off the back of their kicking game, so we're going to need to control all those things.

"If there's a fair weight of possession among the two sides, it's going to be a really good contest."

Going in as favourites, being the defending national schoolboys champions, Wilson feels they have handled the extra pressure well.

"I think being the defending national champions has brought a little bit of added attention to us, that's for sure," Wilson said.

Kirwan celebrated a big 2019 season.
Kirwan celebrated a big 2019 season.

"But, I think we've handled that pretty well to this point throughout the year.

"We're just really mindful that it doesn't mean anything to this year's group as far as that it doesn't win you games of footy this year.

"If anything, it makes it a bit harder.

"We've spoken about that on a number of occasions and we've got some boys who played in that final last year.

"It's what you do when you get on the field that really counts.

"All the outside stuff is good and winning last year was amazing, but it's not going to win us the game today.

"We have to be good when we step on that field."

The Queensland final kicks off at 3.30pm in Townsville.