The Bowen Seagulls under 13 team will embark on a rare trip into Townsville this weekend, on a mission to take out this year’s Leigh Anderson Cup in the Townsville and Districts Junior Rugby League grand final match.
The Seagulls finished the season as minor premiers, but coach Adam Fletcher was wary of their opponents Western Lions Pride, who finished right on their tails – and also – were the only team to beat his side all year.
Lions centre Noah Oxford scored four tries in a big 32-10 win for his side, while backs Ty Ayres-Robson and Joseph Evans both crossed for two tries each.
“We have played them already and they beat us quite convincingly – they have got a really strong team and although we finished minor premiers, we played them and they beat us really strongly,” Fletcher said.
“We did finish on top of the ladder, but we feel we are going in as underdogs because of how strongly they played against us.
“We were all a bit disappointed at how we performed on the field, so if we can play this game in the style of football we like to play, that’s the result we are chasing.”
For Fletcher and his team, to be able to take part in this season has been a blessing, with the players disappointed when the games were halted during the COVID shutdown earlier in the year.
However, the break allowed some players the time to heal in order to take their place with team as they moved through the season.
“(The break) helped our team a little bit, because at the start of the season we had about three boys after the trials actually have injuries; and we only have 18 players all up, that’s us; and we had about four kids with little bumps, like a scaphoid, a broken bone in his thumb and other injuries, so we were looking pretty dire; but then we had the break and it allowed all our boys to heal up again,” Fletcher said.
“And we didn’t think we were going to play, so they were all pretty dejected … and when we heard we were going to get up and running again, they were all pretty excited, so it’s been great.
“It’s been an up-and-down season… but to get the games going again, it’s been really, really exciting.”
This season, a key factor in making Bowen’s return to rugby league a smoother process was the reduction of travel time to play.
“One of the things the TDJRL have done for our club is that we have been able to play our away games in Ayr, which has been one of the real things that has been a barrier for the Bowen teams – the two-hour trip to Townsville,” Fletcher said.
“It stops a lot of families from wanting to commit, because that’s a big commitment to have to travel two hours every second week (each way) to get a game in.
“But the president approached Bert Petersen (TDJRL chairman) and … they came up with a solve and we have got to thank Burdekin Rugby League as well because they have to accommodate us; but every second week, our home games are all held in Burdekin, so we only have to travel an hour up the road and every second week our home games are in Bowen.
“The only other time we have to go to Townsville is when we play a team like Herbert River and we just meet them halfway, so that’s been huge for our families, because travel is massive.
“To only have to travel an hour for our away games has just alleviated all that stress of having a four-hour round trip for a game of football.”
This weekend however, the team is excited for their trip to Townsville where they will take their place as part of a big day of junior rugby league at Neil Stewart Park.
“And the club has offered a bus for any supporters that want to go, we will make a big day of that, it’ll be exciting,” Fletcher said.
“To have all those games central at the one (venue), I think it’s good; people who have travelled up will hopefully hang around and watch all the other teams because it’s a really good standard of football.
“It’s good to have it on the one field a go and support all those other teams as well.”
The talented group of players have all worked together this season to make it to where they are now; with Fletcher not wanting to highlight anyone about anyone else.
However, there were a few players who had improved themselves this year and some new faces who added another dimension to the team.
“We have got two brothers who play in the team together, Matty and Sam Belyea who play together on the same edge,” Fletcher said.
“Matthew played last year and Sam has joined up this year and he has really grown throughout the season and he is peaking at the right time and he is really excited to attack the finals.
“We have another player, Thaiday Reuben, unfortunately he’s going to have to move away next season so this will be his last game for the club, so he is hoping to go out with a bang.
“We have really gelled together as a really good team.
“We have had a new player come to the club who has helped us play in a new way, Karnai Wilson, he has come to our club in a vital position at five-eighth, so that’s had a bit to do with turning our fortunes.
“We have got quite a few rep players (in our team) to be fair, we have always had these big forwards; but a couple of those extra ingredients have helped us gel together and move forward.”
While a victory against the Lions tomorrow would provide a perfect end to a strong season; for Fletcher, the true measure of success was how much the team had grown together through the year.
“We are really happy with the season we have had, the boys have played really, really well and we always talk as a club that the indication for success for our club is our retention rate for the next year and how they interact as a group, so if we have all our players come back next year, that’s a successful season, so that’s what we are trying to build as a team and as a coach,” Fletcher said.
“And if you are building that as a group, hopefully success on the field is a by-product of that.
“We are building that and leading that at the under 13 age group to filter that back down through the younger grades; so it’s really good that our under 13s are leading the way there.
They are leaders off the field and they have really good player attendance and they have shown some success on the field which hopefully in our younger age groups they will see that if you train hard and do the right things off the field, you can get some success on the field as well.
“We are excited for the day, but we understand that we are not defined by the result and hopefully we just put a good performance in.”