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Competition provides taste of the next level as Blackhawks and Pride close season

The Cyril Connell Challenge competition will official draw to a close this weekend, with Townsville Blackhawks and Northern Pride facing off in the only game of the round.

The two sides have met previously in Round 2 with Townsville coming up trumps with a 38-18 win where Jamal Shibasaki and Darby Butler both scored hat-tricks in the win.

'What a weapon!' - Jamal Shibasaki

However, this year, beyond just results, the main focus of the re-introduced under 16 competition was to provide an entry point for male players to statewide competitions; as it is an age where players consider investing more time and effort towards their rugby league.

For Brisbane Tigers, their season ended last week, with the side performing strongly overall to finish the season with two wins from their three games.

The Tigers season however started with a disappointing loss to Redcliffe Dolphins in a game coach Damien Pratt said was one his players learnt a lot from. 

“It was a good wake up for us, I think that we approached that game like we were going to win and the boys got what they deserved,” Pratt said.

“We had a break then before our second game and we improved against Wynnum Manly.”

They improved enough to notch a good win over the Seagulls, with Marley Rudolph scoring two tries, while on the whole, the team improved their attacking skills, with the Tigers making 33 tackle breaks on their way to their 24-14 win.

Pratt said the side improved again to close the season, finding their best form against Norths Devils in Round 5 last weekend. 

“Norths was our best game by far, it was just everything coming together and we defended and attacked like we had spoken about since December," Pratt said. 

Brisbane Tigers score against Norths Devils in Round 5 of the Cyril Connell Challenge. Photo: Margaret Keates Photography
Brisbane Tigers score against Norths Devils in Round 5 of the Cyril Connell Challenge. Photo: Margaret Keates Photography

In their 38-6 victory over the Devils, Maika Poese was dominate for the Tigers with 100 metres of running that Norths couldn’t handle.

Pratt was a proud coach when reflecting on that performance and of how his players had continued to lift throughout the season.

“We had some great performers this season and I think some could even go up a level and play (Division 1),” Pratt said.

“Our hooker and captain Cameron Bukowski has been great for us and is just a natural leader in our side.

“Mikael Ibrahim was boundless energy at lock for us."

For the this weekend's season closing northern derby, Pride coach Chris Sheppard and Townsville coach Nathan Norford will both be wanting their charges to make the most of their last game at this level. 

When speaking earlier in the season about the competition, Norford said the games provided a strong education.  

“It’s a big learning curve for our players," Norford said.

"They haven’t played any football like this before, so Round 1 was their first exposure." 

For Pratt and the Tigers, the experience of the competition was a positive one. 

“I have loved coaching these boys and the Tigers, I would love to see the competition expanded ... it’d be great to have more than three games, I’d love longer with the boys,” Pratt said. 

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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