SPECIAL IMAGE: Star U18 team that’s made Capras history
The CQ Capras under-18s can lay claim to a proud boast, becoming the first team in the club’s history to finish on top of a QRL statewide competition ladder at the end of the regular season.
Coach Kane Hardy said it was the resilience and hard work of the players that had been instrumental in their march to the Mal Meninga Cup semi-finals.
The Capras were unbeaten in their six games in Pool B, piling on 244 points and conceding just 50 to finish on top of the ladder in the 15-team competition.
They will take on the winners of Pool A, the Townsville Blackhawks, in what promises to be an epic semi showdown at 3.30pm Saturday in Brisbane.
The winners of Pool C and D, Wynnum Manly Seagulls and Tweed Seagulls, will do battle in the other semi.
Hardy said that “win, lose or draw” this weekend, the Capras players and coaching staff could be proud of their efforts.
“To get to these finals, to end up winning our pool and being on top of the ladder out of the state, I don’t know when a Capras team has ever done that before so it’s a massive achievement,” he said.
“People will say we weren’t in the strongest pool, and we probably weren’t, but what we did and how we did it – we won all our games convincingly, so it shows we’re definitely a fair team.
“The resilience of these boys is amazing. I haven’t seen a group like it, they’ve really got no fear.
“When they pull that jersey on – and that’s what we’ve tried to instill in them, the culture of the Capras brand – they just want to go out and represent this region well and they’ve definitely done that.”
Hardy said 16-year-old prop Tomas Powell had been a revelation, matching it physically and skill-wise against opposition players two years his senior.
He was also glowing in his praise for skipper and hooker Jai Hansen who, he said, had a big future in the game and was destined to play NRL.
The halves pairing of Seth McGilvray and Peyton Jenkins, and centre Coby Williamson had also played leading roles in the team’s success.
Hardy appreciates it will be a tough assignment against the powerhouse Blackhawks, many of whom are contracted to the North Queensland Cowboys, but he knows his players won’t take a backward step.
“The Blackhawks are pretty lethal from one to 17 but we won’t be changing anything; we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he said.
“No one’s even talking about us, it’s all about the Blackhawks, and we’re happy to just fly under the radar.
“The scary thing is we probably haven’t been at our best every game, but I’ve got a feeling this weekend we will be.
“They’ve been waiting for this. They’re a special group - the harder the challenge, these boys just seem to rise to it.
“We’ve got nothing to lose. We’re over the moon and we just can’t wait for Saturday.”
CQ Capras under-18 team for Saturday’s Mal Meninga Cup semi-final
Matthew Hill, Jackson Warde, Coby Williamson, Elekana Suavai, Kalani Sing, Seth McGilvray, Petyon Jenkins, Tyler Keogh-Paladin, Jai Hansen (captain), Tomas Powell, Riley Hall, Tyler Conroy, Tane Kiriona, Izaac Jackson, Jordan Heke, Mitchell Biddulph, Joshua Grange.
CQ Capras 2021 Mal Meninga Cup squad
Blake Cavanagh, Blake Anders, Blayden Dodd, Brayden Duffy, Brock Hinds, Cadel Crawford, Coby Williamson, Darcy Biles, Elekani Suavai, Ilami Bull, Izaak Jackson, Jackson Warde, Jai Hansen, Jaiden Green, Jordon Heke, Joshua Grange, Kalani Sing, Matthew Hill, Mitchell Biddulph, Owen Pattie, Peyton Jenkins, Riley Hall, Seth McGilvray, Tane Kiriona, Tomas Powell, Tyler Conroy, Tyler Keogh-Paladin, Tyreece Johnson, Will Lasker, Kurt Fisher.