Debutants star for CH under-20s
WITH their eyes fixed on the 47th Battalion Shield later in the year, the Central Highlands under-20s had one goal in mind ahead of their first match of the year.
That is to gain valuable playing time together and improve their unfamilar relationship as a team.
The under-20s side faced off against Mackay's under-18s in the warm-up match to the Mackay Allstars game on Friday night.
They may have gone down to Mackay but according to coach James Verzeletti, the match experience and playing time together will prove priceless.
"The best thing about the game was that we had seven players debut from our junior ranks," Verzeletti said.
"They came from Clermont, Blackwater, Springsure, Tigers and Cowboys.
"Our main goal is for the 47th Battalion Shield later in the year, so it was more about getting game time together and bonding as one team.
"No one really talked much at the start. Once we got stuck into Mackay it was good, but by the end of the weekend the boys were all really tight. We got home in great spirits.
"The weather was horrendous, we thought they might have called the game off but they didn't even consider cancelling it which was good. By the time we played the fields were a mess."
In the end, the Highlands went down 32-16 but were in it until the final whistle. Verzeletti was impressed with his entire squad of only 15 players, against the 20 of Mackay.
"Jesse Johnson was outstanding out in the centres as he always is, he ran in a few tries," he said.
"But 17-year-old Luke Gallagher was just as good. We threw him in the deep end and he gave us 80 minutes at hooker - he scooted out well from dummy half and worked well with the halves. It was an outstanding debut.
"Jason King was very good at the back, handled the high ball well; Sam Cronk held his own in defence at five-eighth, Jacob Weatherley was very strong in the back row and ran good lines.
"Lawson Storey tackled his guts out all night at lock. He was so strong.
"Because of the lack of numbers... we really struggled without the extra two players."