By Peter Groundwater
A HINCHINBROOK secondary school has launched a rugby league club in the Townsville and Districts Junior Rugby League competition.
Following months of planning and preparation, St Teresa’s College, Abergowrie, now has an under-17s and under-15s side, who are playing under the name of the Gowrie Warriors.
It is a fitting name for the college team and evokes powerful images of the links to the players’ First Nations’ cultures.
Players are training after school twice a week and playing on Friday nights.
This week the under-17 side started early morning gym sessions, working with conditioning coach Andrew Pollock.
The former professional boxer is in the army reserves and works at the college as a counsellor.
He said: ‘The boys have been good so far. It’s hard for them to get out of bed and change their routine – but the first session was really good.
‘Doing our sessions targeting muscle growth in the morning frees up the afternoons for field sessions.
‘The boys will be doing two field sessions and two morning strength and conditioning sessions a week as well as playing at the weekend.
‘More volume of training for them is a good thing.
‘Getting up and training in the morning is good firstly because it gets it out of the way. And the second thing is you’re starting your day having done some excercise.
‘It’s good for your well-being, good for your mental health – and better learning can transpire in the classroom.’
Under-15s coach Chris Davids said: ‘The boys are getting better every week. We started off slow but if you look at them now they look like they’ve been playing for years together already.
‘The results haven’t always gone our way, but that shows how strong the boys have been together.
‘Because even after the losses we’ve had so far, they’re still coming to training, smiles on their faces and ready to go for the next game.
‘I’ve got 22 in the squad – and all 22 are at training and ready to go, pumped up and putting in 100%’.
Under-17s coach Bryan Martin, who teaches agriculture at the school and is a fourth generation Long Pocket cane farmer, said: ‘They’ve had four training sessions this week. They trained well when I was last with them on Wednesday.
‘They’ve been playing good football with plenty of heart but they’ve been making the job a little bit hard for themselves by dropping balls and being complacent in certain areas.
‘We’ve played Centrals twice. We’ve beaten them and they’ve beaten us. We drew with the Burdekin. And we were beaten quite convincingly by Western Lions.
‘I didn’t have to say anything [after the heavy defeat]. They came off the field really good and just said ‘We have to train harder’.
‘Believe it or not from that game we did start training harder and so let’s see how we go from here.’
The Warriors club has taken on a valuable role within their college’s ‘Emerging Leaders’ afternoon activities programme, with up to 50 players regularly taking part in fitness and skill training in preparation for the 2021 campaign.
This involvement is in stark contrast to 2020, where players were left marking time as they joined in with the rest of the planet in bunkering down during the time of strict Covid restrictions.
The team coaches are excited for what this year holds in store for the club and they have been impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment they have seen on the training paddock.
Above all, they are looking forward to a full season of rugby league no matter where it is played.
Early games have seen mixed results across the board, with fitness proving to be a major factor in separating wins from losses.
Martin added: ‘We have a lot of big boys in our team and it takes a while for them to gain full match fitness.
‘But they are working hard and the results will definitely come.’
Davids highlighted that floods and monsoonal rain have had a huge impact on player availability with almost half of the school unable to return on time.
Abergowrie College has a proud tradition of producing rugby league players.
Cowboys legends Laurie Spina and Matt Bowen are old boys of the school.
Under-15s captain Toni Newman, from Bamaga in Cape York, is currently away with the North Queensland representative side.