Quality young guns conquer tough challenge
FIELDING an under-16 team in an older age group presented a fresh test of character for some quality Norths footballers this season.
However, one of the club's most successful combinations accepted the challenge and proved again that the Tigers' development focus is among the best in the Ipswich competition.
Norths under-17 coach and club coaching director Michael Williamson was delighted how a team that dominated the younger grades made such a productive transition to a higher standard.
"We made it the tough way,'' Williamson said, reflecting on his team's 38-20 win over Goodna Blue in last weekend's preliminary final.
"To get beaten by Brothers in the main (final) and we were able to step up against Goodna and the big side that they are. We were able to survive the onslaught.''
However, Williamson said the club's premiership-winning under-15 side from last season was promoted to a higher standard competition.
"We decided the boys from last year deserved the chance to play together again,'' he said.
"They'd had it fairly easy for the last few years, winning pretty much every week, so we decided that the best thing for these boys would be to learn to play a bit of hard football.
"So we kept them together as an under-16 side and they've done well.
"I've had them for a little while, off and on over the last few years, and they are a great bunch of boys - no, young men now - to coach.''
The Norths under-17 team are preparing to tackle unbeaten Brothers in Saturday's grand final at the North Ipswich Reserve.
Playing against older footballers, the Norths teenagers had to adjust quickly, especially after copping an early season thrashing at the hands of Brothers.
"That was the eye-opener they needed and it wasn't going to be smooth sailing like it had been in previous years,'' Williamson said.
"They had to step up and to their credit, the boys did it.
"They enjoyed the challenge.''
Williamson said two terrific performances after the Brothers' loss showed the Norths players they deserved to be in the under-17 competition.
Norths Gold were led this season by co-captains Logan Spark and the coach's son Lachlan.
Halfback Lachlan top scored with 140 points, featuring four tries and 62 goals.
Williamson appreciated help this year from key people like long-term assistant Shane Whyatt and manager Nicole Harrison.
Williamson said Norths were working closely with key people like the NRL regional development coach Steve Brown to improve their standards.
"Across all of our sides, we've just been trying to get a lot of development for our coaches,'' Williamson said.
"The players pick up what the coaches are learning.''
As Norths continue their good work building for the future, Williamson was also pleased to see rival clubs like Brothers similarly setting high standards.
"Brothers in the opens are a very good side,'' Williamson said of his undefeated challengers.
"Russell (coach Russell Myers) and his team have done extremely good.
"They have been the most consistent side.''
However, as his team has all season, Williamson said Norths welcomed Saturday's grand final challenge.
"They are going to be extremely hard for us to beat. We're going to give it a good shake,'' he said.
"They (Brothers) are a good bunch of boys too.
"When we played them early in the year, they were very supportive of our young blokes.
"And we like the chance to play against Brothers. They have been the benchmark and Russell knows a lot of my boys.
"It's good to have that little bit of camaraderie and competition at the same time.
"I think it's going to be a good game.''