25 January, 2024
Gators set eyes on the prize
WITH the 2024 FNQ Rugby League season just around the corner, the Mareeba Gladiators are keen to bring the heat.
After last year’s successful season, the team are keen to come back better than ever, with a focus on producing locally, family-grown talent.
Chris Sheppard is back onboard as the A Grade coach and plans to keep building the team, its culture and skills on and off the field.
“We just want to keep building, and I think a lot of the boys developed really well last year and are just looking to keep that development going as we move forward,” he said.
“Their camaraderie really stood out (last year). They are a really tight team, and I think this year we will be in a really good spot.
“We have got a core group here, and they’re a year older now with more experience, so now, with 10 or 15 games under their belt, we are focused on really working on what we have developed already.”
For newly appointed club president Shaun Fincham, this season is looking to be one of their best across all teams.
With the introduction of an under-19s team this season, he is looking forward to seeing new local talent coming through.
“The competition structure has changed slightly, so we will have an under 19s comp instead of an under 18s comp, so we will just have to look at that and see how that will affect us in terms of player numbers,” he said.
“Certainly, a lot of last season’s under-18s will graduate into their A Grade sport … however the under-18 squad last year had a lot of depth in it, and I hope we can see a few of those boys go up into the under-19s and give the new team a really good crack.”
Both Fincham and Sheppard called the 2023 season “one of the best seasons yet”, with fierce competition keeping the team motivated and dedicated to winning.
This year, they are keen to go up against neighbouring team Atherton Roosters, especially after seeing their recent signings.
“They have always been a good challenge, and now they have signed everyone, it’ll be good to see what happens,” Sheppard said.
“Cairns Brothers is up there as well again, just in terms of professionalism and how they go about things.
“Ivanhoes are up there as well this year – I have watched them make a few changes out there as well – and also Innisfail because, again, of the professionalism and strong front.
“It was a really solid comp last year, and I think it was one of the best we have had in a number of years, so I predict this year will be just as strong.”
If you want to get involved this season, visit www.playrugbyleague.com to register.