4 September, 2023

Gladiators go for glory

READY to rewrite history, the Mareeba Gladiators Under 18 and Under 16 teams will be going for glory this weekend as they compete in their respective FNQRL grand final showdowns.

By Ellie Fink

Under 18s coach Shaun Fincham, seniors president Darrin Hastie and juniors president Raymond Srhoj are gearing up for the finals this weekend.
Under 18s coach Shaun Fincham, seniors president Darrin Hastie and juniors president Raymond Srhoj are gearing up for the finals this weekend.

Breaking a drought that has lasted a quarter of a century, the Mareeba Gladiators Under 18s are set to take on the Kangaroos whilst their younger counterparts in the Under 16s take on Brothers.

Setting the tone with a solid start to the current season, the Under 18 boys went into the tournament fuelled by confidence from last year’s achievements, which has earned them a spot in the final for the first time since the 1990s.

The boys clinched the minor premiership, dominating the ladder and reigning as number one for the majority of the season.

Guiding the promising team, coach Shaun Fincham is confident in their ability to make their club proud and take home the gold.

“They’re an extremely talented group, and most of them have been together since under 6s and have been fortunately enough to have some really good coaches as they’ve come up through the grades,” he said.

“The boys have had great consistency. No matter who we have played against, they have stepped up to their individual roles.”

Having one of the biggest teams in the club, Fincham has been impressed by the 33 enthusiastic players who have turned up to every game and every training session.

He said their willingness to give their all on the field had been pivotal to the team’s successful season.

As the grand final approaches, Fincham’s focus has narrowed on to regular training and nurturing discipline, all geared toward ensuring the boys are fit and prepared to face off against the Kangaroos.

“(We will focus on) discipline and effort, and I am sure if we do that, we will be fine,” he said.

“Just go out there and enjoy yourselves. This is the first time this has happened in a very long time, and it’s your chance to make a bit of history, not only for the club but for yourselves.”

Mareeba Senior Rugby League president Darrin Hastie said watching the Under 18s play had been phenomenal, both as a father and a proud ex-player.

Hastie said players such as Tyrone Williams and Narason Moorcroft had been pivotal throughout the season in securing the top position on the ladder.

“At the end of the day, I think it is that team effort that has gotten them across the line, and it’s an absolute credit to Finchy and the work he has been doing with those young men,” he said.

“It’s exciting times, and it’s proud times for everybody, and I am very happy for our young men who get to play in something we haven’t played in for 25 years.”

This year, A-grade coach Chris Sheppard has taken the reigns as Under 16s coach, training them with the grand final in mind.

The Under 16s had the potential to make the grand final from the start, with the group dominating the playing field last year during the Under 15 grand final.

Working with most of the players since they were younger, Sheppard said he saw potential in the team from day one.

“I have been working with them since they were about seven or eight years old, and we’ve done a lot of work over the years to get them to where they are,” he said.

“They are a really good group, you know, with some really good players and, I know, it might be cliché, but the quality across the board really sets them apart.

“We are a quality team, and I am certain we’re ready to go, so we just have to make sure we are staying fit and executing our plans on the day.

“I hope they continue to enjoy their footy, get in there, work hard, and don’t let their mates down.

“They’re a real tight little group, and that really helps them out when it gets tough, which I really love.”

Mareeba Junior Rugby League president Raymond Srhoj said players such as Cayde Miller, Jason Hastie and Chase Sheppard stood out on the field, helping bring their team forward and create flow on the field.

Being an ex-coach of the team, Srhoj knew the team would be undefeated from the start, giving him faith in the next generation of Gladiators to enter the field.

“They’ve been a really good group who have been together for so long… I think when they are put together, they are an unstoppable team,” he said.

“They just have to keep their heads in the game and really focus on playing football.”

Supporters are encouraged to come along for the game and support their local boys as they make history in the FNQRL grand finals.


2023 FNQRL JUNIOR GRAND FINAL | U16 – Mareeba vs Cairns Brothers

WHERE: Barlow Park, Cairns  

WHEN: This Saturday 9 September 

GAME TIME: 1.30pm on Field 1


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