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27 June, 2022

‘Good times’ coming for Gladiators

MAREEBA Gladiators A grade coach Chris Sheppard has assured supporters that “good times” are coming as the town’s league team grapples with a crippling injury crisis and their recent loss to the Kangaroos over the weekend.

By Rhys Thomas

Mareeba Gladiators A grade coach, Chris Sheppard, has shed some light on the side’s recent injury plight.

Teams expects to lose a few players to injuries throughout the season however the current Gladiator injury count has far exceeded Sheppard’s expectations. 

Around 15 players registered to play A grade are either out due to injury, moved away, or can’t play due to work commitments. 

This lack of numbers is putting extra strain on the remaining A graders and players from both Reserves and U18s who have been playing up to fill holes, after playing a full 80 minutes in their respective grades. 

“We have not put the same team on the field once this year, you cannot get continuity when you do that,” Sheppard said.

“Missing key players and players to long term injuries hurts any team. 

“We have people playing out of position, people playing injured too because we don’t have others – we have a whole range of that type of thing.” 

The team is suffering from injuries like torn ACL’s, broken ankles and broken cheekbones, but despite the current situation, team morale is high and many injured players are turning up to training in support of their team. 

“Those are the cards you are dealt, no point whinging about it, we are not making excuses,” Sheppard said. 

“There is a positive out of what is happening at the moment which a lot of people don’t realise – we are a young team.

“Against Edmonton, our four best players were 17, 18, 19 and 21 – so there is a really good young core here.” 

Sheppard believes through the current crisis, the emerging Gladiators squad will be battle hardened and many of their young players will have already been blooded in A grade and prepared for next season. 

“There are some real shinning lights coming through here at the moment, our young kids are going really well so whilst we are struggling now and we have got this injury crisis, what people don’t realise is all of these blokes have got 12-15 games under their belt already,” he said. 

“In 12 months time, when it comes down to next season, we are in pretty good spot and so is our Reserve grade team because we’ve had a lot of blokes playing A grade and so has our U18s playing up – it is not all doom or gloom.” 

Caleb Daley has been cited as one of the Gladiators premier players this season, playing 80 minutes in the front row every week at 21 while his 18-year-old brother Reece has also been outstanding. 

Trezman Banjo, one of the Gladiators stars, has barely played two hours of rugby this year, suffering a broken thumb in round two then injuring his ankle in the recent face off against Innisfail. 

“It is hard because you just don’t have that time to build combinations, you just sort of get something going and another injury comes or someone else leaves or moves away for whatever reason - the core of the group is strong and it is good,” Sheppard said. 

Now midway through the season, A grade is looking to take it one step at the time and have two wins before the Mareeba Rodeo weekend break. 

Sheppard has sent a message to the Gladiators supporters, asking them to stick by their team as they wade their way through their injuries and says better times are on the horizon. 

“Stick with us good times are coming but we have to go through some pain here to let these young fellas learn and build,” “In 12 months we are going to be a different team, 24 months we are going to be a totally different team.” 

The Gladiators travelled down to Vico Oval last Sunday to face off against the Kangaroos, going down 48-12 with the Gladiators only managing to score two tries to the Kangaroos 10. 

Kienan Grogan-Hayes and rising star Hubert Elu were the only two Gladiators who crossed the line throughout the match as the Kangaroos dominated much of the game. 

The Gladiators will now host the Tully Tigers at Davies Park this Sunday before taking a break for the rodeo weekend.

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