Pride future in good hands
THEIR toughest task was barking orders at some of the most experienced players in the Queensland Cup.
But with Shaun Nona and Ryan Ghetti growing in confidence as the match wore on, the Northern Pride racked up a 40-8 win against the Innisfail Leprechauns in their opening trial of the season on Saturday night.
The young pair — who played in front of a supportive crowd given Ghetti is an Innisfail junior and Nona a Tully product — grew in stature as the game wore on and took another step in their bid to fill the Pride’s vacant halves sports.
While coach David Maiden had plenty of playmaking options at his disposal, he left Nona and Ghetti in the halves for the entire match to allow them to build their combination and confidence.
"They were probably a bit tentative to start with," Maiden said.
"But they definitely put their hands up in the last half to three-quarters of the game.
"They did what was expected of them and performed very well."
Maiden said the toughest task for the youngsters was to take control of a team full of older, more experienced players.
"You’ve got 19-year-old Shauny Nona who’s expected to direct Ty Williams, who’s played for Queensland and the Cowboys, and Brett Anderson, who also has a lot of NRL experience," Maiden said.
"The reality is they’re not going to get up (the halves).
"(Nona) realised that as the game went on, and the same with Ghets," Maiden said of 21-year-old Ghetti.
"All the players are looking for direction regardless of their experience.
"My halves did a good job of that."
Ghetti and Nona have had a hand in honing their talent recently, with Pride chief executive – and foundation captain – Chris Sheppard working with the pair.
Sheppard, a former NRL player and man-of-the-match in last year’s Queensland Cup grand final, may have been lost to the club on the field but his influence in the halves will not stop. His work is not confined to the Queensland Cup squad, with the Pride Academy players also benefiting from master classes.
"His knowledge and experience has rubbed off," Maiden said of Sheppard’s influence with the halves.
"It makes it a bit easier when someone can pass on their experience."
While the spotlight was on the halves for the Pride, Nona and Ghetti were not the only players to shine.
Maiden said he could not pick a bad player, with the Pride shining across the park and debutants Luke Saunders, Sheldon Powe-Hobbs, Aiden Day and Francis Mosby all shining.
And things are looking good for Innisfail’s Cairns District Rugby League prospects, with the Leprechauns pushing the Pride in the opening half.
"They really stuck it to us and they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with this season," Maiden said.
"It was very willing early on and we’ve got a few sore boys."
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Future leaders: Ryan Ghetti (left) and Shaun Nona provided the Pride camp with plenty of confidence with a commanding performance in a 40-8 win over Innisfail in Saturday's trial game. Picture: TOM LEE