The Queensland U16 Scorpions kick off their nationals campaign on Sunday.
Queensland Under-16 Scorpions coach, John Rankin, isn’t worried that his team will be the hunted in next week’s national championships.
The Queenslanders have won seven Division two titles in the past 10 years, but Rankin said his side wouldn’t be feeling any extra pressure, despite their successful history.
“I‘ve said to the players that if we go about things the way we plan to, we’ll reap the rewards ,” Rankin said.
“There’s no extra pressure. We just want them to get more into the groove of playing together.”
With a clash against fierce rivals, NSW/ACT, on Sunday to kick off the championships, a strong start will be crucial for the Scorpions.
In the corresponding match last year, the Queenslanders stormed home from 27 points down to kick eight unanswered goals and take a win over the Rams.
Rankin said while the playing groups would be pretty different this time around, he had no doubt their opposition would be out for revenge on Sunday.
“They will have been made aware of the fact that they were four and a half goals up and we kicked eight straight to beat them,” he said.
“They’ll also be aware that in U16s, we have a great history of being reasonably successful.
“They’re coached by an extremely successful ex-AFL player in Tadhg Kennelly and he knows what it’s about.”
With plenty of the Queensland squad members having played representative footy in the past, Rankin was confident they would be able to conquer the different conditions in Blacktown next week.
“That (travel) won’t be a factor,” he said.
“We go out of our way to– prepare them for that and on an ongoing basis, we discuss potential issues that could affect their performances,” he said.
“Quite a few have had to travel and the North Queensland boys and the boys from Cape York do this on a regular basis.”
With a handful of players travelling from than North Queensland region, and Didymus Blanket coming up from Melbourne’s Scotch College, Rankin said the team had bonded really well in a short time already.
“We asked players to nominate potential leaders and there were 10 players mentioned that were leadership material,” he said.
“There’s a really good relationship there.
“Our role is to try and provide an environment where they feel comfortable and the groups that have come before have done really well and had some success on the back of that.”
While they might go in as favourites against their southern rivals, Rankin wasn’t willing to get ahead of himself when discussing his charges’ title chances.
“We really don’t know,” he said.
“We’ve got the capabilities but we don’t really know what the opposition’s like.
“We’ve got some talented players, but it’s the bottom part of your group that needs to perform as opposed to the top part.”
It’s about getting them to play their part and if they do that, then I don’t know why we wouldn’t have a fair crack at the title.”
Queensland’s Under-16s championship campaign starts on Sunday against NSW/ACT at Blacktown International Sports Park at 3:40pm.