CRASHING THROUGH: Panthers forward Keripo Gela scores another one for Biloela against Thursday Island at the Laurie Spina Shield.
CRASHING THROUGH: Panthers forward Keripo Gela scores another one for Biloela against Thursday Island at the Laurie Spina Shield. Jodie Kerr

Panthers' young guns go just one shy of a clean sweep

THE Biloela Junior Rugby League Club's under-11 side did the town proud at the annual Laurie Spina Shield tournament in Townsville late last month.

The two-day tournament, hosted by the North Queensland Cowboys, is open only to U11 players and is one of the biggest junior competitions in the state.

This year more than 70 teams from across Queensland are understood to have taken part.

The Junior Panthers were able to make the trip after "heaps of fundraising" to cover fuel, kits and accommodation, according to manager and fill-in coach Kymberly Perry.

The effort paid off, with the team winning all but one of their seven games in the pool stage.

They tied for first on the group ladder and only missing out on the finals due to the points differential.

"For some reason they just played better than they'd ever played before. They played out of their skins," Perry said.

"You could take 15 players but we only managed to get 13 - and even then we had a mixture of U10s and U11s, so we had younger kids as well.

"I don't think a Bilo team has ever gotten that far."

Perry said the team's forwards were the standout try-scorers, crashing over the line time and time again.

"They just hit it up all day. After a while our halfback just kept putting it through to the forwards and helping them find gaps," she said.

"They all played really well. I'm glad we didn't have to pick a man of the match."

The team is also chalking up as a win the fact no major injuries were sustained in the entire tournament.

With two games left in the season, including an away game against the Wallabies, that factor could be crucial to finishing the season in good form.

"We've beaten (the Wallabies) once and lost to them once this season, so we'll just see," Perry said.

"It's a tight competition, there's a few of us that would sit around the top of the ladder - we're one, (the Wallabies) are another."

Perry said the team's training for the season to date had focused on teaching players how to set up different kinds of plays, as they began the transition from basic skills to more complicated manoeuvres.

The players have taken up the challenge with gusto, naming plays and variations.

Not only are the players' skills expected to step up next season, but games will also begin being scored and a competition ladder will be tracked and published.

"I think they're keen for that as well," Perry said.

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