Fantastic coaching support lifts Tigers
AFTER the progressive Ipswich club won the division last year, Norths Blue didn't have it all their own way qualifying for Saturday's under-15 grand final.
However, head coach Lee Midgley was thrilled how his mixed group of players responded.
"They've had a great season,'' Midgley said, watching his team secure a grand final spot from second place.
"This year, they've really gelled well together to make a good go of it.''
The team includes a group of Norths juniors and players boarding at Ipswich Grammar School.
Apart from representing Norths in the Rugby League Ipswich competition, the IGS boarders have also had rugby commitments at school.
Midgley said although that provided some challenges throughout the season, he welcomed the talented footballers.
"They are there to play rugby at school so we work with that,'' he said.
Midgley praised his under-15 players for their determination, highlighted in two matches.
The first was surviving a late charge from minor premiers Redbank in their 30-26 qualifying semi-final win.
Although Norths let Redbank back into the game, Midgley said such a tight clash was good for both teams preparing for a grand final.
"I'm really proud of the boys,'' Midgley said. "It was a hot day and they held on well.''
Another pleasing effort came about six weeks ago when Norths Blue handled intense pressure to survive a fierce challenge from the West End Bulldogs.
"They came at us with a really hard game and really gave it to the boys,'' the coach said.
"The boys muscled up and won with dignity.''
This year's Norths side includes Queensland Schoolboys representatives Orlando Swain and Zac Alley.
Team captain Swain became an Australian under-15 representative.
With Norths as a player since under 12s, Midgley said the latest under-15 side deserved to make the grand final against today's opponents West End.
"It's fantastic,'' he said, having coached at Norths the past six years.
"They're all really good kids.
"They are very polite.
"They all represent the club very well.''
Midgley also acknowledged Norths coaching director Michael Williamson for his support in recent seasons.
"Michael has done a fantastic job with everyone working with him,'' Midgely said, appreciating the professional standards being developed.
"Trying to better the coaching and make sure that the kids are getting coached correctly. That's very important.
"He's really knowledgeable and always there to give every team the help it needs to get better. Not just better players but better people within the team.''
Midgley's support staff has also played a key role in Norths' progress to the grand final. They include assistant coaches Damien Armitage and Mitchell Raine, along with manager John Horsey.
With a grand final title on offer, Midgely hoped to replicate the deeds of last year's victors Norths Blue.
"They are going well,'' he said.