The Queanbeyan Whites enter Saturday’s major semi-final against Tuggeranong as underdogs, but coach Adam Fahey is looking to harness the energy of his “young kids” to put an end to the Vikings' domination of the John I Dent Cup.
The Whites have an average age of 22, including a pair of former Australian schoolboys’ representatives, 18-year-old Keith Morgan and 20-year-old Neori Nadruku.
“We’re definitely underdogs, plain and simple. They’ve got big-game experience, big-name players, we’ve got a group of young kids,” Fahey said.
Coming up against Tuggeranong, the champions of the last three seasons, is an opportunity for the youngsters to gauge their development. But Fahey’s challenge could be to fire up Nadruku, son of former Raiders winger Noa.
“Neori’s played most of the season in first grade and he just keeps getting better and better. I don’t think Neori realises how good he is, to be totally honest,” he said.
“I don’t think he cares either to tell you the truth.”
Neori Nadruku’s response confirmed his coach’s suspicion.
“He keeps telling me that, but I just usually laugh it off and don’t give it much attention," he said.
“I just play it for fun now. I really couldn’t care about rugby, I just like the company.”
After taking time out to travel Europe last year, the big tight-head prop is in his first year of an accounting degree at the University of Canberra and working as a removalist.
“Having that Polynesian background, he’s just happy to go with the flow, but he’s starting to really blossom as a footballer on the field and Keith Morgan. His potential is untapped. The pair of them are capable of very big things there,” Fahey said.
“Both have got the potential to play [at a] higher [level], there’s no question about that."
Fahey said the team has taken some confidence from Tuggeranong's sole loss of the season to Wests, but they will have to be at their “absolute best” to progress straight to the grand final.
“A lot of things are going to have to go right for us on the day to get the win,” he said.
“[But] we’re not going in to participate, we’re planning to win it, that’s for sure.”
JOHN I DENT CUP
Semi-Finals: Saturday: Tuggeranong v Queanbeyan, Viking Park, 3:25pm. Sunday: Gungahlin v Wests, Viking Park, 3:15pm.