Pirates buoyed after Winkler guides them into finals
RUGBY LEAGUE: Noosa captain Rajan Opetaia-Halls has praised coach Brett Winkler for sparking their revival and the tough prop says they're not done with yet.
The Pirates will feature in finals after finishing the regular season in fifth place on the nine-team ladder - a vast improvement on their wooden spoon standing last season.
Opetaia-Halls was quick to compliment Winkler for steering them in the right direction.
"He's brought a new culture and a lot of the boys have bought into it.
"It's brought camaraderie. We're all really tight at the moment, playing for each other instead of trying to play individual footy. Everyone's learning their jobs and executing that to our game plan.”
Winkler, who guided Maroochydore to the title last season, has Noosa relatively well placed leading into this year's finals.
They've won three of their past four outings, including a 58-6 victory over seventh-placed Gympie at Tewantin on Saturday.
They're bound for an elimination match against a red-hot Kawana Dolphins at Bokarina.
"We all know what we have to do to keep going,” Opetaia-Halls said. "If we can win the (battle in the) middle, we'll go from there.
"When we get into a see-saw game, not many teams can come out the other end against us. We have a pretty big pack so, hopefully, we can just out-grind the Dolphins.”
With half-back Hayden Trask, fullback Ratu Namotukula, lock Caleb Van Lawek and hooker/lock Ben Henderson (when available) in their ranks, the Pirates have considerable firepower.
Their campaign has generated significant interest.
"We have a massive backing. Even at our away games, sometimes there's more Noosa supporters than the home team,” the captain said.
"We are buying in and so is the Noosa crowd. They are getting behind us.”
Second-placed Caboolture thumped Nambour 56-12, minor premiers Stanley River beat Maroochydore 38-16 and Kawana beat third-placed Beerwah 22-14 at Bokarina to snare fourth place and home ground advantage for the crunch clash with the Pirates.