GALLERY: Bushrangers ready to tackle the state's best
RUGBY UNION: Coach Onehunga Mata'uiau wants the CQ Bushrangers under-14s to play with some freedom at this week's junior state championships.
They will come up against teams from the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Darling Downs, Sunshine Coast, Townsville, Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory at the three-day carnival, starting on Friday at Albany Creek.
The Bushrangers will also compete in the under-13 and under-16 divisions, and in the Queensland Rugby Union under-12 development carnival being run in conjunction with the state championships.
The under-14 players completed the third of their training camps at Rockhampton Grammar at the weekend.
Former rugby international Mata'uiau established the Bushrangers Pathway Program in November last year to help develop and nurture junior talent across Central Queensland.
He and fellow international Jacob Rauluni run regular training sessions for players in the under-13 to under-16 age groups.
He said that was proving invaluable when the players came together to represent the Bushrangers and were all at the same developmental level.
Mata'uiau said the Bushrangers under-14s had come together well and he was confident of a strong showing at the championships.
As well as working on skills development, there had been a strong focus on building team culture.
"The Brisbane teams are the benchmark and we want to go down there and give it our best shot,” Mata'uiau said.
"We've been working on our set pieces to make sure that we will be competitive across the paddock.
"We want to play the best rugby we can, that's our goal.
"We will be taking it game by game but want to put our best foot forward in order to get a handful of our boys in the Queensland Country team.”
Mata'uiau said he wanted his young charges to "give things a go” and not be afraid of making mistakes.
"Of course we have our structures and a game plan but I really want the boys to go out and enjoy the game and play with some freedom,” he said.
"I don't want to restrict them to the point where they're not enjoying it. If you're enjoying it, you're always going to work to the best of your ability.”