Hard baptism of fire
ROCKHAMPTON'S Brett Parker can remember his first game in Graincorp Queensland Country Heelers colours with some pride, but the flanker's introduction to the match didn't go as planned.
Saturday's battle between Queensland Country and New South Wales Country was a thriller with the visiting NSW side scoring a late try to gain the 24-20 victory at Browne Park.
Parker was called off the bench after about 20 minutes and was in the action with the Heelers' first set play, the ball being fed out to Parker, who was racing forward at speed.
Had the ball stuck Parker might well have broken the New South Wales line and covered himself in glory, but unfortunately it was not to be as the lively flanker left the ball behind and the chance was gone.
"I think the adrenalin was pumping, it was an all right pass," he said.
Parker was given some sound advice from experienced teammates like his captain and club mate, Jono Bradbury, who told him he would be fine with that out of his system.
Bradbury was right as Parker played his normal high-energy game from that point and didn't look out of place in the Country line up.
However, Parker acknowledged the match was the toughest he had ever played.
"It was incredibly fast," he said.
"There was definitely no love lost."
The medics were kept busy with both sides suffering injuries.
NSW outscored the Queensland team by four tries to one and for periods of the game were slick in handling and confident in their movement off the ball carrier.
Parker said that was to be expected as the Queensland team had been limited to two training sessions while NSW had played a couple of matches together.
"The first 20 minutes you could tell they had the better preparation, but after that we were fine as we sorted out what we had to do," Parker said.
The flanker said he had learned important lessons about playing representative football.
"There are consequences for making mistakes at that level," he said.
"You don't want to turn over possession."
Parker said coach Tom Rosewarne was happy with the way the side played.
"He said we gave everything," he said.
"He thought we had done well considering we had little preparation."
Rosewarne is also confident the team can cut down on errors when the two sides meet again next week, a match Parker is certainly looking forward to playing in.
The Heelers took an early lead with Daniel Nethery slotting a couple of penalties, but were then forced back with only solid defence restricting NSW to two tries even though they spent long periods in possession in the Queensland half.
Another Nethery penalty saw the teams go into the break with NSW ahead by 10-9.
Queensland had much more of the play in the second spell, but a run by NSW powerhouse forward Mike Te Moana broke through the Queensland defensive line before he offloaded to Sam Stewart to score the try.
With Callum McDonald's conversion NSW led 17-9.
Another Nethery penalty followed by an Ernest Suavai try in the corner locked the scores at 17-17 before Kane Wahlstrom's drop goal looked to have given Queensland an unlikely victory.
However, pressure by the visitors told in the dying minutes and secured the 24-20 victory.
For the Heelers both Parker and Bradbury did well while inside centre Fabien Snaith made some telling tackles and Tom Vinson made a difference when he came on as scrum half.