Paia'aua primed for NRC grand final in Canberra
RUGBY UNION: Rockhampton's Duncan Paia'aua stands poised to lead Bond University Queensland Country to their maiden National Rugby Championship title.
Queensland Country take on the Canberra Vikings at Viking Park in Canberra tonight, looking to cap their most successful season with the prized silverware.
It's a dramatic turnaround for the team which finished at the bottom of the ladder last year.
Queensland Country won six of their eight games in the regular season in 2017 to finish second behind tonight's opponents.
They dominated last weekend's semi-final, with Paia'aua running in two tries in a 36-point hammering of the Fijian Drua.
Paia'aua said he and his teammates were keen to get the win tonight for all of regional Queensland.
"Obviously we didn't picture ourselves in this position but we've worked really hard throughout the season and our hard work's really paying off at the back end,” he said.
"We haven't won too many games in the past but the group of boys we've got this season really gelled and we've got even closer as the season's gone on.
"We're just treating it as another game. We're going to concentrate on what we need to do and what we do best and that's what we're going to bring this weekend.”
Only one change has been made to the starting XV that ran out against the Fijian Drua last Sunday, with Queensland Reds prop James Slipper ruled out through injury.
Queensland Country coach Brad Thorn said he was pleased at the way his side had grown and developed throughout the season.
"We started our campaign with a goal of reaching the business end of the season, and through the group's hard work and buy-in we're in a situation no Queensland Country side has been in before,” he said.
"It's taken the efforts of our entire squad to get to this stage of the season, and that is evidenced by our change in the front row this weekend.
"While Slipper is a loss for the side, both Richie (Asiata) and Gav (Luka) now have a chance to step up and test themselves.
"Throughout the season we've seen plenty of players within our squad seize their opportunities and I'm confident in the ability of each player within our 23 this weekend.
"The Vikings will be a tough challenge for our side. They've been in great form throughout the season and after going down to them in Round 1, our team are hungry for another chance to test themselves against a strong team.
"We've had great support from the Queensland Country rugby community throughout the season and we want to give back and make them proud this weekend.”
Today's grand final kicks off at 6.30pm and will be broadcast live via Fox Sports channel 505.