Rocky rugby star to lead Qld Country in NRC semi
RUGBY UNION: Rockhampton's Duncan Paia'aua has returned from his two-week stint with the Wallabies ready to lead Queensland Country in its maiden National Rugby Championship semi-final appearance on Sunday.
The 22-year-old said it was exciting that Queensland Country had finally cracked the finals and credited coach Brad Thorn with instilling a winning mentality in the team.
"It's an awesome feeling,” Paia'aua said.
"Obviously in past years we weren't even in contention for finals - I think the best we ever finished was second last a couple of years ago.
"That winning attitude that we have now and the competitive nature that we've all taken upon ourselves this season has been really good.”
Queensland Country won six of its eight games in the NRC regular season to finish second on the ladder and set up the semi showdown with the Fijian Drua.
Paia'aua was at the helm for the first six games but missed the last two after spending two weeks with the national team.
He scored two tries on debut for the Wallabies in last weekend's exhibition match against the Barbarians, making the transition from his regular position of inside centre to fly-half.
"Obviously it was a major honour to wear the green and gold for the first time,” he said.
"It was a very good experience for me, especially playing at such a crucial position in a big game.
"I didn't try to over-think it too much. I just tried to do what I have all year, just back myself and play my game.
"I'll take the experience with both hands and hopefully bring it into my game in the future.”
Paia'aua's focus now is to lead his troops to the NRC grand final but he says Sunday's semi-final opponents, the Fijian Drua, will present a "massive challenge”.
"They've been a breath of fresh air in the comp,” Paia'aua said. "They play a very hard game of footy, they like to offload and play a very unpredictable kind of football.
"I've heard that a lot of people from Rockhampton are coming to the game to support me so it's going to be good and hopefully we can get up.”
Sunday's game kicks off at 2pm at Toowoomba's Clive Berghofer Stadium.