NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Caloundra’s Blair Howard scores.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Caloundra’s Blair Howard scores. Greg Miller

Rapid rise in rugby league for Sharks sensation

RUGBY LEAGUE: When Maleny’s Blair Howard linked with Caloundra last year, coach Glenn Irwin could see there was some work to do with the youngster.

“He had never played rugby league before. I could see he had potential but he was really raw,” the Sharks mentor said.

Now, he’s one of the team’s key men in its pursuit of the Sunshine Coast division one premiership.

“He’s gone ahead in leaps and bounds this year,” the coach continued.

“He wasn’t really ready for it last year but we persisted and it’s unbelievable the progress he’s made.”

A former rugby union player, the utility forward has helped the Sharks to top spot in the Caloundra RSL Cup after 16 of 21 rounds.

“He’s one of those guys that if you tell him something to do, he does it. He’s a good young kid, he’s got a bit of size about him and he’s really adapted to rugby league in just his second year.”

Howard is one of three men from Maleny to have linked with the Golden Beach-based club.

“The crew comes down (from the range) and has never missed a training run and if there’s a club function on they’re here. They’re great blokes to be around,” Irwin said.

Howard scored a try for the Sharks in its 18-14 triumph over Maroochydore at Beachmere on Saturday night.

“We didn’t get off to a good start but we just kept grinding away, we were patient and we had confidence in our own ability and got away with a win,” Irwin said.

It’s the first time his side has been on top of the ladder.

“It’s just a really happy side here.”

“They play for each other really well, there’s no egos, they’re all there for the same reason so it’s an enjoyable side to coach.”

But such is the closeness of this year’s six-team competition, there is still a genuine jostle for the top four finals places.

“There’s not much room for error,” Irwin said before predicting the fourth-placed Swans would make a tricky proposition for all sides in finals.

He also lauded the likes of Luke Gillett and Luke Blumke, who returned to the side this year.

“They’re really starting to poke their heads up.”

Gillett, the brother or Maroons back rower Matt, played with his home-town Bribie Island in division two last year.

“But he’s come back and has been really good and Blumke had a year off and has come back refreshed and has been really good as well,” Irwin said.

In other games, Gympie beat Nambour 34-22 and Caboolture defeated Kawana 32-24.

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