Bentley league player given a role in NRL grand final
A YOUNG goal-kicking hooker from Bentley, near Lismore, will be part of the rugby league grand finals at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.
On a day when the focus will be on the NRL grand final between the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys, Hugh Pratt will run out for Manly-Warringah in the National Youth Competition decider against minor premiers Penrith.
Pratt is in his second year of Under-20s with the Sea Eagles, having moved to Sydney after completing his Higher School Certificate at St John's College, Woodlawn.
"It's pretty exciting," he said yesterday.
"I grew up playing soccer and didn't get into rugby league until high school but I wouldn't change any of it.
"My first team was Woodlawn Under-13s in Year 7 and I played club footy (for Marist Brothers) from Under-15s onwards."
Pratt has been a model of consistency with Manly, having missed only a handful of games in his two seasons and one of those games was when he was promoted to filla hole in NSW Cup.
He said he had played four or five games at the Olympic Stadium but that it would be a totally different experience in front of a bigger crowd.
"We've played Penrith three times this season - for three convincing losses!" he said.
"They're a big side with a massive pack so it's going to be tough.
"But we've learnt a lot from those games and we're ready to give them a good run."
That learning curve included a 44-24 loss to the Panthers in a qualifying final last month.
Pratt rates prop Liam Knight, second-rower Luke Garner and fullback Tom Trbojevic - who has already appeared in the NRL - as key players for the Sea Eagles, who finished fourth on the competition ladder and defeated North Queensland 25-24 last weekend to qualify for the grand final
When goal-kicking hookers are mentioned, the first player who springs to mind is Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Australian captain Cameron Smith.
"He's someone I look up to but I have a long way to go to get any-where near his level," Pratt said.
"I'd love to go further in the game. Manly would be ideal - it's the club that's given me a crack - but I have a good manager and he's helping work things out for me."
With strong reports about his performances this season and a goal-kicking success rate of nearly 75%, a future in the game is not out of the question.
Pratt trains with his club up to four times a week and also manages a couple of extra goal-kicking sessions in between studying physiotherapy part-time and mowing lawns to keep the cash flow going.
The NYC grand final on Sunday is set down to start at 1.35pm.