YOUNG GUNS: Gatton Hawks U18 players Tremayne Hobson, Jackson Morgan and Sean Haley.
YOUNG GUNS: Gatton Hawks U18 players Tremayne Hobson, Jackson Morgan and Sean Haley. Lachlan McIvor

Gatton Hawks strengthening their foundation

RUGBY LEAGUE: Amidst all the difficulties that come along with the transition to senior footy, Gatton Hawks U18 coach Josh Belz is hoping he'll become a constant force for the club's next generation.

Now in his second year in the position, Belz has made coaching his priority ahead of his own ambitions on the field and he wants to remain in the role for many seasons to come.

"I've let (A-grade coach) Shaun (Hobson) know that my number one priority is the 18s, so if that means I don't play A-grade, I don't play A-grade,” Belz said.

"I just like playing for the Hawks, I don't care if I'm playing C-grade, Reserve grade or A-grade, wherever I'm needed I'll play.

"I just want to focus on the 18s and make sure everything is right with them. I've committed 100% to them so that's where I want most of my time to go to.”

He led the U18s to their best season in several years in 2017, where they just missed out on a place in the finals on the last day of the season.

"That was probably (the U18s) best result since 2010,” he said.

"It's been a long time since the U18s have been strong because it's hard to transition juniors to seniors. Once they finish 16s, they either start work or whatever so they don't really have time for amateur footy.

"The U18s haven't been strong over the last 10 years.”

Although he has a much different squad to last year, with many moving on to senior footy and several Laidley players making the transition to the club, Belz was encouraged with the signs during pre-season so far.

While his team were more forward dominated last campaign, the arrival of some talented backs from Laidley has given the squad more depth and the coach sensed a real hunger to succeed.

"We lacked a bit of depth. Our edges - our second rowers and centres - they weren't weak, they were just not as strong as the guys we've got this year,” he said.

"We've got some big, solid lads that are agile as well, so they will really beef up the edges because that's where all the points were getting scored on us last year.

"They're training really, really hard...when they've got to do the hard stuff they're not complaining.”

Although he would love to take his young side into the finals after narrowly missing out last year, Belz knew it was not going to be a quick fix.

"Everyone likes winning but if I can just get them to gel as a team and bond as that whole Laidley-Gatton thing, watching the two bunch of blokes from different areas become mates and enjoy their mates, that's the main goal,' he said.

”I think with the team we've got, we can be really competitive. I know most the teams last year were the same as us, they had a lot of the seniors boys in their last year of U18s, they'll have a lot of new faces in their teams too.

"Once the whole team gets here I really think we'll give it a good shake.”

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