Mantelli lauds Shield experience

Newcastle Thunder head coach Mick Mantelli believes his side’s Kingstone Press League 1 Shield final triumph will stand his side in good stead for the future, as the club’s attentions turn to the 2017 season.

 

Mantelli looked on as his side held on for a 31-26 win over North Wales Crusaders and says that the experience will see his players grow over the winter and be stronger still in the New Year.

He said, “I think it gives us experience.  The only way you can get experience is to play tough games, win lose or draw. What we have done in the Shield is find out what it takes to get back to back wins and to make that into a habit.

“Winning that final is a big stepping stone forward, the experience is phenomenal and you can’t underestimate how players come on from that. 12 weeks ago, you’d probably say we’d have lost that game, but now we are winning those tight games.”

In what was a pulsating game between the sides that finished first and second following the qualifying stages of the Shield competition, Thunder went from a 24-0 lead to a narrow 31-26 win as the hosts dug in to resist a determined North Wales fight back.

It meant for a tense finish for the Australian and his coaching team but was nothing less than what he was expecting against a team with a playing roster filled with quality.

“I think the two best teams played each other and North Wales are a great team with some really good players. Stephen Wild has 50 Super League games to him and he’s played for his country. For them to turn up in the final, it was going to be a final.

“A score line like that was fitting of the two best teams in the comp, although we jumped away at 24-0, as a coach it is always in the back of your mind how long can we keep this up, how much energy s left in the tank and how much do they want to come back.

“Being the good team that they are, they were always going to fight back, but we just had to stem the tide a bit and we didn’t probably do it to our best, but in the end, we were gritty enough and had enough left to bring it home.

“We were out on our legs at the end where it was pretty scrappy, which is a sign of two teams who have left nothing out on the pitch.”