SO CLOSE: Hervey Bay's young squad, steered by Tiko Hooper (pictured) at hooker, went within 10 minutes of a shock win against Bundaberg Rugby League finals-bound Wests Panthers at Stafford Park, Hervey Bay.
SO CLOSE: Hervey Bay's young squad, steered by Tiko Hooper (pictured) at hooker, went within 10 minutes of a shock win against Bundaberg Rugby League finals-bound Wests Panthers at Stafford Park, Hervey Bay. Matthew McInerney

Young Seagulls show good signs for club's future

LEAGUE: Alan Ezzy has praised the efforts of Hervey Bay Seagulls' youngest senior players after they came agonisingly close to upsetting finals-bound Wests Panthers.

The Seagulls have struggled for numbers this season, so have relied on the club's under-18s stars to not only play A-grade, but earn valuable experience for their development.

Players like Casey Russell, Tiko Hooper, and Ben Hudson, just to name a few, were among the Seagulls' U18s team which pasted a severely undermanned and understrength Past Brothers outfit 86-0 at Salter Oval in the morning.

Rather than relax for the rest of the day, they jumped in cars, flew down the Bruce Hwy and were at Stafford Park for the A-grade game by 2pm.

They didn't miss a beat.

The Seagulls actually led the fourth-placed Bundaberg Rugby League, led by veteran Josh Tanner and captain James Prichard, with 10 minutes to go.

A Panthers try gave them a narrow lead before a questionable decision to fire a short kick-off at Tyson Douglas - the Panther Hervey Bay's players struggled to tackle the most - results in a match-sealing try.

Ezzy, in his first season as the Seagulls' A-grade coach, was disappointed the side didn't come away with what would have been just their second win of the season, but he could not fault their effort at full-time.

"I want to say thank you those U18s, they had to rush back from Bundaberg to play today," he said. "Some got here before the game started, some got here after to give us a bench. We were leading at half-time, playing some really good footy, but our errors gave them the footy in good field position in that second half and the Panthers capitalised.

"I'm disappointed for the boys but I'm happy to see what's happening at the club.

"There's some really good players coming through."

Ezzy said the young squad would learn valuable lessons in composure and playing under pressure from the game.

The Seagulls will finish their season against Maryborough Brothers on Saturday.