Ricciardi props up young talent
CAMERON Ricciardi can remember when he was just a 17-year-old kid in his debut season for Brothers A-grade.
They lost the grand final that year, but won it the next.
Now 31, the Brothers captain has three kids of his own — the most recent was Chace, born after last week’s semi-final victory against Across The Waves.
Ricciardi is the oldest in the side and is now the man entrusted with nurturing the new talent through the ranks.
Evidence of his work can be seen in the stand-out performances of Matt Craven and Tien Nguyen this season.
“We do have a pretty young team this year, but they’ve really stepped into their roles well,” Ricciardi said.
Nguyen was thrust into fullback when Ryan McGoldrick busted his knee early in the season, but has blossomed and was this week crowned Rookie of the Year.
The hard-working prop will have another member of the Ricciardi fan club cheering him on in tonight’s sudden-death semi-final with Hervey Bay Seagulls.
“We always come and watch, every week,” wife Melinda said.
“I didn’t watch much last week because I had some more important things to worry about. But I know they are playing well enough to win the whole thing.”
It is still a way off – three more victories, to be precise – and Ricciardi is wary of their first assignment.
“They’ll be playing with a fair bit of emotion, I’d say. Obviously Clinton Horne being out is a big loss, but they have the players to beat us,” he said.
And beat them they have this year, with Seagulls holding a decisive advantage in their battles. An emphasis has been placed on bolstering their fringe defence after Waves exploited that in the second half last week, while the skipper has also asked for more focus in the big game.
“We’ve sort of come good, but we need to want to win it more than them,” Ricciardi said.
“You can feel the atmosphere changing.
“Everyone has those nerves and can’t wait to get the first run and tackle out of the way.”
Canaan Brown returns to the side, while Christian Thompson will not be back unless they reach the decider.
“That’s a loss, but Canaan has done a lot of work for us this season and it’s good to have him back,” Ricciardi said.