Panthers' U20 coach looks to finish the season on a high
RUGBY LEAGUE: For his first stint as a stand-alone coach, Kelly Christensen has had an outstanding season.
His Biloela Panthers U20 side is currently sitting fourth on the nine-team ladder, putting them in contention for a finals' berth.
With a record of six wins and six losses, and a clash with second-placed Norths in a week's time, some teams would be fretting about their prospects.
But Christensen is confident his side can finish out the season on a high coming off the back of a 50-22 win over Woorabinda.
"Hopefully we can knock off the last three games with three wins - we're pretty confident with that," he said.
"We've played a couple of teams that are really our hardest competition early in the rounds (Yeppoon Seagulls and Rockhampton Brothers), so they're the benchmark and we know where we've got to be."
The Panthers will take on Emu Park on Saturday, followed by Norths and then a home game season finale against Gladstone Valleys.
"The last time we played Valleys we went down by two points - but we were really short on numbers," Christensen said.
"A couple of the young fellas (including halfback Luke Sketchley) have been playing U20s and then stepping up and playing A-Grade and doing real good jobs, so they're getting a lot of experience there as well."
Christensen, who has served as an assistant coach and coached school teams before, said stepping up into the lead role himself had been a challenge, but one he had embraced.
"I've learned to watch the game in a different way," he said.
"When you're playing the game you go to training and you just sort of knuckle down and learn your job - but when you're coaching you've got to learn everybody else's job.
"You've also got to be a people person, you've got to work out different people's personalities and what makes them click.
"We've got people from lots of different cultures as well, so trying to fit people together with different personalities, different cultures, different egos, and getting it to all gel, that's the hardest part.
"It's taught me about myself as well as the game."
Christensen said his highlight of the year so far had been when, even during bad losses, he had noticed his players putting into practice skills they had learned during training.
"When it works, you can see they're really happy with it," he said.