Riley scores major award
DEVILS second rower Riley McDowall is enjoying one of the best times of his short league career, after helping his Gympie side to its first grand final against Nambour this Saturday, and then being named Sunshine Coast/Gympie Rugby League Player of the Year.
The 22-year-old is in his first full season of first grade league and is blown away by the honour.
McDowall had travelled to the awards night at the Coast with about 12 other team-mates, but did not expect to win.
“I was sitting having a beer with the boys and got the call-up,” McDowall said.
“It was pretty surprising. It is a pretty big award.”
After he won the Bill Venardos Memorial Trophy, a lot of people on the Coast were left asking “Riley who?”.
But Devils coach John Greensil said the 198cm, 100kg forward had been one of the Devils’ best all year.
“From game one he has been in the top three points for player’s player,” Greensil said.
“They (the Coast) might not have known who he was, but they do now.”
McDowall had played a bit of league as a junior, but switched to union as a young adult.
Before moving to Gympie and playing for the Devils, he played rugby union for the Noosa Dolphins.
“When I moved to Gympie, my uncle Brett, who was on the Devils committee, asked me to come down and have a run,” McDowall said. “I have never looked back.”
McDowall said he loved the culture of the Devils.
“It is a pretty close club. Everyone is your best mate, which is really good.”
Greensil said McDowall’s value to the club was not just his tireless work in the forward pack.
He said McDowall was one of those players who helped the team to bond as a single unit.
“He is the life of the party and brings the club together,” Greensil said.
“No one would have a bad word to say about him.”
McDowall watched on Sunday as Nambour put Caloundra to the sword at Jack Stokes Oval to clinch a spot in the grand final against Gympie.
He said the Devils were pretty confident of their chances against Nambour but warned the team of being complacent.
“We have beaten them a couple of times during the season, but you never know in a grand final,” McDowall said.
McDowall beat fellow Devil Trent Callaghan and Noosa rookie Zac Friend, the brother of Sydney Rooster Jake Friend, to win the award. Devils halfback Nick Swann won the award for Top Points Scorer, an effort Greensil said was amazing after Swann missed five games with injury.
Nambour was crowned Champion Club while Nambour coach Des Allen was awarded Coach of the Year after leading his young team to the grand final.
Zac Friend won Rookie of the Year, Caloundra winger Toby Adam Top Try Scorer, while Chris Kaarsberg won the OAMPS Representative Player of the Year.