HE'S barely blown the candles out for his 21st birthday but Sunshine Coast Falcons five-eighth David Oakes will have to play beyond his years tomorrow afternoon.
On the back of two consecutive wins, the Falcons are hosting seventh-placed Northern Pride at Sunshine Coast Stadium, and Oakes, who celebrated turning 21 on Wednesday, will be one of the keys to a Falcons hat trick of wins.
Having had to bide his time behind in-form Melbourne Storm-contracted Ben Hampton for most of the season, Oakes will again slot in at five-eighth, looking to steer a side on the rebound to an important victory.
"I'm pretty pumped for the game this weekend. I've got some big shoes to fill," Oakes said.
"They're (Northern Pride) going to be looking for that arm wrestle so we need to keep it nice and simple to start off with and make sure we get to our kicks."
Despite a heavy loss to the Pride in the trip north earlier this season, the Falcons will look to draw on the spirit they showed in a tight contest at Sunshine Coast Stadium last season, and will draw plenty of confidence from the momentum they've built on the back of strong performances from the locally-based contingent of players.
"At the moment our forward pack is all local players and they're the players who are setting the platform for us," Oakes said.
"They're doing a hell of a job at the moment and I can't pat them on the back enough for it."
It's no coincidence the Falcons' fortunes have started to turn of late. Former coach of the Celtic Crusaders Super League franchise John Dixon was appointed as Falcons' coaching director just over a fortnight ago.
The discipline-focused Dixon had taken a hands-on approach in his role working alongside coach Glen Dreger, and it appeared to be paying dividends for the fledgling club.
"He's (Dixon) been around for a while and the experience of what he's had and what he wants is great. He's all about discipline," Oakes said.
Oakes would be surrounded by familiar faces, with Jay Lobwein to play hooker.
SUNSHINE COAST: S Wright, S Young, R Baillie, T Robinson, S Vunivalu, D Oakes, J Turpin, J Ackerman, J Lobwein, R Hansen, J Ballinger, J Samoa, T Murphy (c). Interchange: B Doherty, J Vuetibau, M Adams, S Satogi.
SUNSHINE COAST v NORTHERN PRIDE
Tomorrow, Bokarina, 2pm
Courtesy of Sunshine Coast Daily