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The rugby league squad from St Patrick’s College, Mackay have received insights from Old Boys on opportunities that await them as their city hosts this week’s Confraternity Carnival.

College staff member Matt Paul played for St Patrick’s the last time Mackay hosted the event, making the Merit team on his performances.

That was back in 1996 when St Patrick’s reached the semi-finals with a team including future Queensland State of Origin star Shannon Hegarty.

And 2021 graduate Ethan Cocco returned from his stint in the Cronulla NRL system to remind the St Patrick’s squad that a full week of football will be a blessing after the last two years.

“Ethan was a very good player for us but he only got to play two games in the Confraternity Carnival,” St Patrick’s coach Michael Comerford said.

Cocco played two pool matches last year before a snap Covid lockdown forced an end to the carnival at Iona College, following on from the cancellation of 2020.

“He told the boys not to take anything for granted this week. The chance to play in Confro is one thing but to do it in front of your friends and family is another.

“Matt said a similar thing from his experiences (in 1996). St Pat’s finished third that year and Matt spoke about some of those moments.”

Comerford’s squad will go into camp this week after a solid preparation that included a win over Mackay State High School in the Aaron Payne Cup.

Seven players will return from last year’s carnival while St Patrick’s ranks have been bolstered by some of the 2021 Year 10s who were members of the victorious Cowboys Challenge team.

The Confro veterans can remind their younger teammates of the disappointment of last year when St Patrick’s won its three pool matches only for its finals hopes to be dashed by the Covid lockdown midway through the second day.

“We jumped on the bus at about 2pm in Brisbane and drove through the night back to Mackay. I think we got here at about 6.30am,” Comerford said.

“It wasn’t the greatest trip because the boys were very excited about playing in the finals and then everything had to stop because of the lockdown.

“That’s part of the reason why we won’t take anything for granted this year.”St Patrick’s will receive strong hometown support including in a special stand-alone 6pm clash with Rockhampton Grammar School on Monday night that is expected to draw a big crowd.

Former St Patrick’s players are also expected to attend with members of the 2001 and 2002 Confraternity Shield champions arriving in the city later in the week. Captain and former NRL player Grant Rovelli and his father Troy, who coached the teams, will be among those returning to Mackay for the celebrations.

“There’s a lot of excitement for the week especially because we get the chance to play in front of our supporters,” Comerford said.

“They haven’t had the chance to watch Confro close to home for a while so this will be a good opportunity.”

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