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The memory of friend Adam Watene will be ever present when Northern Pride coach Jason Demetriou sends his team into battle in Sunday's Intrust Super Cup Grand Final against Easts.
It was intended to evoke memories of one of the most thrilling grand finals Queensland Rugby League had ever seen but for Northern Pride coach Jason Demetriou it brought out the darkest moment of his rugby league career.

As he watched Adam Cook (later known as Adam Watene) throw himself into the fray for Burleigh against the Easts Tigers in the highlights package of the 2004 Queensland Cup Grand Final earlier this week, Demetriou's thoughts instantly turned to a life taken far too young.

Watene and Demetriou were teammates at Wakefield Trinity in England and had formed a bond so strong that when Watene suffered a heart attack in the club gym and died at the age of just 31 in October 2008, Demetriou dedicated the entire 2009 season to playing in his friend's honour.

Leaving behind a partner, Moana, and two children, Watene is honoured each year in the Intrust Super Cup when Burleigh and Wynnum contest the Adam Watene Memorial Trophy and the significance of his involvement a decade ago was not lost on Demetriou as he prepares the Pride to face Easts in Sunday's Intrust Super Cup Grand Final.

"He was a tremendous guy and being a 30-year-old just to drop like he did was devastating for our club," said Sydney-born Demetriou, who played 129 Super League games for Wakefield as well as 48 games for Widnes.

"We were close friends with him and his partner Moana and their two kids. I'm still in regular contact with those guys and I know how much they are enjoying the success that I'm having and the Pride are having.

"Adam was a guy that made you want to be a better person and I suppose that's what touched people about him and for us, as a club, we had to embrace it.

"It's pretty tough to get on the footy field after you've lost someone like that. I ended up wearing Adam's name on my shirt as a tribute to him but more so because we didn't want him sitting on the sideline, we wanted him out there with the boys.

"It was a memorable year, I think it was our highest finish in Super League (Wakefield finished fifth) and it's amazing what a little bit of emotion and that little extra incentive can do."

Prior to his arrival at the Northern Pride last season – where he guided the club to the minor premiership in his first year as head coach – Demetriou had enjoyed a decorated career in England and finished his time there as captain-coach of the Keighley Cougars, guiding them from the third tier into the Kingstone Press Championship in 2012.

Current Pride players Sam Obst and Semi Tadulala both played alongside Demetriou at Wakefield and then under him at Keighley and will be key figures against the Tigers on Sunday.

"I've known them for a long time but on the footy field they're professional enough to know that I'm the coach and we're not mates and that my expectations of them are higher than what they are for everybody else," Demetriou told

"They're quality people and have been outstanding for our group on and off the field. Sam Obst has probably been our best player all year consistently and Semi Tadulala keeps defying the age barrier. He's almost my age but he's still running a lot better than I am."

Having played at the Melbourne Storm from 2001-2003, Tadulala headed to England where he had two stints with Wakefield and one at Bradford and also represented Fiji at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.

And although he is seven months past his 36th birthday, Demetriou says he still has the ability to bring the crowd to their feet with a scorching run along the sideline.

"He's well liked in the community Semi. He's one of those guys who goes out of his way to speak to people and especially with the kids," his coach explained.

"He works as a teacher's aide in one of the schools and does a lot of community work through his church trying to mentor young people and he's fantastic at it. That's his calling in life and through that he attracts a lot of people.

"A lot of people come to the games to watch Semi play, especially when he gets the afro out. It's getting a bit grey these days so he likes to keep it a bit more trim."
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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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