Shannon Meyer joins NothingButLeague for the 2015 Season to cover the Queensland Cup competition. Here’s his extensive look at the QLD Cup in 2015.
Welcome to the season preview for what will no doubt be another tremendous action packed of Queensland Cup rugby league from PNG and Cairns to Tweed Heads.
Some may regard the Queensland Cup as the Buzz Aldrin, the Garfunkel, or the Pace but not Hale of Rugby League. They’d be wrong, and more than likely haven’t been to game in years or at all.
Wide Bay and Western Queensland aside, the Queensland Cup has a team for every region of Queensland and Brisbane, giving league loving fans in most of the state no excuse not to sample some of the wares at least once a year.
When you make it, you’re treated to some simple pleasures. Beer comes in a can, is cold and costs less than an hour of minimum wage. Food is produced either from a BBQ or reliable canteen workers who have been doing it well for years, and usually feature that Winter classic – the Chiko Roll. And, by far the best reward for supporting the Queensland Cup is that football is played on weekend afternoons, and you can sit on that rare pleasure, a grass hill.
Everything is so much simpler too, you are not bombarded with charity collector after charity collector as soon as you get in the stadium, tickets usually cost a tenner, and half time entertainment is not the “insert sponsor here lame promotional event”, it is what it should be – kids playing out their dreams on the hallowed turf of the A Graders.
Pardon me for the romantic view, but I can still remember going to various Football grounds in the BBE (before Broncos era), and gladly nothing much has changed. In fact, it still sounds like the same gentleman who used to do the ground announcements at Dolphin Oval in the BBE. Who doesn’t love a slice of nostalgia.
The football meanwhile is probably better these days, a by-product of a more professional era and the endless feeder programs with the bigger clubs, with players still striving for the big time in the NRL, while others will have to settle for being the next Daryl Duncan, Floyd Hill, or Zulu.
More on the football now as we try and recap the previous season as quickly as possible to give the quickest possible background to this year’s battles.
2014 belonged to the Northern Pride after taking the Queensland Cup in emphatic style with a walloping of the Easts Tigers in the big game in September. Not satisfied with that, they took their can do attitude to Sydney for the long overdue and awaited playoff between Sydney’s best and the Queensland Cup champions on NRL grand final day.
Comparisons to the first origin as the Pride went in as massive underdogs against a strong NRL heavy Penrith Panthers side and flew back with the inaugural State Championship under their wing. The game itself proved it was worth the wait, and will hopefully be a part of the NRL Grand Final program for years.
Runners up Easts and Wynnum Manly were the next best, and seemed to play each other every second week in the last few weeks of the season. Tweed made the finals but lost the title of best Seagulls team in the Queensland Cup, and Ipswich Jets were strong throughout, but snatched the last finals spot from the surprise and entertainment machine that was the 6th placed PNG Hunters.
The PNG Hunters were welcomed with open arms by the Queensland Cup, and were also soon welcomed by all fans who got along to a game or two. Their devil may care attack, and frequent frightening defence made the Hunters league fans favourite throughout 2014.
Their last game of 2014 was a case in point at Davies Park, where a healthy crowd cheered and were thoroughly entertained with big hits and length of the field tries. The “away crowd” outnumbered the home fans for what seems 99 to 1, with a lone Souths fan holding on to a cardboard placard and hope as Souths were beaten 44-14.
Hopefully a finals place will accompany the same electric style of league this season, and hopefully the team doesn’t get picked apart too much with their success. Who couldn’t forsee a NRL Grand Final day appearance and the capturing of league fans nationwide.
Further down the table a group of Burleigh, Norths, Mackay, Souths-Logan and Redcliffe were separated by 6 only points, the same margin they finished from PNG. Rounding off the table were the Central Capras in second last and the Sunshine Coast Falcons who tasted victory just the once in 2014 to finish bottom.
So what’s new in 2015? The Townsville Blackhawks are the answer. To complete the trilogy of North Queensland feeder teams, Townsville has been included this season, which is a great inclusion for the northern Queensland league fans, and eliminates that nuisance of a bye for the rest of the competition. The strong military history of Townsville is the reason behind the nickname, and the mascot transformer-like helicopter mascot looks tough to beat in the best mascot league. For the record you have a chance to name the mascot via their website, I chose Blades but haven’t heard back yet.
Ex NRL regulars Anthony Mitchell and Ricky Thorby are part of the squad for the upcoming season, and they have also recruited origin old boy Neville Costigan to state their intentions of being in the big time in 2015.
What else is there to look forward to this season, well aside from the usual home and away fixtures there’s the battles that rage throughout the year, like the battle for best of Broncos feeder teams. With Souths Logan joining the bulging roster of Broncos pathways it is a 6 way fight this year with all those players dreaming of at least an origin time appearance, if not a Queensland Cup.
Same goes for up north too, with the Cowboys now having three feeder teams, the competition to shine the most will also be worth keeping an eye on, although the Cairns juggernaut will be tough to topple given last year’s form and early season trial form.
The forgotten teams of the Queensland Cup – Sunshine Coast and Central will be hoping for more this year, and in the case of the Sunshine Coast, a new link up with the Melbourne Storm will hopefully bring more victories than last year. One won’t be hard to beat. Any improvement looks unlikely in Rockhampton as ex Broncos man Anthony Griffin has been brought in to offload his midas touch.
That leaves the battle for the Gold Coast’s finest. It will be the hardest to call this year, after the JJ Cale themed drama coming out of the Titans HQ (wherever that may be) over the past week or so. Players are going to have to fill the places of the accused, which may reduce the quality of both Tweed and Burleigh, and that’s before anymore names are divulged.
So another quick preview of the season to go with the equally short review of last year. Don’t fret if we haven’t covered enough of the Queensland Cup for you, our never fail quick glance at this year’s teams await below. To try and prove how clever we are, it’s listed in finishing order for this year’s comp.
FIVE THINGS WE’D LOVE TO SEE FROM THE QUEENSLAND CUP THIS YEAR
- PNG Hunters on TV every week, failing that, at least a Final appearance.
- Some Joe Bond magic for the Dolphins.
- A competitive Sunshine Coast Falcons with multiple wins.
- Another Queensland Victory in the State Championship on Grand Final.
- A Queensland Cup equivalent of the very successful UK Super League Magic Weekend. This is where all teams play each other in a full competition round at one venue over two days.
- The NRL will never do it, as they have the foresight the arse end of a two man horse costume, but maybe the Queensland Cup could be pioneers and think about launching one in 2016. Anyone who has attended this will tell you what a good time it is, and they mostly take their carnival to non traditional League destinations.
- A Northern Queensland venue would probably be best for tourism and regional league given the paltry amount of Brisbane fans who attend the Grand Final.
- So await the campaign for a Queensland Cup Magic Weekend right here throughout the year. They can only and probably will say no.
THIS YEAR’S TEAMS AND FEARLESS PREDICITONS
Barlow Park, Cairns
Last Year 1st – 44 points – GF Winners / State Championship Winners
Trial form looked ominous with a healthy win over Townsville and a 20-20 draw with no less a team than NRL premiers and World Champions South Sydney. A loss to the NQ Cowboys U/20’s is a blip, but is hard to see them not staying at the top this year.
They should remain top of the pile of Cowboys feeder teams and of the Queensland Cup, however the 46-24 loss to PNG Hunters in the final trial shows there may be a changing of the guard.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sam Obst
Gains: Vaipuna Tia-Kilifi (Penrith Panthers), Graham Clark (Wynnum-Manly Seagulls), Dean McGilvray (Atherton Roosters), Luke George (Bradford Bulls), Ben Jeffries (Bradford Bulls), Denzel King (Canterbury Bulldogs NYC), Bradley Stephen (Cairns Kangaroos), Sam Pau (North Queensland Cowboys NYC), Regan Verney (Tully Tigers), Jared Verney (Tully Tigers)
Losses: Blake Leary (Manly Sea Eagles), Shaun Nona (Melbourne Storm), Davin Crampton (Gold Coast Titans), Tyrone McCarthy (Hull Kingston Rovers), Latu Fifita (Workington Town).
WYNNUM MANLY SEAGULLS
Kougari Oval, Manly West
Last Year 2nd – 37 points – losing Preliminary Finalist
Look to be the best of the Broncos feeder teams again this year, despite a trial loss in the battle of the Seagulls and a wash out thanks to Marcia. The loss of off again-on again ex Bronco Jake Granville will be a big loss and the Cowboys gain, as will the retired stalwart Shea Moylan.
With the best can bar and rowdiest support from the Chook Pen, they will remain tough to beat at home, and if our predictions prove correct, will probably enjoy playing Easts a few less times this season.
The 2014 Club Champions will be hoping that they can go a couple better than last year’s finish in the top grade.
Player to Watch – John Te Reo
Gains: Patrick Templeman (Canterbury Bulldogs), Brendon Gibb (Norths Devils), Zach Koitka (Norths Devils), Hayden Crowley (NQ Cowboys), Liufau Hala (Easts Tigers), Brendan Mckinnon (Wentworthville Magpies), Mitchell Lollback (Grafton Ghosts), Matt Smith (Year off).
Losses: Chris Mclean (Townsville Blackhawks), Graham Clark (Northern Pride), Joe Mua (Townsville), Shea Moylan (Retired), Hanan Laban (Retired), Jake Granville (North Queensland Cowboys).
Kalabond Oval, Kokopo
Last Year new 6th 33 points
It’s easy to wax lyrical about the PNG Hunters, but if you have seen them play you’ll understand why people do. You can’t have a competition full of these kind of sides, but it sure is good to have at least one. Hopefully, unlike their NRL brethren in spirit – New Zealand – Channel 9 will do what’s good for the game and give them plenty of TV time. We dare them to take their cameras to Kopoko too.
With a year’s experience under their belts, which includes a massive amount of travel, they will be better prepared than last year, and we think the improvement will drive them into the finals, and be a team no one will want to play in finals football.
A trial win of 46-24 against last year’s premiers underlines the improvement and potential of the Hunters. Who wouldn’t love to see the boys strutting their stuff on NRL Grand Final day against NSW’s best.
PLAYER TO WATCH – EVERYONE
Gains: Kato Otio (Dobo Warriors)
Losses: Garry Lo, Jason Tali (Gateshead Thunder UK), Albert Patak, David Loko, Noel Joel, Biuku Emere (Released), Joe Bruno (Hunters coaching staff)
Trialling: George Benson, Esau Siune (Hunters), Henry Wan, Warren Glare, Atte Bina Wabo (Lae Snax Tigers), Enock Maki, Stargoth Amen, Bland Abavu (Port Moresby Vipers), David Lapua (Hela Wigmen), Ase Boas (Agmark Gurias), JayJay Garison (Paga Panthers), Philemon Kimisive (Goroka Didiman).
Dolphin Oval, Redcliffe
Last Year 11th – 21 points – losing Preliminary Finalist
It surely can’t be worse than last year, and this year should be a lot better in our opinion with some good recruiting and luck. Returning to the Dolphins is Luke Capewell and another NRL recruit has joined in Anthony Cherrington from Penrith. No inbound signing is more exciting than our player to watch – Joe Bond. This excitement machine looked like he might get a Broncos jersey a few seasons ago, but has found his way back to Redcliffe via Sydney and will hopefully bring back all the goodness from his last stint where he was described as the Ben Barba of Queensland Cup.
A trial win against rivals Norths put the wind in the sails, which was taken away when Marcia ruined the clash against the mother club.
Redcliffe, with their new ground renovation planned and might of their Leagues Club could be a dark horse if the NRL decides it wants a second Brisbane team, that aren’t necessarily a Brisbane team.
PLAYER TO WATCH – JOE BOND
Gains: Luke Capewell, Anthony Cherrington (Penrith Panthers), Adam Lawton, Alex Brown (Widnes Vikings), Reggie Saunders, Trent Richardson (Tweed Seagulls), Logan Harris, Evander Cummins, Charlie Faingaa (St George/Illawarra), Darcy Etrich (NSW Rugby), Curtis Johnston (North Sydney Bears), Joe Bond, Kaine Matthews (Mounties), Brandon Lee, Tom Opacic (Broncos NYC), Marlon Doak, Arlin Paki (CQ Capras), Josh Benjamin (Mackay Cutters), Tristan Lumley (Norths Devils), John Brady (Parramatta NYC)
Losses: Jake Marketo (ST George/Illawarra), Cameron Cullen (Mackay Cutters), Adrian Davis (Penrith Panthers), Chris Fox, Sarafu Fatiaki (Retired) Dave Hala (Gold Coast Titans).
Jack Manski Oval, Kirwan
Last Year new 2015
A couple of trial losses to the Northern Pride and Cowboys Under 20’s may not mean too much at this time of year, but with NRL experience in Ricky Thorby and Neville Costigan, plus a bunch of Cowboys fringe players, we think it will be a good first up season for the Blackhawks.
Their true colours may have shone against the Gold Coast Titans U20 side where Townsville won their trial 38-16 with a host of NRL names amongst the scorers and best. So our prediction of first up finals footy may not be as far away as one would think.
PLAYER TO WATCH: JONATHON RUEBEN
Gains All Losses None
North Ipswich Reserve, North ipswich
Last Year 5th – 34 points
Trial form included a 4 all draw with Burleigh and a wash out for PNG appreciation day, but Ipswich will be thereabouts again this year, as they are most years.
Queensland politicians will be happy to know that Ipswich will get more televised games this year on Channel 9 after complaintsin parliament last year. Although after the Campbell Newman landslide pantsing, who knows if any of those who were complaining are still around.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Marmin Barba
Gains: Mitchell Koina (Wattles), Sam Capewell (Toowoomba Valleys), *Marmin Barba (Brisbane Broncos).
Losses: Brendon Marshall (Northern Suburbs Ipswich), Javarn White (Central Qld Capras), Ollie Olds (Souths Logan Magpies).
Bishop Park, Nundah
Last Year 8th – 26 points
A loss to main rivals Redcliffe wouldn’t have been popular but is only a trial and their season is likely to depend on which Broncos fringe players they get. They’ll no doubt be competitive but may just miss the finals again this year.
PLAYER TO WATCH: JACK REED
Gains: Mike Bishay (London Broncos), Matt Mizzi (Central Queensland Capras), James Leavai (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Steve Elliott, (North Queensland Cowboys), Josh Lynam (Keighley Cougars), AJ Nona (Wynnum Seagulls), Sean Yorston (Souths Logan Magpies).
Losses: Todd Murphy (Cronulla Sharks), Brendon Gibb (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Shaun Carney (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Jared Blanke (Southport Tigers), Tristan Lumley (Redcliffe Dolphins).
Langlands Park, Coorparoo
Last Year 3rd – 37 points
It will be interesting to see if last year’s finalists will suffer with Melbourne hedging their bets with the Falcons, and if there is a hangover from such a disappointing grand final. We say yes, as we need to fit in the PNG Hunters, Townsville and Redcliffe back into the top 5. A 44-12 trial loss to Melbourne Storm wasn’t as bad as the scoreline reads, and their upcoming game against the other Melbourne feeder club will show a clearer picture.
They do have their own TV channel and podcast, and the best website, so Easts are amongst the most technically up to date club, to go along with the best stadium as well.
PLAYER TO WATCH: TOMMY BUTTERFIELD
Gains: Jake Foster (Canberra Raiders), Brenton Horwood (Newcastle Knights), Joel Romelo (Melbourne Storm), Brentt Warr (Mackay Cutters), Francis Tualau (Melbourne Storm).
Losses: Steven Thorpe (Sheffield Eagles), Liufau Hala (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Geoff Holcombe (Darwin), Jarrod McInally (Canterbury Bulldogs), Jai Ballinger (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Luke Lavelle (Gold Coast).
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS
Piggabeen Complex,Tweed Heads West
Last Year 4th – 35 points
A good win in the Battle of the Seagulls against Wynnum in a pre season trial was good paper for the Tweed, however bad paper was the Cocaine scandal coming out of the Gold Coast Titans. It remains to be seen whether there will be any impact down the chain, but one could imagine it having some effect, and as a result we’re predicting a slide down the ladder as the season progresses. Plenty of movement in the off season too, and there might be a little more during the season too.
PLAYER TO WATCH – DAMIAN SIRONEN
Gains: Brandon Tago (Roosters NYC), Shaun Carney (Norths Devils), Sam Meskell (Burleigh Bears), Dane Clarke (Burleigh Bears), Macauley Dawson (Gold Coast Titans NYC), Nathan Portelli (Gold Coast Titans NYC), Ethan Price (Gold Coast Titans NYC), Doug Hewitt (Mackay Cutters), Tim Cassidy (Currumbin), Paul Sheedy (Philippines Tamaraws), Jaz Dawson (Southport), Tyrone Studer (Southport), Alex Grant (Cowboys NYC), Chris Binge (Bulldogs NSW Cup), Tom Dawney (Philadelphia Fight), Mark Offerdahl (Illawarra Cutters), Jeff Moate (Illawarra Cutters), Jake Leary (Illawarra Cutters), Hemi Mullen (Byron Bay), Kobi Mills (Murwillumbah), Randall Briggs (Macquarie)
Losses: Matt King (retired), Cory Blair (Bilambil), Tom Merritt (NSW Sevens), Jahrome Hughes (Townsville), Trent Richardson (Redcliffe Dolphins), Reg Saunders (Redcliffe Dolphins), Ayden Lee (Burleigh Bears), Pele Peletelese (Burleigh Bears), Michael Burgess (France)
Stadium Mackay, South Mackay
Last Year 9th – 26 points
Will Mackay be the third wheel for the Cowboys feeder clubs this year? That is the question we have, and it maybe another season outside the Top 5 for the Cutters. A slender trial win over the Capras will give some hope, but like the new baby in the household, Townsville may get more attention at the expense of the Blackhawks this year.
PLAYER TO WATCH – PULOU VAITUUTUU
Gains: Steve Rapira (Salford), Michael Sio (NZ Warriors), Sam Clune (Thirroul Butchers), Cameron Cullen (Redcliffe Dolphins), Brad Lupi (North Sydney), Rex Johnson (Souths Logan), Joss Boyton (Muswellbrook), Jordan Pereira (Willagee Bears), Corey Cox (Dubbo CYMS), Hayden Butler (Burleigh), Matt Hackett (Sarina), Zack Walker (Moranbah), Buchanan Rawhiti (Moranbah), Brendan Treston (Souths Mackay), Alex Farrell (Souths Mackay), Zac Radel (Wests Mackay)
Losses: Dan Beasley (Townsville Blackhawks), Karl Davies (Bradford), Chris Ulugia (Bradford), Dave Petersen (Bradford), Dean Webster (released), James Uhatafe (released), Zac Dalton (Mackay Wests), Michael Koko (Melbourne), Josh Benjamin (Redcliffe), Dan Murphy (Sunshine Coast), Brentt Warr (Easts Tigers), Doug Hewitt (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Ross Bella (Cowboys NYC), Jason Schirnack (NT)
Pizzey Park, Miami
Last Year 7th – 27 points
A 4 all draw against Ipswich and a 40-18 win v Sunshine Coast is good form leading into the season, however like the Tweed that was before the troubles with the Titans, and although it remains to be seen the impact of it all, it is likely as Tweed, so we think a drop in the standings from last year is likely too.
PLAYERS TO WATCH – KHAN AHWANG
Gains: Josh Ailaomai (Illawarra Cutters), Andrew Vela (Wests Tigers), Pele Peletelese (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Ayden Lee (Tweed Heads Seagulls)
Losses: Kyle McConnell (North Queensland Cowboys), Sam Meskell (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Dane Clarke (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Nick Harrold (Tugun), Henare Wells (knee – season), Matt Keating (retired), Matt Bell (retired)
SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES
Davies Park, West End
Last Year 10th – 24 points
Losing their link with potential NRL wooden spooners Canberra may well be a good thing with the Broncos picking up the slack, but with the Brisbane Broncos spreading out their feeder system so wide, it will be hard to imagine Souths Logan getting too much out the deal in the short term.
PLAYER TO WATCH – AJ EDWARDS
Gains: Jordan Tighe (Cairns), Scott Doyle (Canberra Raiders), Paul Rokolati (Sydney Roosters), Mitch Hallinan (CQ Capras), Anthony Noa (Goodna Eagles), James Tutuila (University of Gloucestershire, UK), Ollie Olds (Ipswich Jets), Brendan Wall (Marist Brothers), Doug Asiata (Gatton Hawks), Graham Levu (Mounties), Penetaui Kleskovic-Jones (Mounties)
Losses: Darcy Wright (retirement), Leon Panapa (injury), Ono So’oialo (Logan Brothers), Grant Cooke
SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS
Stockland Stadium, Kawana
Last Year 13th – 6 points
With a new tie up with the Melbourne Storm, 2015 should be a far better season for the Falcons. Sure, we’ve still tipped them for second last, but there will be more than the one win they achieved last year.
Not to forget that their previous tie up with Manly yielded a Queensland Cup and showcased plenty of now established NRL stars, Melbourne’s previous link ups with Easts and Norths didn’t do any harm to those clubs.
PLAYER TO WATCH – DAN MURPHY
Gains: Una Mohi (Melbourne Storm NYC), Johnny Vuetibau (Souths Logan Magpies), Cory McGrady (Toowoomba), Jordan Ryan (Easts Tigers), James Ackerman (Redcliffe Dolphins), Dan Murphy (Mackay Cutters), Billy Kitt (Melbourne Storm NYC), Billy Brittain (Melbourne Storm NYC), Jye Ballinger (Easts Tigers), Jacob Harney (Wynnum Manly), Sam Satogi.
Losses: James Leavai (Norths Devils)
Browne Park, Wandal
Last Year 13th – 6 points
Someone has to finish last every year, and unfortunately in our opinion it will be the Capras this season. The recruitment of former Rocky born Matt Minto. With pedigree of being Scott Minto’s nephew, he will surely be a welcome addition. They will remain hard to beat at home on those Saturday nights, but FNQ and SEQ look less likely.
The addition of Anthony Griffin as a coaching consultant is a surprise. After being forced out by the Broncos and overlooked for Jason Taylor of all people at the Wests Tigers, he at least shows he’s a true League man by venturing back to the Queensland Cup to rebuild his career, like so many players before him.
With talk of expansion being thought about in 2015, it will be an important year for the Central Queensland Rugby League community as they strive to get into the big time. For purely football reasons it should happen, but you know it won’t.
PLAYER TO WATCH – MATT MINTO
Gains: Matt Minto (Newcastle Knights), Javarn White (Ipswich Jets), Tarrant Mariner (Manly NSW Cup), Russell Aitken (Carcassonne), Josh Mitchell (Canberra), James Munns (Brisbane Rugby), Jarrod Earle (Brisbane Broncos NYC), Nathan Young (Melbourne Storm NYC), Todd Ryan (St George / Illawarra), Fabian Soutar (Queensland Maoris), Gerard Tema (Gladstone Brothers), Corey Milburn (Norths Chargers), Aaron Watson (Gladstone Valleys), Chris Stolk (Gladstone Brothers), Ray Ebsworth (Emerald Tigers)
Losses: Rhys Williams (London Broncos), Brent Crisp (retired), Liam Pickersgill (Brisbane Broncos NYC), Matt Mizzi (Norths Devils), Mitch Hallinan (Souths Logan Magpies), Smith Samau (Brisbane), Tom McKenzie (Newcastle), Arlin Paki (Redcliffe), Marlon Doak (Redcliffe), John Clayton (released), Theeran Pearson (Kurri Kurri Bulldogs)