The Townsville & Districts Mendi Blackhawks have further bolstered their outside back stocks with the signing of a former Townsville player in Paul Byrnes.
Byrnes grew up in Townsville and played his junior rugby league for Townsville Brothers, before getting an opportunity with the Brisbane Broncos in 2011.
Coach Kristian Woolf said there will be some serious competition for the outside backs positions next season, with the addition of Byrnes looking to fill a regular spot at fullback or on the wing.
“Those positions will be hotly contested with the class of the players we have in the 2017 squad,” Woolf said.
“It’s exciting to have so many talented footballers ready and willing to fight for their spots for 2017. That healthy competition will ensure everyone is playing at the highest standard come March.”
Byrnes was producing outstanding performances as the custodian for the Brisbane Broncos Under 20’s in 2015, until a season ending injury required a full reconstruction of knee and shoulder.
Byrnes returned to the field late in 2016 with the Redcliffe Dolphins, just in time to secure a Brisbane Rugby League premiership as part of the team that defeated the Ipswich Jets in the 2016 Grand Final.
The twenty-one-year-old said he is looking to make himself a regular in the Blackhawks jersey, with future hopes of following the likes of Hughes and Pangai in sparking NRL interest.
“I’m just trying to work on myself and trying to get my footy to the next level,” Byrnes said.
“I back my ability to go to the next level, so I just want to make myself known as an Intrust Super Cup regular and hopefully go that one step further.”
Woolf said getting in a few games at the end of last season would have assisted Byrnes to overcome any confidence issues, believing the former QLD Under-20s State of Origin fullback is primed and ready to go.
“He comes with an excellent reputation from his time with the Broncos. He has been a little forgotten about as he spent nearly 12 months off football recovering from 2 major surgeries.” Woolf said.
“He is now ready to go having gained some confidence in the matches that he played in the BRL and he is more than ready to be back playing footy at this level.
“If he can stay healthy I have no doubt he can be an outstanding addition to our squad. He’s primarily a fullback but he has the class and experience to be versatile.”
Byrnes said it was good to be starting fresh back at home in Townsville, and he believed it was good that local players no longer had to travel away to play in the Intrust Super Cup competition.
Woolf said the club was set up to bring players like Byrnes, who was a member of the North Queensland Cowboys Academy before his move to Brisbane, back to the Townsville region.
“That’s the reason the Blackhawks exist, to give Townsville blokes an opportunity at that next level of rugby league so that they no longer have to leave to go to other places.” Woolf said.