THE Easts Tigers’ pre-season path will take a different route this weekend when the FOGS Cup premiers compete in a tournament more than 1100km from home.
With the opening round of FOGS Cup fixtures still two weeks away, the Tigers have entered a team in the Longreach 7s.
“All the boys are looking forward to it,” Easts coach Scott Sipple said.
“We’ll treat it as fun but like anything, you’re playing to win. It’s a great chance for our guys to work on their fitness and do a little team bonding.”
The fast-flowing nature of a 7s tournament will be in stark contrast to the Tigers’ opening round FOGS Cup clash against Carina on March 16 at Langlands Park.
The season opener is shaping up to be an explosive encounter with Carina looking to make their mark in their first FOGS Cup appearance.
Under the new arrangement, the Easts Tigers senior squad will allocate some players to Carina throughout the season.
Sipple’s team will also feature players who have missed Intrust Super Cup selection with the Tigers’ premier side.
But such a unique situation will only breathe fire into the game, according to Sipple.
“It will probably be a big brother/little brother scenario,” said the former Tigers forward, who played 196 top grade games for Easts.
“I’m sure they’ll come out hunting us as well.”
The Easts FOGS Cup team has undergone a changing of the guard since their grand final win over the Ipswich Jets, with “seven or eight” players having moved on or retired.
Club stalwarts Kev Stephensen and Tom MacGougan are among those key losses.
Sipple was thrilled both players received a fitting “send off” following the 40-18 grand final win over the Ipswich Jets.
He has been impressed with their recent trial from, which has included encouraging performances against Burleigh and Wynnum Manly.
“I think we’ll be competitive, the dangers will be Norths and Redcliffe,” Sipple said.
“Plus Souths will be a lot stronger with Canberra players coming in and pushing four or five players back into the FOGS Cup.”
Sipple is yet to name a captain, but he expects the likes of Luke Lavelle and Geoff Holcombe to be among the leadership contenders should they miss selection in the Intrust Super Cup side.
Meanwhile, the FOGS Colts competition kicks off this weekend with four big matches.
The Ipswich Jets play Norths Devils, Wynnum Manly are at home to Tweed Heads, Toowoomba clash with the Sunshine Coast Falcons and the Burleigh Bears meet last year’s runner-up Redcliffe Dolphins.
Defending premiers Easts Tigers and Souths Logan have opening round byes.