The Intrust Super Cup’s significant growth will continue next season with the Queensland Rugby League today announcing the inclusion of the Townsville Blackhawks in the 2015 competition.
Expansion into Townsville comes on the back of the success of the Papua New Guinea Hunters, who left an indelible mark on the Intrust Super Cup in their debut season.
Queensland Rugby League Chairman Peter Betros officially informed more than 300 guests of the Blackhawks’ entry at tonight’s annual QRL Gala Dinner at Brisbane City Hall.
The marquee competition’s 14th team are set to play their home games out of Jack Manski Oval in Townsville. The new club will have the backing of the North Queensland Cowboys, who will importantly maintain their affiliation with the Northern Pride and Mackay Cutters.
Townsville’s participation will reignite one of North Queensland’s great rivalries with discussions already underway about the possible return of the Foley Shield.
Gavin Lyons, Chairman of the successful bid team’s steering committee, said such a concept had the potential to generate further interest in the game.
The Blackhawks will now focus on laying the foundations of their club, with a number of imminent announcements, including sponsorship and staff appointments, on their radar.
“This is a great opportunity for the kids coming through,” Lyons said.
“We’ve been pushing this for a couple of years now and the rugby league players in town are excited about the opportunities it will present.”
Jamie O’Connor, QRL General Manager of Major Competitions, echoed those sentiments.
“We’ve identified for some time the need to have an Intrust Super Cup club in Townsville,” O’Connor said.
“It is the largest region outside of South East Queensland and is a market that we want a significant foothold in.
“As it stands, a gap in the player pathway exists in Townsville for players over the age of 20.
“The Blackhawks provide a great opportunity for these players to continue their development through Intrust Super Cup and hopefully onto NRL and the XXXX Queensland Maroons.”
Townsville’s entry comes after the NRL approved recent applications for increased funding, the final condition of the fledgling club’s participation.
“Potential for expansion in second tier footy was recognised in the NRL’s Elite Pathways review and Townsville was already an area identified by us,” O’Connor said.
“This is another step towards a genuine statewide competition and we look forward to their entry in 2015.
“There is now some work to be done with the existing clubs in regards to scheduling for the new season.”