I DON'T think the Blackhawks' accomplishment of winning the minor premiership in their debut season has received enough attention. It is a remarkable feat.
I remember in February speaking to Blackhawks' coach Kristian Woolf who like any clipboard holder was trying to play down his team's chances. However, he did let one slip through when he said that while the team was bound to have difficult gelling early in the season, the collection of Townsville-raised talent in the team meant the majority of the side has spent time playing with each other in various teams growing up.
That in-bred connection translated to early victories and their momentum surged them through the season. Blackhawks have many advantages that other Intrust Super Cup teams don't, but their achievements this year are still quite extraordinary. I maintain the only two teams who can beat them in the finals series are the Hunters and the Jets, who finished second and third.
The Blackhawks victory over Redcliffe last weekend was a perfect example of their traditional style of rugby league and why it works. Only the last two Blackhawks’ tries came from play the balls outside the opposition's 40-metre line. The Blackhawks work hard to earn field position and then rely on executing structured plays using sweeps, block runners, deception and talent to barge over the line. It is the game plan the Storm won their premierships from.
If you have a plethora of stars, which the Blackhawks do, why not use a game plan that gives them the best opportunity to utilise that, which is a fancy way of saying keep hold of the ball and earn field position.
Against Redcliffe, the Blackhawks also skipped away in the final 20 minutes, a trait of their season. They are the most patient team in the Intrust Super Cup and back their fitness to crumble the opposition eventually. Compare that to Ipswich and PNG who believe they can score from any set, anywhere on the park, and this finals series should be compelling.
HAS rugby league in Townsville ever been stronger? The Cowboys will finish third this season, the Blackhawks won the Intrust Super Cup minor premiership, the Townsville Stingers won the Mal Meninga and Cyril Connell Cup state competitions this year and Kirwan are through the GIO Schoolboy Cup national final.
Right now, the best teenage rugby league talent is based in Townsville; a pretty amazing feat for a small town.
IN Intrust Super Cup signing news, Jets players Kurt Capewell and Josh Cleeland are highly sought after by NRL clubs and will earn contracts in the next six weeks. Capewell has several NRL clubs in Sydney after him as his lanky frame and utility value will be highly useful under the reduced interchange.
There is also major interest in Easts prop Francis Tualau and Redcliffe centre Aaron Whitchurch. A Sydney NRL club is keen on signing both, who are not getting a look in at Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos respectively.
Also, Neville Costigan will be back in the NRL next year. Costigan was only allowed to break his Super League contract to return to Australia if he didn't play in the NRL. That contract ends this year and he is free to resume life as a fully professional player.