QRL Gala: a night to remember
More than 300 guests gathered at the Royal International Convention Centre in Brisbane and anyone with a decent internet connection could live stream festivities into their homes. But for those who weren't able to take in the Queensland Rugby League awards night last night, here are a few of my highlights.
Young men make their mark
In all honesty, I attended a similar rugby league awards night only a few years ago and was somewhat embarrassed by how some players struggled when brought up on stage as an award winner.
Some young guys just aren't comfortable in that environment, but I'm a firm believer that it is our duty as a game to develop these boys into young men and not just as footballers.
I've had a lot of experience attending junior golf functions and have witnessed the wonderful way those kids conduct themselves; well, I'm happy to say, every player – male and female – who took to the stage on Wednesday night did themselves, their clubs and their families proud.
The youngest winners of the night, Cyril Connell Cup players of the year David Fifita (Souths Logan) and Cory Paix (Toowoomba) set a tone that was followed by Mal Meninga Cup Players of the Year Alexander Brimson (Gold Coast White) and Gerome Burns (Norths Devils). Gerome's family was sitting just behind me and the look of pride on their faces was touching.
ARL Commission chairman John Grant spoke with immense pride as to the way all the award winners had represented the game by the way they spoke. It was one of the true highlights.
Queensland's coach is a card
One moment Maroons coach Kevin Walters could be seen holding back tears as he spoke of the night as a 13-year-old he watched Arthur Beetson stride onto Lang Park as captain of Queensland; the next he had the room in stitches with a story of his Dad's mysterious shrinking garden hose out in Ipswich.
Working the audience like a seasoned comic, Walters told stories of the glory days with Alfie Langer and reflected on what it meant to lead his beloved Queensland to an Origin Series win in 2016.
Bad news Blues fans, the Maroons are in very good hands.
NRL nursery delivers yet again
At last year's awards night, the Team of the Year was dominated by graduates of the Under 20s system that had made their mark in their first season of senior football.
This year the Team of the Year saw players who have been given a second chance step up and in most cases earn another shot at the big time.
Burleigh pair Jamal Fogarty and Cameron Cullen are off to the Eels and Sea Eagles respectively in 2017, former Raider Moses Pangai will join his brother Tevita at the Broncos and Player of the Year Josh Chudleigh has earned a two-year contract extension at the Cowboys.
The Intrust Super Cup is where talented kids turn into first-graders and the class of 2016 proved that yet again.
West was not forgotten
I wrote during Country Week about the vast distances travelled by boys and girls in remote areas of Queensland to simply get a game of footy and on Wednesday night they got all the way to Brisbane via a video detailing just one of their trips.
The three-day trip itself was 600km each way and involved picking kids up from Longreach, Barcaldine, Ilfracombe and Blackall and paid tribute to the volunteers who not only drove the bus but those who provided a place to stop and food and drink for the kids along the way.
It reinforced again why trips by the Maroons to areas such as Gladstone are so enriching not just for the towns and people that they visit but for the players and coaches as well.
Opinions differ as to who will be champions
So with only six teams left to take part in the Intrust Super Cup finals series, who will be our champions in 2016?
Townsville host Easts Tigers and the Sunshine Coast Falcons travel to Papua New Guinea to tackle the Hunters in the two elimination games this weekend, Redcliffe and Burleigh waiting on the other side to face off in a grand final qualifier in Week 2.
Courier Mail Medal winner Josh Chudleigh from the Mackay Cutters knows the Townsville boys well and believes the Blackhawks will be spurred on by the disappointment of 2015 and go one better this year, while Channel Nine commentator Scott Sattler is tipping the size, speed and skill of Burleigh to triumph on grand final day on September 25.
As for Intrust Super CEO Brendan O'Farrell, he believes the top two teams all season are going to need more than 80 minutes to determine a winner.
“I reckon that the grand final will come down to Redcliffe and Burleigh, but beware the Tiger in finals football.
“Both Burleigh and Redcliffe have a strong set of forwards with some good strike power out wide.
“I think I will be all tied up at full-time with golden point to decide.
“Whoever has been spending the most time on field goals will win!”
Me? I think we're headed for a Redcliffe-Townsville decider with the Dolphins to sweep the club championship, minor premiership and Intrust Super Cup.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.