An historic weekend for Darling Downs football awaits as new entity Western Mustangs prepare for their first competitive fixtures on Saturday afternoon.
The Mustangs have taken over the Toowoomba Clydesdales identity and will incorporate areas across South-West Queensland with sides in the Mal Meninga Cup and FOGS Under 20s Cup in 2017.
Following a first-round bye, Under 20s coach Dean Bosnich said the players were itching to take the pitch and begin a new era out west.
“It’s been an exciting pre-season and I think the players are just keen to get out and play. It was difficult having a bye last weekend because everyone was ready to go,” Bosnich said.
The re-branding has generated strong interest in the region, with huge numbers turning out for trials with the club late last year.
With their Under 20s side taking their place in the inaugural FOGS U20s Cup statewide competition this season, and a newly formed affiliation with NRL club Gold Coast Titans; there is now a genuine pathway for aspiring professional footballers in the western region.
“Having the visible link now is massive for all the kids in the region,” Bosnich said.
“In our line-ups there will be a good spread of players from across south-east Queensland with kids from Roma, the South Burnett district and players from towns such as Tenterfield and Goondiwindi.
“It’s great to be able to give a pathway to all those towns that had previously not been connected to anything.”
The Mustangs open their campaign away to first-round winners Mackay Cutters at BB Print Stadium with both the Mustangs’ Under 18s and Under 20s side given an early chance to test themselves against the best from North Queensland.
“For a lot of the guys it’s a new thing and it’s exciting for them to be able to take on teams from outside southern Queensland,” Bosnich said.
“We’re prepared well and it’s a big weekend for the club and we would really like to kick-off the season with two good results.
“We know it’ll be a tough, physical game in testing conditions, but we won’t use the travel as an excuse. We’re expecting to go up there and perform.”
In other FOGS Under 20s matches coming up this weekend, CQ Capras and Victoria also begin their campaigns with tough challenges, lining up against big first round-winners Redcliffe and Tweed Heads respectively.
Last weekend, Townsville Blackhawks and Norths Devils played out an enthralling 22-22 draw in Round 1 and both sides face away trips this weekend.
The Blackhawks will play the Jets in Ipswich, while the Devils clash with a Burleigh side who are in search of their first victory following a 52-point defeat to the Dolphins in the opening round.
Wynnum Manly will look to build on their opening round victory over Souths Logan when they host Northern Pride, while the Magpies take their first away trip for the season to face the Falcons on the Sunshine Coast.