Mustangs chase more success in Mal Meninga Cup

Defending Mal Meninga Cup champions Western Mustangs are hopeful the return of 11 premiership players from the victorious 2017 side will help them in their quest to go back-to-back this year.

This weekend will mark the kick off for the competition which will see the state’s best Under 18 talents compete across a 10-week period.

With the inclusion of the Victorian Thunderbolts, 15 teams will be contesting this year’s competition with the aim of reaching the grand final on the weekend of May 5-6.

Mustangs coach Brendan Wilson praised the efforts of his troops throughout the pre-season which saw more than 50 players attend training since November.

“We have had a strong pre-season … and the squad is still strong with 11 players returning from last year’s grand final winning team,” Wilson said.

Most teams would have 30 to 40 players training throughout the preseason, but the sheer size of the Mustangs catchment area saw 96 players turn up for their open trial, resulting in a large squad due to the quality of players who trialled.

Their vast catchment pushed Wilson and his staff to implement ‘training cells’ in various regions to reduce the burden of travel on families and players.

“We’ve set up training cells out at Burnett, Chinchilla and Roma so they can train out there once or twice a week and then they can come in when they can,” he said.

In general, the Mal Meninga Cup and Hastings Deering Colts competitions are crucial pathways for players who want to take part in an elite state-wide competition; and in the in the Darling Downs region – the relationship that has been brokered between the Gold Coast Titans and the Western Mustangs is delivering another pathway for emerging players as well.

Wilson said the partnership was crucial to developing local kids and it has been key to generating excitement amongst the community.

“We have 12 local kids in the development program with the Titans where they travel down every two weeks to the Gold Coast and then every alternating fortnight the Titans staff travel up here so its generated a lot of excitement amongst the community,” Wilson said.

Wilson identified Jake Simpkins, Luke Maiden and Benji Neliman as key players to watch for the Mustangs this season and believed his squad had the ability to offset the loss of their spine from last season in their quest to repeat their success.

“We lost our representative halves from last year and our fullback too, so we’ve got to revamp there, but I would be happy for them to play consistent footy and compete week to week, but we just need to take the small steps first,” he said.

The Western Mustangs will kick off their season when they travel to Victoria to face the Thunderbolts on Saturday, March 10 at Casey Fields, Cranbourne.

>>> See the full Mal Meninga Cup draw here

Mal Meninga Cup Round 1 Teams

Souths Logan Magpies: 1. Fantesi Niu 2. Leevai Sutton 3. Ezraa Coulston 4. Ioane Seiuli 5. Fe'ao Maka 6. Paul Karaitiana 7. Tyler Han 8. Lance Bagon 9. Jett Trembath 10. Emosi Tuqiri 11. Cruise Ten 12. David Fifita 13. Josiah Taofinu'u 14. George Lee 15. Santana Whakatau 16. Daniel Allan 17. Matthias Smalley 18. Creedence Toia

Easts Tigers: 1. Jumon Siulai (Vc) 2. Exodus Semau 3. Ben Bucknell 4. Sebastian Winters Chang 5. Andrew Jackson 6. Eli Daunt 7. Hayden Ryan 8. Mitchell Zohn (C) 9. Connor Murray 10. Joseph Gilmour 11. Joshua Radford 12. Onosai (Kosi) Auina 13. Stanley Jackson 14. Curtis Freeleagus 15. Kali Kahli 16. Brandon Frescon 17. Izaac Skyring 18. Jac Gough 

Tweed Heads Seagulls: 1. Glenn Mcgrady 2.  Indiha Saotui-Huta 3. Noah Gafa 4. Xavier Coates 5. Kiu Nuku 6.  Toby Sexton 7. Tom Dearden 8.  Ji Van Heerwarden 9. Cole Geyer 10. Laz Su’a 11. Juwan Compain 12. Blake Campbell 13. Carsil Vaikai 14. Jaylan To’o 15. Solomon Torrens 16. Goor Chapari 17. David Butler 18. Codey Mclaughlin 19. Caleb Hodges

Mackay Cutters: 1. Rayden Burns 2. Taine Browne 3. Ethan Walsh 4. Blake Paskins 5. Mitch Ell O'connell 6. Michael Bell 7. Luke Fletcher 8. Garrett Smith 9. Sean Dalton 10. Declan Laird 11. Thomas Irelandes 12. Aiden Beard 13. Henry Head 14. Jack Hoffman 15. Nick Williams 16. Brodie Little 17. Phoenix Heke 18. Ethan Borg

Sunshine Coast Falcons: 1. Blake Wilson 2. Cameron Hanson 3. Jaylen Nom 4. Dylan Carolan 5. Hunter Brough 6. John Mclaughlin (C) 7. Nicholas Ellems 8. Aaron Nelson 9. Kane Jackson 10. Kaleb Sutton 11. Trent Loiero 12. Ryan Sauer 13. Samuel Wilmot 14. Justin Makirere 15. Riley Price 16. Keaton Walkington-Mead 17. Jai Smoothy 18. Jayden Zanchetta 19. Harry Wright 20. Joseph Lowe 21. Harvey Lew 22. Tristyn Horn 23. James Stanley

Western Mustangs: 1. Alex Dunnemann 2. Chris Chalmers 3. Sam Stanford 4. Benji Neliman 5. Richard Murray 6. Jordan Lipp 7. Jai Cooke 8. Jordan Crocker 9. Jake Simpkins 10. Cruise Martin-Brown 11. Kyle Peterson 12. Leslie Hartvigsen 13. Luke Maiden 14. Tate Mccormack 15. Cody Byrne 16. Connor Williams 17. Lokee Brooks 18. Brendan Clarke

Northern Pride: 1. Hamiso Tabuai 2. Myron Ahwang 3. Alastair Moloney 4. Billy Flynn 5. William Messa 6. Chris Holten 7. Bailey Bondi-Odo (C) 8. Tom Mcgrath 9. Adam Hepworth 10. Usaia Fonongaloa 11. Heilum Luki 12. Jonah Rameka 13. Tyrin Ona-Murphy 15. Levi Lilley 16. Nathan Phillips 17. Colt Salmond 18. Phillip Musumeci 

Norths Devils: 1. Daejarn Asi 2. Lachlan Tenison-Woods 3. Jack Paterson 4. Brock Diment 5. Fruean Easthope 6. Cory Paix (C) 7. Joshua James 8. Ethan Bullemor 9. Zakaria Mcguire 10. Tristan Powell 11. Jordan Riki 12. Nesta Watene 13. Lachlan Lewis 14. Ethan Le Blanc 15. Tevita Ofahengaue 16. Sosefo Filipine 17. Zach Brooks

Wynnum Manly Seagulls: 1. Braden Whittaker 2. Tye Watkins 3. Chris Humphris 4. William Armstrong 5. Peter Lamin 6. Karwin Fuller 7. Reece Hoffman 8. Augustine Stowers 9. Harrison Graham 10. Keanu Ratumaitavuki-Aiolupo 11. Tyrees Wilson 12. Kodi Shallali 13. Ethan Ticehurst 14. Jake Rogers 15. Joel Norris 16. Jamie Te-Amo 17. Lochlan Kellam 

Redcliffe Dolphins: 1. Dylan Briggs 2. Steven Mcintosh 3. Marcus Hope 4. Isaiah Lealiiee 5. Alex Kriel 6. Tahj Wood 7. Hudson Jones 8. William Greensill 9. Danny Heenan 10. Kaleb Radford 11. Tukupa Hau Tapuha 12. Jacob Conlan 13. Logan Cox 14. Tye Cooper 15. Manfred Baboa 16. Harrison Ritter 17. Zack Sullivan 18. Chae Houghton-Rameka

Townsville Blackhawks: 1. Zin Zan Martin 2. Kayleb Vosselor 3. Ty Evernett 4. Issac Locke 5. Dylan Bayliss-Brow 6. Adam Cook 7. Curtis Dempsey 8. Quinlan Kelly 9. Mitchell Fogarty 10. Kieran Moran 11. Thomas Gilbert 12. Ben Condon 13. Hamilton Taia 14. Joey Jensen 15. Bohdi Kersh 16. Jacson Lott 17. Dane Thompson 22. Malachai Retchford

CQ Capras: 1. Jackson Mangion 2. Jeremiah Naawi 3. Harrison Mcindoe 4. Matt Baker 5. Gabriel Hamson 6. Liam Grant 7. Corben Ingram 8. Declan Malia 9. Riley Shadlow 10. Cameron Fitzsimmons 11. Chayse Cavanagh 12. Jesse Hammond 13. Lachlan Hubner 14. Ben Farr 15. Sam Lohse 16. Jared Veit 17. Riley Comiskey 18. Darcy Hancock 19. Ronan McGuire

Victoria Thuderbolts: 1. Pio Nakubuwai 2. Fua Schwalger 3. Sale Finau 4. Jacob Cordtz 5. Junior Ratuva 6. Troy Hanita-Paki 7. Cooper Johns 8. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 9. Trent Toelau 10. Jordin Leiu 11. Kayleb Milne 12. Matt Stimson (C) 13. Kelma Tuilagi 14. Vinnie Tikeri 15. Derek Maota 16. Nick Hay 17. Jared Faale 20. Nic Flocas 

Burleigh Bears: 1. Rhian Stowers 2. Alofiana Khan-Pereira 3. Braden Amunsden 4. Ronin Kapi 5. Jayden Campbell 6. Tyler Mahon 7. Zane Harris 8. Reno Gerrard 9. Zac Mccormack (C) 10. Daniel Shannon 11. Tyrone Tofoeano 12. Eli Morgan 13. Jayden Sveistrup 14. Ronan Rio 15. Ryan Garner 16. Jayden Sharp 17. Zane Prophet 18. Larryon Tevita 19. Oliver Singh