The Redcliffe Dolphins are confident their development pathways will hold them in good stead when they kick off their title defence this Sunday at Dolphin Stadium.
After a stellar season in 2017 saw them net a rare double, the Dolphins are eager to maintain their success by performing well in this year's inaugural Hastings Deering Colts competition for Under 20 players.
The competition is aligned with the Intrust Super Cup competition and will see an increased emphasis placed upon player education and welfare.
Redcliffe won the shortened statewide version after defeating Mackay 34-12 in May before going one better with a comprehensive 56-18 victory against the Norths Devils in the FOGS Colts grand final at Suncorp Stadium.
Redcliffe coach Chris Little was confident his side could produce another quality year despite half of his squad graduating to the Intrust Super Cup and Brisbane Rugby League squads.
"It’s a completely different squad in 2018 with 50% of last year’s side graduating into the BRL and Cup, so we just have to get the new boys to gel together and get them to learn the structures of a new coach and focus on the fundamentals,” Little said.
The players know that the best of the best will be back playing within the Colts competition.
The graduation of that number of last year’s premiership team to higher grades is a true testament to the development pathways being installed at Redcliffe who also claimed the overall Club Championship.
Little said he thought this level of consistency could be attributed to the programs that had been implemented at the club.
“The last three or four years the club has put in place junior academies and we really are seeing the benefits of those with the younger players being able to see the pathway that is in front of them,” he said.
With the Hastings Deering Colts undertaking a new statewide format, Little said the increased emphasis being placed on player welfare was just one of the positives to come from the revamped competition that allows players to remain in their regional areas and continue their development off the field through work or study.
“It comes back to that increased emphasis being placed on the clubs and focusing on looking after their players and keeping them close to home,” he said.
With the folding of the National Youth Competition, Queensland rugby league is set to benefit enormously with the new competition providing a sustainable pathway for the state’s best young players to the elite level.
“There is a big buzz within our squad because with the NYC competition finishing up, the players know that the best of the best will be back playing within the Colts competition,” Little said.
When asked whether going to back-to-back was a goal for his side, the coach remained coy on his side’s goals, instead shifting the focus back to a club-centric goal of producing and developing players through their pathways system.
“My plans are to be extremely competitive week-in, week-out and it’s a longer competition for these boys on a statewide basis, so a successful season for me will be boys moving up into the BRL or Queensland (Intrust Super) Cup competition,” he said.
The Dolphins kick off their campaign on Sunday, March 11 when they host the Souths Logan Magpies at 12.15pm.