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TRL Season Preview

Toowoomba Rugby League QRL Correspondent, Andrew O'Brien previews the 2018 TRL season ahead of Round 1 this weekend.


Dalby Diehards

What a year the Diehards had last year in all grades.

They really got their act together last season, especially off the field and gave all grades a sniff, whereas in previous years, they could have been of excused of stage fright.

They are a professional outlet now in all aspects and are good medicine for their community.

I’m impressed with their coaching set up as last year’s assistant coach Derek Brady slips nicely into the top job and I’m excited with his demeanour and he will still have Craig Firmer and Kerry Carmichael to call on.

It’s going to be interesting, as they will be a formidable force again this year, but their opposition are better. They have also lost their leader and a little bit of speed.

The Taylors (Dylan and Mitchell) have potential to be premiership-winning halves, but still need to nail their kicking game.

Dylan Taylor is racing against the clock to be fit for this week’s opening encounter, but he may be out for up to four weeks.

Given they started so well last year, Taylor’s loss may affect a similar start.

The likes of Steve Franciscus, Jason Wardrop and Danny Wassell will still give Dalby plenty of experience and they will still be one of the favourites again.

Gains: Kruse Turner (rugby union)

Losses: Corey Blades (undecided), Brent Hunt (retired), Daniel Harms (retired), Eli Wickham (rugby union), Colin Green (retired)

Likely Squad: Steve Franciscus, Shaun Wickham, Zac Morris, Kruse Turner, Alex Ambia, Mitchell Taylor, Dylan Taylor, Chris Wilkes, Danny Wassell, Xavier Manley, Tom Boland, Dan Manley, Jason Wardrop, Travis Pickering, Jed Bryers, Michael Krause, Travis Babington

Go-to Player: Steve Franciscus

Player to Watch: Kruse Turner

Obee’s Prediction: 3rd

Will Dalby go back-to-back in 2018?
Will Dalby go back-to-back in 2018?

Gatton Hawks

The Hawks have invested well this season with Luke Nolan (Souths) joining the club as well LJ Williams (Past Brothers Bundaberg) and Gerard Tema (Stafford Brothers).

They also have a new coach in Shaun Hobson (Gladstone Valleys) who brings finals experience and a fresh approach to the club.

It’s it difficult to predict where the Hawks will finish.

They will have a better side, but the rest of the competition have also recruited well.

It’s the unknown combinations which makes it hard to measure their success.

A fit Denis Burgoyne is a real key to their success, plus minimising their visits to the judiciary as their on-field discipline cost them last year.

They also need a safer defensive line.

Gatton are rarely out of finals contention and just missed out last year, mainly due to injury.

A new halves-pairing with an even stronger, fearsome pack may just be the medicine to rebound the Hawks into finals contention this season.

The jury is still out however until we see them perform in the first few rounds.

Gains: Gerard Tema (Stafford Brothers), Luke Nolan (Souths) Phil Waters (Souths), LJ Williams (Past Brothers Bundaberg), Daniel Jennings (Brothers) Austin Jennings (Brothers), Denzel King (Ipswich Jets), James Blake (Ipswich Jets)

Losses: Corey Mullins (Oakey)

Likely Squad: Billy Jackwitz, Alex Groves, Daniel Jennings, Tua Fitzgerald, Austin Jennings, LJ Williams, Luke Nolan, Dennis Burgoyne, Daniel Marsh, Gerard Tema, Michael Frohloff, Scott Cubit, Dom Haak, Nash Hawthorn, Denzel King, Allan Morris, Mark Swan, James Blake, Jack Pender

Go-to Player: Dennis Burgoyne

Player to Watch: Scott Cubit

Obee’s Prediction: 7th

A fit Denis Burgoyne will be a real key to Gatton's success in 2018. PHOTO: Ann Bichel (The Chronicle)
A fit Denis Burgoyne will be a real key to Gatton's success in 2018. PHOTO: Ann Bichel (The Chronicle)

Goondiwindi Boars

I’ll put my neck out and say the Boars’ signing of Souths’ Tyrell McCullough will be the buy of the season and should help Goondiwindi improve this year.

They have Will Carter (Redcliffe Under 20s) returning home and on the back of a job transfer, Joel Currie (Valleys Brisbane) saddles up for them.

The three new recruits solve the halves and hooker positions, but the Boars need to get down and dirty this year and play to their potential.

Stewart Lowe and Ronnie David are the key and if they can influence the rest of their pack and play better themselves, then Gundy will be on the right track.

Their young players like Carl Clement and Josh Sullivan will perform better after their debut seasons last year.

All signs are positive for the Boars in 2018.

Gains: Will Carter (Redcliffe U20s), Joel Currie (Valleys Brisbane), Tyrell McCullough (Souths), Matt Gardner (England), Andrew Hoggard (Griffith Uni), Natane Masima (Parramatta U20s) Brandon McGrady (McIntyre Warriors)

Losses: Callum Skinner (rugby union), John Goodfellow (Capras Under 20s)

Likely Squad: Will Carter, Andrew Carlie, Braydon McGrady, Matt Gardner, Josh Sullivan, Natene Masima, Joel Currie, Ronnie David, Tyrell McCullough, Stuart Lowe, Carl Clement, Thomas Fitzgerald, Tom Halford, Niall Dunnington-Wallace, Levi Wilson, Andy Hoggart, Matt Galvin

Go-to Player: Tyrell McCullough

Player to Watch: Matt Gardner

Obee’s Prediction: 8th

Will Carter is back for the Boars after his stint with the Redcliffe Under 20s.
Will Carter is back for the Boars after his stint with the Redcliffe Under 20s.

Highfields Eagles

The Eagles were the last club to start training for the upcoming season.

Their players are naturally fit and a late start to training has never bothered them.

Sean Loxley joins his brother Zack at the club whereas last year’s captain Jayden Motley is having a season off.

Sadly, it was the same old story in last year’s finals series.

They lacked huge forwards to dominate and have hopefully fixed this problem with the addition of players like Brandon George (Easts Brisbane).

Plus, Danny Dean is back for the whole season.

Of all the TRL teams, the Eagles can compete, and their wrestle is second to none in the competition.

They are well coached.

Jaydon Motley is a huge, loss but expect nothing but sheer determination from Highfields this season.

They need to get over their finals failures, but injuries seem to always determine their fate.

Irrespective, they are such a strong outfit and the jury will be out until they’re finals bound.

They were early favourites this time last year, but with Motley and Wayne-John Weribone not pulling on the boots this season, they may only be the sentimental favourites.

Gains: Sean Loxley (hiatus), Brandon George (Easts Brisbane), Dale Madden (Melbourne U20s) Sam Bielefeld (hiatus), Cam Stewart (hiatus)

Losses: Jaydon Motley (hiatus), Keith McKenzie (Pittsworth), Wayne-John Weribone (injured), Cameron Sweedman (injured), Josh Birch (injured)

Likely Squad: Sean Loxley, Blake Appo, Brayden Mitchell, Sean Hamel, Cam Stewart, Aaron Hooper, Zack Loxley, Jarred Lee, Nick Bainbridge, Brandon George, Jack George, Danny Dean, Josh Everett, Tom Hine, Isaac Laird, Damien McIntosh, Nathan Smith, Zane Miller, Connor Nolan, Dale Madden, Sam Bielefeld, Tom Ingersole,

Go-to Player: Nick Bainbridge

Player to Watch: Josh Everett

Obee’s Prediction: 6th

Sean Loxley joins his brother Zack at Highfields in 2018.
Sean Loxley joins his brother Zack at Highfields in 2018.

Oakey Bears

After a rebuilding year last season, Oakey have a new coach in the experienced Tom Friend.

Last year’s coach Brendan Dolan is taking over the Under 18 side whilst Dave Adamson will take on the Reserves.

Major signing Mark Tookey will give the club and its supporters a much-needed boost.

Tookey has remained fit post his NRL career and my sources tell me he will not let the side down.

Experienced hooker Aaron Marsh has come in from Quilpie and after a season off, young Gatton Hawk Corey Mullins joins his uncle’s club.

The Bears have also recruited Valleys’ Emanuel Cerei, Dylan Adamson and Dylan Haaijer who should all be excellent gain and will provide the experience they need.

The trick for Oakey will be discipline on the training paddock as well as on the field.

A good measuring stick will be their first-round clash against Brothers - can the Bears faithful carry them to higher levels?

After a good feeling last year which saw the club saved, anything is possible.

I’m expecting an improved effort, but their fringe players will need to step up.

Their Emus representatives were all very good in the All Stars match, but let’s see if they can keep that form week-in, week-out.

Whilst I believe they will win more than last year, their fitness will let them down given they were one of the first clubs to start training last year.

Gains: Mark Tookey (retirement), Corey Mullins (Gatton), Aaron Marsh (Quilpie), Dylan Adamson (Valleys), Emanuel Cerei (Valleys), Dylan Haaijer (Valleys), Anthony Andrew (Valleys), Dave Simmons (NSW Country), Linton Langton (Brothers) Eddie Dean (rugby union) Luke Penrose (Ipswich Swifts)

Losses: Nil

Likely Squad: Dylan Adamson, Jake Edwards, Josh Stanton, Josh Robinson, Jordan Boney, Dave Simmons, Emanuel Cerei, Jeremy Long, Aaron Marsh, Corey Mullins, Lachlan Berlin, Aaron Cherry, Dylan Haaijer, Mark Tookey, Lindon Langton, Aaron Blades, Luke Penrose, Eddie Dean, Anthony Andrew

Go-to Player: Aaron Cherry

Player to Watch: Emanuel Cerei

Obee’s Prediction: 9th

Former NRL prop Mark Tookey joins the Bears in 2018.
Former NRL prop Mark Tookey joins the Bears in 2018.

Pittsworth Danes

It was such a disappointment for them last year going down in the grand final, but getting to the big dance the long way didn’t suit them.

Their unfinished business will hopefully fuel their upcoming season.

They have been the unsung heroes of the competition these last few years and have an amazing following.

They keep almost all their players from last season with some wonderful juniors coming through.

I don’t think they need to add any feathers to their cap as they are such a strong outfit.

Injuries to key players did affect them last season and it also will affect them this season, but I have big wraps on Kurtis Shayler and his inclusion in this side is such a bonus.

Cam Miller returns after a lengthy injury.

Brody Manktelow came of age late last season and Daniel York and James Dempsey are quality players.

The nucleus of this team has been together for some time now and they still have a strong mix of youth and experience.

Coach Ian Brackstone has indicated this will be his last season at the helm, so that will see an added incentive for the Danes to send him out a winner.

Gains: Kurtis Shayler (Cronulla Sharks), Keith McKenzie (Highfields), Todd White (Western Mustangs)

Losses: Braydon Gibbs (Tully Tigers), Liam Jocumsen (injured), Alex Sinclair (injured) Thomas O’Sullivan (injured), James Quinn (injured)

Likely Squad: Jacob Little, Kurtis Shayler, Les Kofe, Tim Phipps, James Dempsey, Brady Manktelow, Patrick McDonald, Cameron Miller, Brad Brosnan, Daniel York, Nick Schnitzerling, Alex Kahler, Daniel Pirie-Thomas, Matthew Reynolds, Conor Derksen

Go-to Player: James Dempsey

Player to Watch: Kurtis Shayler

Obee’s Prediction: 2nd

Can Ian Brackstone lead the Danes to another premiership in his final year at the helm?
Can Ian Brackstone lead the Danes to another premiership in his final year at the helm?

Southern Suburbs Tigers

The big off-season story for the Tigers was the loss of their captain / coach Daniel Holmes and Luke Nolan (Gatton Hawks), but still, they were very impressive last season and remember that Holmes did not play a lot in the latter part.

Luckily, they have dodged a bullet with the recruitment of new coach Leo Dynevor. He brings plenty of NRL and coaching qualities to the club and his credentials cannot be questioned.  

The “X Factor” is still Dwayne Duncan and Souths will be relishing a full season of Duncan in the halves.

Their forward pack were excellent in that purple patch last season and remember Sam and Tevita Cocker?

Those two boys plus Jacob Whittaker and Junior Chung Nee will again be a force, especially if the Cocker boys and Chung Nee return during the season.

It will be a slow start, but it’s a funny game this sport they call rugby league.

So, don’t write off the wounded Tigers in 2018.

Gains: Robert Williams (Gold Coast), Nathan Murphy (rugby union), Fasi Simati (dual registered Western Mustangs)

Losses: Luke Nolan (Gatton), Tyrell McCullough (Goondiwindi), Jack Henningson (Highfields), Curtley Hammond (Highfields)

Likely Squad: Kyle Athorn, Willie Duncan, Dwayne Duncan, Jacob Whittaker, Jordan Dimmack, Sam Cocker, Dylan Court, Mitch Riley, Nathan Murphy, Micheal Saunders, Bryce Timm, Jack Gill-Martin. Damien Mills, Tim Mills, Tevita Cocker, Robert Williams. Jerome Waters. Koro Stevenson, Zach Thornley Fasi Simati, Junior Chong Nee.

Go to Player: Dwayne Duncan

Player to Watch: Willie Duncan

Obee’s Prediction: 10th

Dwayne Duncan will still provide the 'X Factor' for Souths this season. PHOTO: Nev Madsen (The Chronicle)
Dwayne Duncan will still provide the 'X Factor' for Souths this season. PHOTO: Nev Madsen (The Chronicle)

Toowoomba Brothers Leprechauns

An argument could be tabled that Brothers are in the same boat as Souths.

I can tell you they are struggling big time for quality players and numbers.

There are a number of players at other clubs who won’t get the opportunity to shine this season, so Brothers are the team to join.

Their loyal players like Mitch Betros and Ricky Davies are to be congratulated.

Gains: Nil

Losses: Daniel Jennings (Gatton), Austin Jennings (Gatton)

Likely Squad: Kyle Wagner, Braden Kerr, Alex McErlean, Ethan Hearn, Jaren Bender, Angus Ramsay, Blake Fletcher, Sam Betros, Mitchell Betros, Sam Betros, Ricky Davies, Kyle Walker, Jack Head, Travis Hill, Jamie Wann, Nick Mahon, Colin Issacs.

Go-to Player: Ricky Davies

Player to Watch: Sam Betros

Obee’s Prediction: 11th

Ricky Davies (right) will be the man Brothers go-to this season.
Ricky Davies (right) will be the man Brothers go-to this season.

Toowoomba Valleys Roosters

The Roosters will be eager to continue their roll after last season.

Coach Brett Seymour continues to influence momentum in the red and black camp.

They recruited very well especially Corey McGrady who was my man of the match for the Emus in the TRL All Stars game.

McGrady is a great replacement for Seymour who has officially retired.

Following Seymour’s decision not to pull the boots on this season, they received another setback when Ryan Stevens tore his ACL against the Valleys Diehards in a season-ending injury.

Hugh Sedger (Ipswich Jets) is a great buy for them and adds much-needed experience in the pack.

Hnaloan Budden looks to have returned from training at Intrust Super Cup level over the off-season and will be a big plus for them.

This team is one year wiser after a watershed year.

A huge loss is both their halves (Seymour and Ryan Stevens), especially when the combination was working well the previous year.

I’m worried with the how the new halves pairing and new centres will go, but the culture in the team should see them through with McGrady the ‘X-Factor’.

Gains: Corey McGrady (Moree Boars), Hugh Sedger (Ipswich Jets), Jason Sharpe (rugby union), Jazz Namana (Western Mustangs), Todd McGrady (Group 19 NSW), Roger Bartolomeu (Group 19 NSW)

Losses: Oliver Scott (retired), Emanuel Cerei (Oakey), Dylan Haaijer (Oakey), Tony Andrews (Oakey), Dylan Adamson (Oakey), Reggie Munn (suspended), Ryan Stevens (injured)

Likely Squad: Dylan Chown, Aaron Sillitoe, Liam Capewell, Roger Bartolomeu, Robert Trott, Corey McGrady, Steven Rodgers, Nathan Bowering, Jason Sharpe, Hugh Sedger, Hnaloan Budden, Nicholas Sargent, Luke Menhinnitt Josh Rose, Marc McGrady, Matt Hawkins

Go-to Player: Hnaloan Budden

Player to Watch: Corey McGrady

Obee’s Prediction: 5th

Despite hanging up the boots this year, former NRL halfback Brett Seymour will still be the man in charge of delivering Valleys a premiership.
Despite hanging up the boots this year, former NRL halfback Brett Seymour will still be the man in charge of delivering Valleys a premiership.

Warwick Cowboys

The Cowboys’ new additions are the early talk in the comp.

Recruits Dan Murphy, Ben and Harry Sullivan and a very experienced coach in Phil Economidis has seen plenty of conversations had about the new blood.

Economidis is a former NRL coach of the year, and with that experience and their new signings, they will be a force.

The only question mark I have is their forward pack … but they have good juniors coming through in the Cohen-Brown brothers, so, let’s see what happens,

Irrespective, they enter this season full of confidence and will certainly be disappointed if they don’t make the finals.

They were disappointing last year, but their wonderful Under 18 program is really starting to come to fruition.

Young Mitch Watson and Kai Etherington join the top grade and I am really looking forward to watching them flourish this season.

Prop Garry Ellery returns as does Jamie Abbas and Jared Bradfield, but the “X-Factor” for me is Phil Economidis.

Gains: Ben Sullivan (Canada), Garry Ellery (retired), Dan Murphy (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Jamie Abbas (Wattles), Jared Bradfield (Wattles)

Losses: Nil  

Likely Squad: Mitch Watson, Declan McLachlan, Joe Fuimaono, Dylan Galloway, Kai Etherington, Dan Murphy, Paul Cantwell, Garry Ellery, Ben Sullivan, Darren Pettiford, Jared Bradfield, Josh Cruise, Mick Bloomfield Harry Sullivan, Dan Watson, Jordan Hogden, Josh O’Brien, Craig Donn, Cohen Martin-Brown

Go-to Player: Mick Bloomfield

Player to Watch: Mitch Watson

Obee’s Prediction: 3rd

New Warwick coach Phil Economidis brings years of coaching experience to the club. PHOTO: Gerard Walsh (Warwick Daily News)
New Warwick coach Phil Economidis brings years of coaching experience to the club. PHOTO: Gerard Walsh (Warwick Daily News)

Wattles Warriors

On paper last year, Wattles were the team to beat, but they froze at the alter.

They certainly have some unfinished business after last season’s injury-hit effort.

Michael Pearson was good last year and played well in the All Stars.

He is a perfect partner for Dale Perkins. Ty Gardner just oozes of talent and is a clever player, while Travis Burns brings plenty to the club and their pack will hopefully go injury free,

A Burns and Matt Duggan halves combination is envied and new signings, Jack Hargraves and Nathan Gaulton from the Intrust Super Cup may just be the tonic to lift the prestigious trophy this year.

Gains: Travis Burns (Wynnum-Manly Seagulls) Jake Hargraves (Wynnum-Manly Seagulls) Nathan Gaulton (Ipswich Jets) Nick Van der Poel (Townsville Blackhawks U20s), Wade Austin (Western Mustangs), Will O’Grady (Western Mustangs), Jesse Miles (Ipswich Jets), Mitch Koina (Ipswich Jets)

Losses: Jamie Abbas (Warwick), Jared Bradfield (Warwick), Brenden Wilson (retired)

Likely Squad: Jackson Green, Braydon Wilson, Jake Hargraves, Nathan Gaulton, Nick Van der Poole, Travis Burns, Matt Duggan, Mick Pearson, Liam Ross, Dale Perkins, Ty Gardner, Mitch Konia Ryan Duggan. Dylan Wilson, Wade Austin, Will O’Grady Harry Fullwood, Jordan Henry, Jesse Miles, Brodie Frizzell

Go-to Player: Matt Duggan

Player to Watch: Jake Hargraves

Obee’s Prediction: 1st

Former ISC and NRL player Travis Burns' signing is a major coup for Wattles.
Former ISC and NRL player Travis Burns' signing is a major coup for Wattles.