The Townsville Blackhawks surged to the top of the table on the back of a strong defensive display in their Hastings Deering Colts match where they edged out the Falcons 20-8 at Sunshine Coast Stadium last Saturday.
This weekend, they will be looking to maintain their dominance when they host the Norths Devils; while the Sunshine Coast will aim to rebound from their loss when they host Ipswich.
Redcliffe will be out to make it back-to-back wins when they take on Mackay at 1300SMILES Stadium and Central Queensland will host the Northern Pride at McIndoe Park.
On Sunday, Souths Logan will travel to Toowoomba to meet the Mustangs, Tweed will host the Easts Tigers at Piggabeen and Burleigh will head interstate to take on the Thunderbolts.
Last weekend, the visiting Blackhawks opened the scoring with a penalty goal to Adam Cook in the 22nd minute, before centre Lachlan La Rosa scored the first of his two tries with a slicing run down the flank to extend the visitors lead to 8-0.
With the game locked in an arm wrestle, Sunshine Coast looked to the bench for inspiration and replacement Wyatt Reynolds delivered for the hosts when he crossed in the 32nd minute to close the gap to only two points at the break.
Leading 8-6 at halftime, Townsville were first to score through speedster Marshall Hudson in the 41st minute, before another Adam Cook penalty goal extended the lead further for the visitors.
La Rosa sealed the game with his second try of the day two minutes from fulltime to cap a gritty team effort that saw the Blackhawks go to the head of the ladder.
After opening the season scoring by scoring 84 points in their first two games; Townsville has been forced to rely on their defence in the past month of football due to a poor completion rate that has seen them fail to surpass 70 percent all season.
Where legends are born
Whilst their completion rate has been less than ideal, coach David Tangata-Toa said the time spent focusing on their defence throughout the pre-season was now paying dividends.
“We put a lot of emphasis on our defence and that’s probably the most pleasing part over the first six rounds … and the guys are working really hard and taking some real pride in their try line,” he said.
Tangata-Toa has developed an impressive coaching resume since completing his professional playing career with Hull KR and the Celtic Crusaders in England, including spending the past six seasons with the Penrith Panthers. He is also an assistant for the Tongan national team.
But with the National Youth Competition being wound up last year; the lure of being reunited with Tongan head coach Kristian Woolf, coupled with the coaching development opportunities that stem from being aligned with the North Queensland Cowboys saw him head north to Townsville.
“It’s been quite refreshing after being in Penrith to come up to Townsville to be a part of the QRL system,” he said.
"We are pretty lucky to have the Cowboys just across the road; so being able to sit in on a couple of sessions in the preseason was really beneficial for me as a coach.”
With the Hastings Deering Colts providing a pathway for both players and coaches, Tangata-Toa has seen firsthand the benefit of the competition restructure which has seen regional rugby league heartlands such as Townsville provide late bloomers with a pathway to elite football.
“We’ve got five or six local kids that have never really played any junior representative football before and for them to get on a plane and fly to Brisbane to play a game of rugby league is great and you can see they’re really excited about it,” he said.
During his time at Penrith as NYC coach, he saw the challenges facing young players who relocated from regional areas in order to chase their dreams.
“It’s obviously tough relocating at a young age; and not having that family network and support around you definitely makes it challenging to play your best football, so for young kids now to stay at home and be around that support group – it can only really help them on not only their football journey, but their life outside football,” he said.