With the Mal Meninga Cup safely secured after a stirring fightback against the Norths Devils last weekend, the Souths Logan will next be focussing on overcoming their interstate opponents the Penrith Panthers for the national title.
Their victory last weekend sparked elation and happiness amongst all involved in Souths title run, and there was a sense of relief felt by many of the players who had finally managed to win a state title after previously falling short in the Under 18 decider of 2017 and the Under 16 Cyril Connell Cup in 2016.
Victorious coach Jace Van Dijk said the victory was just reward for that core group of players who had worked so hard in chasing that elusive title in recent seasons.
“Some of the kids I’ve had this year played in the Mal Meninga Cup final last year and the Cyril Connell Cup final the year before, so I’m pleased for them and it’s always good to bring any kind of silverware back to the club,” he said.
Despite only securing the one state title in this time; the level of consistency of the junior teams for the club throughout that period has only further highlighted the strength rugby league in the area.
In a catchment area that boasts the likes of current NRL stars and former Magpies Anthony Milford and Jaydn Su’A; Van Dijk said he was able to rotate his squad with confidence due to the plethora of talent available to him at the club.
“The Souths Logan catchment area could really field two teams that would be equally competitive, so this meant that I never had the same 17 each week because I was able to rotate players to make sure everyone got a run and know each player would get the job done,” Van Dijk said.
While the names of David Fifita and Tanah Boyd have been on the lips of many for their dominance throughout the Mal Meninga season, a number of unheralded names have emerged throughout the Magpies campaign.
Two players who fit this mould are fullback Tesi Niu and lock-forward Cruise Ten (main image).
Niu has been a strike weapon for the Magpies this season with his ability to score tries and his silky footwork has wreaked havoc on defensive lines – highlighted in his Man of the Match performance in the last weekend’s grand final.
With Niu terrorising teams with his speed and skill; Ten has gained the admiration of his team-mates and coach through his consistent workhorse-like efforts that are made more impressive by the fact he is still eligible to play Mal Meninga again next year.
Van Dijk was full of praise for the duo and the impact they have had on his side’s performances throughout the year, but he reserved the greatest praise for his young lock-forward.
“Tesi is a guy who can score a try from anywhere on the field and he’s a really good young kid who’s always willing to learn, while Cruise has been my best player all year … he’s a smart kid who is very coachable, so I couldn’t have a bigger wrap on him,” he said.
Looking forward to their national championship this weekend against perennial powerhouses Penrith; Souths have endured a disrupted preparation with school football commitments meaning the Magpies will have had one training session ahead of tomorrow’s game.
Despite this, their coach is excited about the opportunity that a match-up against the Panthers presents and said bringing the trophy back to Davies Park would be a fitting end to a fairy-tale campaign for the Magpies.
“It’s obviously good to win the Mal Meninga Cup because that’s what we played for all season long, but to be crowned national champions would certainly be a bonus.”
Get down to Dolphin Stadium tomorrow to watch the game – or follow scores at QRL Live.
>> The match will also be livestreamed via QRL.com.au