Suncorp Stadium will be the backdrop for a meeting of the two best Under 12 school teams in Queensland, who have travelled from opposite ends of the state for a chance at this year’s title.
The journeys for Cairns West State School and Marymount Catholic Primary School have been long and rewarding ones that will culminate in Sunday's NRL Development Cup final.
With almost 400 schools participating in the NRL Development Cup this year, both schools have beaten some of the best school teams in Queensland to get their grand final opportunity.
For Cairns West SS, they have remained undefeated since their season began in early February as they progressed through the Cairns and Peninsula regions on their way to victories over Proserpine SS and Frenchville SS to earn their spot in the final.
Cairns West SS Manager Pat L’Orange said it had been a long wait for the team, but they were excited to be in the first NRL Development Cup final in their school’s history.
“There was over a term’s break between our District Final and Quad Series held in Townsville against Proserpine State School, so to come together successfully once again after such a long break as a team was very satisfying,” he said.
“It's also the first time any school from Cairns has made it all the way to the grand final at Suncorp Stadium, so this is a massive achievement for our school.
“Our team has a lot of talented players and if we can just do the small things right consistently, I think we can put a competitive performance together and cause the Marymount defence some headaches.”
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Marymount Primary – who feature captain Cooper Bai, son of former Melbourne storm player Marcus Bai, at lock – have travelled an equally impressive path.
They beat schools all across South Queensland, including Moreton Downs SS in the SQ grand final at Suzuki Stadium, Langlands Park, 28-22 to get to where they will play on Sunday.
Marymount Primary’s coach Daniel Allsopp said his team had put in a huge effort all year and the chance to play in the final justified all the work they’ve put it.
“Defence is what we do and It's been the cornerstone of our team's success,” he said.
“We have been working so hard at training and now to play at Suncorp Stadium is a real reward, our hard work and devotion is paying off.”
Allsopp also said the whole school community had rallied behind the team and were extremely proud of the team’s success to make it into the final.
“The school community feels like they're part of the team,” he said.
“When we won the Southern division grand final, we returned to a 900-strong guard of honour, so that sums up the feeling at our place.
“Win or lose, we are so excited to play at one of the most popular stadiums in Australia and it’s a lifelong experience for all the players.”
NRL Development Cup Under 12 grand final
Cairns West State School v Marymount Primary School
Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, September 23 – 11.45am
Watch QRL Livestream via QRL.com.au
Referee: Isabella Davidson (Gold Coast)
Touch Judges: Henry Goddard (Brisbane) / Joshua McClelland (Ipswich)
Match Day Coach: Scott Harvey (Brisbane)
Cairns West State School
1. Wallace Charlie 2. William Gimini 3. Kadanji Bowie 4. Tyrell Pearson Gela 5. Amos Gaulai 6. Peja Ahwang 7. Taakoi Benioni 8. Elsiyah Laumatia-Suavai 9. Jayden Nasslander 10. Ijah Troy Nai 11. Davidson Benioni 12. Ty Taputoa 13. Kawane Gaulai 14. Towah Gibson 19. Nevaeh Filitonga 20. Nathamuel Lenoy
Coach: Paul Pudovski
Marymount Primary School
1. Luke White 2. Rory Randall 5. Kai Covino 3. Dane Fraser 4. Phillip Coates 6. Lex Ebsworth 7. Oliver Browning 8. Paddy Gilbert 9. Hadley Smith 10. Connor Daly 11. Ben Cervanek 12. Millar Anderson 13. Cooper Bai 14. Dylan Bexley 15. Max Hudson 16. Kelan Blaney 17. Hunter Walker 18. Bailey Russell 19. Strummer Lopez
Coach: Daniel Allsopp