David Fifita stunned the rugby league world when he progressed from Under 18s through to NRL in a matter of weeks in 2018, but it’s a rapid ascent that Souths Logan Magpies CEO Jim McClelland has seen once before.
As pre-season commences in November and juniors take their first steps into the senior ranks, Fifita will become something of an inspiration to those with NRL aspirations – but they need look no further than the man their competition is named after.
When Mal Meninga made the move from Bundaberg to Brisbane to begin a career in the police force, the 18-year-old joined the Souths Magpies Under 18s; and by the end of his first season, was entrenched in the first grade side.
This is where it all begins and the 2019 Mal Meninga Cup will be stronger than ever thanks to a new naming rights sponsor in Auswide Bank.
For McClelland, it is the beginning of a pathway that has been producing champions such as Meninga for more than 40 years.
“For our club it goes all the way back to Mal Meninga himself,” says McClelland.
“He was an 18-year-old kid who came down from the bush to start with the police force and coming into our club was a big change for him.
“The training was a different level again, the level of professionalism that was required and like young David Fifita this year he went on to play first grade for us that year at 18 years of age.
“From that perspective, nothing has really changed.”
More than their on-field achievements, the most important area of development occurs off the field as young players become indoctrinated into the values that the club is built upon.
“This club will be 111 years old next year, so it is crucial that part of their introduction to senior level is learning about the past, what the club was founded upon and those players that came before them,” says McClelland.
“Because of the junior nursery that sits beneath us and the number of clubs that feed into Souths Logan, it is important we bring the kids in when they step up to senior football and talk to them about the history of Souths Logan and why we play out of West End.
“It’s vitally important that you introduce these kids to the club culture and the expectation of them and you have to have the right people in place to ensure that happens.”
As Competitions Manager for the QRL, Dave Maiden is charged with constructing the on-field experience of the Mal Meninga Cup but concedes the greatest value comes in the work that happens off the field.
“We see it as a vital first step in establishing club culture and club identity at Intrust Super Cup level and our major competitions,” says Maiden.
“We now have the opportunity for young players to have three or four years in a state-based system prior to being identified as potentially an Intrust Super Cup player.”
Given its proud history and impact that it has on the lives of so many young men, becoming naming rights sponsor from next year was an association that Auswide Bank Managing Director Martin Barrett saw as a perfect fit.
“The strength of the Mal Meninga Cup is the impact that it has on young people and as ‘the big hearted bank’ that’s a quality we really identify with,” says Barrett.
“We’re delighted to become the naming rights sponsor of the Mal Meninga Cup and we look forward to seeing more young players progress from the Under 18s all the way to the Intrust Super Cup and NRL.”