The Intrust Super Cup season is a short six weeks away, and the 14 clubs are busy locking down their squads in a bid to win the big game come the end of September.
More teams will play in the Intrust Super Cup finals series this year, with the new top-eight format falling in line with other major competitions including the Intrust Super Premiership in New South Wales and the National Rugby League (NRL).
With official 2019 Gains and Losses lists yet to be released, below is a snapshot of what the pre-season period held for the clubs.
The Redcliffe Dolphins’ Intrust Super Cup side is looking to finish on top for the second year in a row, after beating Easts Tigers 36-22 in the 2018 grand final.
Coach Adam Mogg said he was happy with the squad the club had put together since losing a bunch of star players including Toby Rudolf (pictured) to Cronulla Sharks, Tom Opacic to North Queensland Cowboys and Jonus Pearson to the Dragons.
Mogg said there was plenty of depth to this year’s squad, and he looked forward to seeing some young players step up.
“There’s lots of competition for spots,” Mogg said.
New faces include young gun Zev John from the Melbourne Storm 20s, former Australian schoolboy Gerard McCallum, Dolphins junior Harrison Smith back from Cronulla Sharks and Mackay Cutters duo Jordan Grant and Nick Brown.
The Burleigh Bears’ Intrust Super Cup side came so close to making the grand final in 2018, but was pipped at the post by Easts Tigers.
The Bears, who will celebrate their 500th game in the competition in round two when they host Ipswich Jets on March 16, only lost Matt White (pictured) to retirement, and have added a bevvy of players to the squad, including Tyronne Roberts-Davis from Gold Coast Titans, with the aim of going one game better.
Townsville Blackhawks finished third on ladder in the regular season, but suffered some indifferent form leading into finals and succumbed to some long-term injuries to a number of key contributors.
During pre-season the North Queensland outfit has signed Kyle Laybutt from the Cowboys, talented half Shaun Nona has linked up with Townsville after stints at the Melbourne Storm, St George Illawara Dragons and Brisbane Broncos, and talented Townsville player Chippie Korostchuk has been locked in.
Northern Pride finished the regular 2018 season fourth on the ladder, but failed to find their groove come finals.
It is unlikely Pride will see much of Jake Clifford in 2019, with the young gun pushing for more starts with the North Queensland Cowboys; but the club has locked in the talented Torpy brothers - Cameron Torpy and Brayden Torpy (pictured).
And with the retirement of captain and experienced hooker Ryan Ghietti, Pride has announced Tom Hancock and David Murphy will lead the pack for the 2019 season.
Easts Tigers will be hungry, after their narrow defeat at the hands of the Redcliffe Dolphins, in the 2018 Intrust Super Cup grand final.
Easts have lost the services of young-gun half Brayden Torpy, however have re-signed the impressive Josh Ralph after his breakout performance in the 2018 finals series.
Easts have recently announced the key additions of talented Newcaslte Knights outside back Tom Hughes, powerhouse forward Sam Lavea, experienced dummy-half Aaron Booth, and international rep player Rhyse Jacks.
In other club news, the heritage-listed players’ pavilion and grandstand at Easts is in the process of being restored and relocated back to the playing field as part of a $12 million redevelopment of Langlands Park.
Ipswich Jets, under the guidance of Ben and Shane Walker, finished sixth in 2018 and will be hoping captain and Player of the Year Nathaniel Neale will help lead the team to glory in 2019.
At the end of the season the club lost Wes Conlon and Dane Phillips to retirement, but has since locked "the headgear" Josh Cleeland and fan-favourite, winger Peter Gubb.
But most importantly the club signed on new CEO, Richard Hughes to lead the club to future success.
PNG Hunters will enter their sixth season in the Intrust Super Cup in 2019.
Fans can expect the passionate club to press for another premiership, despite losing Ase Boas and Watson Boas, Thompson Teteh, Wartovo Puara and Willie Minoga (pictured) to overseas contracts; and Rahdly Brawa, Edene Gebbie and Nixon Putt to other Intrust Super Cup clubs.
After getting off to a red-hot start in the Intrust Super Cup in 2018, Norths Devils, affiliated with the Brisbane Broncos, failed to impress during the back half of the season.
Despite losing captain and former Warrior John Palavi to Tweed Heads, the Bishop Park-based will be looking for a stellar 2019 with the signings of former Sydney Roosters young gun Brendan Frei and David Faamita, Connor Broadhurst from CQ Capras, and experienced outside back Luke Archer.
SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES
Souths Logan Magpies are setting up for a big 2019, having signed try scoring duo Matt Sopper-Lawler and Linc Port, as well as experienced rake Alex Bishop.
Souths have also re-signed the Intrust Super Cup – 2018 Top Point Scorer Guy Hamilton (pictured) for the 2019 season.
“I really want to take my game to another level here at Souths and be an integral park of getting us back to September footy” – Guy Hamilton (via Souths Logan Magpies).
SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS
The Sunshine Coast Falcons have enjoyed quite the signing spree over the off season.
The Melbourne Storm feeder club is looking to give the competition a shake-up in 2019, having secured the services of young-gun half Nicho Hynes, prolific try-scorer Johnathen Reuben, and experienced campaigner and former Brisbane Broncos half Todd Murphy.
New recruits Reuben and Hynes have returned to pre-season with the Falcons, after spending several weeks down in Melbourne training with the Storm.
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS
Tweed Heads Seagulls have boosted their forward pack with the recent inclusion of former New Zealand Warrior and Norths Devils forward John Palavi.
The Gold Coast Titans feeder club has also managed to pull off another huge signing coup, snagging the in-form Christian Hazard; the former Redcliffe Dolphins half returns to the Intrust Super Cup after spending 2018 at the Newcastle Knights.
The Seagulls have also re-signed captain Cheyne Whitelaw for the 2019 season; Cheyne enjoyed a stellar season in the Intrust Super Cup in 2018, before succumbing to a season-ending injury in the back half of the competition.
WYNNUM MANLY SEAGULLS
The Wynnum Manly Seagulls struggled with consistency in 2018, finishing the regular season 12th on the ladder. But this year, coach Adam Brideson is determined to get the club back in the finals mix.
At the end of the 2018 season, prolific Intrust Super Cup try-scorer Daniel Ogden and powerhouse forward Til Vea both retired.
However, the Seagulls have been boosted with the recent signings of former Souths Logan and Broncos half Sam Scarlett, PNG Hunters’ Edene Gebbie and Rahdly Brawa (pictured), and former Warriors trio Matiu Love-Henry, Junior Pauga and Patrick Sipley.
CENTRAL QUEENSLAND CAPRAS
Central Queensland Capras will be looking to up their game this year, finishing the regular season second from the bottom in 2018.
The Capras lost nine players post season, including Connor Broadhurst to Norths Devils and Jerry Key to North Sydney Bears, but newly-appointed Capras coach David Faiumu has been busy stacking his books.
Mackay Cutters' Intrust Super Cup team were cellar dwellars in 2018, so will be looking to rise the ranks in 2019.
Despite losing Nicho Hynes, Jordan Grant, Nicholas Brown and Aaron Booth, the North Queensland Cowboys-affiliated team has vowed to be back “bigger, better and stronger in 2019”.
As well as a focus on retaining local talent, including Blake Atherton, they have been actively recruiting fresh blood including a number of international signings.
Coach Steve Sheppard and the club have secured experienced Welsh international Lloyd White, fellow Vikings prop Alex Gerrard, Papua New Guinea rugby international Otto Wrakonei and Sala Falelua from New Zealand’s Mt Albert Lions.
The club has also locked in Paul Byrnes and Jordan Kenworthy from Townsville Blackhawks.
PICTURES: QRL Media