Sunshine Coast Falcons coach Danny Gray believes despite his side feeling some pressure to defend their 47th Battalion title at home, he is confident fresh faces along with a number of seasoned campaigners can ensure the trophy remains on the Coast.
After a nail-biting 12-8 victory over competition heavyweights Toowoomba in last year’s final, the Falcons are looking to go back-to-back in the Central Region’s 48th annual premier carnival held this weekend at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Gray says even though there is pressure and expectation on his side being the incumbent title-holders, a good preparation has given the home side confidence.
“I suppose there is some pressure on us but that is always part of the journey when you win something – everyone is out to get you,” Gray said.
“We selected a squad with a healthy mix of new and experienced players three weeks ago and have trained for two weeks with one session to go this week.
"Everyone has bought into what we want to do.
“The fact we are the reigning trophy holders and do want to defend our title on home soil, especially as it’s our 100-year celebration of rugby league [on the Sunshine Coast] is all part of it and I’m pretty pleased at where we’re at.”
Commencing in 1971, the carnival is a magnificent memorial to the 47th Battalion Regiment, which has its headquarters in Maryborough, and draws together rugby league personnel and members of the 47th Battalion in a spirit of cooperation and remembrance.
The original competition was started with Maryborough, Bundaberg, Gympie, South Burnett and Sunshine Coast competing, with Central Burnett given full membership in 1985.
With the formation of the new Central Region through the merger of the former Wide Bay, Central and South West Divisions; the senior competition was expanded in 2010 to include all Local Leagues in the new area.
With eight teams competing, Gray says no team can be underestimated due to the immense talent across all participating Leagues.
“The Toowoomba Rugby League have a really strong A Grade competition and from looking at their team, they’re going to be very strong, but I think Rocky are also a chance being close to the Capras,” he said.
“In saying that, it’s really hard to take anyone lightly in this competition because you just don’t know who is playing in the Local League competitions.”
In the Women’s division, defending Rockhampton Rustlers coach Amanda Ohl said she was "quietly confident, but quietly concerned” ahead of their quest to go back-to-back, despite retaining 80% of last year’s winning squad.
“Last year, we had around five or six training runs, but we’ve had some distractions this year,” Ohl told The Morning Bulletin.
Ohl expects the Falcons to be their toughest opponents, especially after losing out to the Rustlers in the last year’s decider, alongside Gladstone who narrowly missed out on a grand final berth by a mere try.
“I was hoping to meet Gladstone in the final but instead, we’re playing them in our first game,” she said.
"That means one of us will knock the other out. This game will be a real test.
“If we can get through that confidently, it will put us in good stead for the rest of the carnival.”
Action kicks off at 10am Saturday at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Be sure to check QRL.com.au later in the week for team lists and live stream details.
47TH BATTALION DRAW
Saturday, May 4
|TIME||FIELD 1 (Stadium)||FIELD 2 (Kawana)|
|10am||W-POOL A||Rockhampton v Gladstone||M-GAME 1||Sunshine Coast v Gladstone|
|11am||M-GAME 2||Rockhampton v Central Highlands||W-POOL B||Sunshine Coast v Bundaberg|
|12pm||M-GAME 3||Bundaberg v South West||M-GAME 4||Toowoomba v Burnett|
|2pm||W-POOL A||Gladstone v South West||M-GAME 5||Loser Game 1 v Loser Game 2|
|3pm||M-GAME 6||Loser Game 3 v Loser Game 4||W-POOL B||Central Highlands v Bundaberg|
|4pm||M-GAME 7||Winner Game 1 v Winner Game 2|
|5pm||M-GAME 8||Winner Game 3 v Winner Game 4||W-POOL A||Rockhampton v South West|
|6pm||W-POOL B||Sunshine Coast v Central Highlands|
Sunday, May 5
|TIME||FIELD 1 (Stadium)||FIELD 2 (Kawana)|
|10am||M-GAME 10||Loser Game 7 v Loser Game 8||W-FINAL 3||Pool A 3rd v Pool B 3rd|
|11am||W-FINAL 2||Pool A 2nd v Pool B 2nd||M-GAME 9||Loser Game 5 v Loser Game 6|
|12pm||PLATE FINAL||Winner Game 5 v Winner Game 6|
|1pm||WOMEN'S FINAL||Pool A 1st v Pool B 2nd|
|2pm||TROPHY FINAL||Winner Game 7 v Winner Game 8|