This year's Queensland Rugby League Junior State Championships was yet another indication of the young talent that can be found across the entire state.
At the conclusion of a successful tournament on Sunday, all three regions challenged each other throughout the four days to be the best and play the hardest, culminating in all three featuring in one of the two boys’ deciders – a first since the Championships’ new format was introduced in 2016.
Recap Day 4 action: As it happened: Junior State Championships Day 4
Recap Day 3 action: As it happened: Junior State Championships Day 3
Recap Day 2 action: As it happened: Junior State Championships Day 2
Recap Day 1 action: As it happened: Junior State Championships Day 1
Last year’s joint-premiers SEQ Green finished on top of the Under 14 Boys competition once again, despite a scare on Day 1 from Central that ended in an electrifying draw to kick-start the carnival.
A mere two competition points separated the remaining three teams, with Northern clinching a spectacular come-from-behind 18-16 win on Saturday night to earn their ticket to the big dance.
The Green Water Dragons never looked like losing the final, with Northern making crucial ball handling mistakes in the first half after trying to come down from the highly emotional and supercharged win the previous night.
A hat-trick to Devonte Vaivela and a Matthew Barrow double all but sealed the deal against the courageous Marlins – the win extra special for the region.
A fitting decision was made late last month to name the Under 14 Boys shield after Michael Pease, acknowledging the long-standing Queensland Rugby League administrator who is set to retire at the end of this year.
For the Water Dragons to win the shield in the inaugural year of it being named to acknowledge his 30-year contribution was a special gift for the outgoing SEQ Region Manager.
The Under 16 Boys competition was similarly even, with both of Saturday’s games crucial in the finals makeup.
The opportunity to be selected for either Queensland City or Queensland Country in the newly-announced representative pathway further fuelled the fire in the belly for many players to give it all they’ve got for their respective region.
After a tough three days of pool matches, both country sides finished on top – a first for the tournament to have no SEQ team battle it out for the silverware.
The decider was one for the ages with both teams giving it their all.
The Marlins led 10-4 at the break, but an inspired second half performance by the Crows team, aided by the number of experienced, Junior State Carnival title-winning players in the outfit, got them in front by eight points with 11 minutes to play.
A final roll of the dice saw Xavier Chatfield-Mooka – nephew of Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons’ centre Steph Mooka - score his double to get within two points of the home side with three minutes to play.
With the packed grandstand of Sunshine Coast Stadium on their feet, a frantic final few minutes played out, with Central able to hold on in a thrilling finish to this year’s event to lift the newly-named Cyril Connell Shield.
It was an all-round dominant display by SEQ in the Under 14 girls, remaining undefeated and only conceding 14 points across their four games to easily secure the Heather Ballinger Shield; however, it was a different story in the older grade.
Despite no finals in the girls fixtures, the last Under 16 fixture between Central and SEQ was effectively a playoff to determine the titleholder, with SEQ needing to win or draw the match to retain the honour.
At halftime, SEQ led 12-8, but a barnstorming final 25 minutes from experienced representatives Traevonnah Fisher and Georgia Voll saw the Crows hit the lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Lateesha Barker gave her Water Dragons hope when she crossed the chalk with five minutes on the clock, but Central held on to regain the Karyn Murphy Shield in an emphatic come-from-behind victory.
After the four days of Queensland’s best rugby league on display, there’s no disputing the future of the game in the Maroon state, with some high-quality matches enthralling the 1000-plus crowd that packed the grandstand each day.
Hosted by Central this year, a special thanks is extended by tournament organisers to the Sunshine Coast Council on their A+ upkeep of the world-class facility, especially in the poor weather conditions.
Further thanks is offered to Queensland Rugby League and NRL Development operations and administration staff, players and coaching staff, match officials, volunteers and ball kids for their contributions across the carnival.
The Junior State Championships return to Sunshine Coast Stadium next year with the highly-anticipated 2020 tournament already being noted in calendars following the tremendous four days of action played at this year’s event.
Keep an eye on QRL.com.au for more images of the carnival.
Under 14 Boys Michael Pease Shield: SEQ Green
Under 14 Girls Heather Ballinger Shield: SEQ Water Dragons
Under 16 Boys Cyril Connell Shield: Central Crows
Under 16 Girls Karyn Murphy Shield: Central Crows
Players of the Championships
Under 14 Boys: Devonte Vaivela - SEQ Green #12
Under 14 Girls Veronica White Award: Eliza Lopamaua - SEQ #10
Under 16 Boys Peter Gray Award: Keanu Wright-Dunrobin - Central #6
Under 16 Girls: Stephanie Hancock Award: Georgia Voll - Central #13
Under 14 Boys
Under 14 Girls
Under 16 Boys
Under 16 Girls
Under 14 Boys
Central 10 (Jed Zerk, Tyler Peckham-Harris tries; Matthew Williams goal) drew SEQ Green 10 (Matthew Barrow, Luke Anderson tries; Cooper Hersom goal)
Northern 24 (Jamal Shibasaki 2, Beau Jones, Terry Connors tries; Lauloto Salei 4 goals) defeated SEQ White 12 (Xavier Atoa, Jodan Goodman-Wenner tries; Brock Lennox 2 goals)
SEQ White 18 (Mutua Brown 2, Mitchell Rogers, Taelon Te Whiu-Hopa tries; Mitchell Rogers goal) defeated Central 14 (Tyler Peckham-Harris 2, Dominique Sandow tries; Matthew Williams goal)
SEQ Green 22 (Devonte Vaivela, Matthew Barrow, Braden Teuila, Keahn Skipps tries; Cooper Hersom 3 goals) defeated Northern 4 (Cain Hastie try)
SEQ Green 12 (Devonte Vaivela, Kalahni-Jai Lawrence tries; Cooper Hersom 2 goals) defeated SEQ White 6 (Philip Hakaraia-Ngamotu try; Brock Lennox goal)
Northern 18 (Jamal Shibasaki, Terry Connors, Jay O'Loughlin tries; Lauloto Salei 3 goals) defeated Central 16 (Tyler Peckham-Harris 2, Lyhkan King-Togia tries; Tyler Peckham-Harris 2 goals)
1v2 Final: SEQ Green 26 (Devonte Vaivela 3, Matthew Barrow 2, Rene Bagon tries; Cooper Hersom goal) defeated Northern 4 (Terry Connors try)
3v4 Final: SEQ White 16 (Phillip Hakaraia-Ngamotu 2, Mitchell Rogers tries; Brock Lennox 2 goals) defeated Central 14 (De La Salle Va'a Tyler Peckham-Harris tries; Tyler Peckham-Harris 3 goals)
Under 14 Girls
Central 16 (Charlotte Blackwood 3 tries; Mackayla Champion, Miah Powell goals) defeated Northern 0
Central 14 (Mackayla Oakley, Leila Murphy, Tashma-Maree Antonio tries; Miah Powell goal) defeated Northern 8 (Olivetiola Latu-Burfield, April Major tries)
SEQ 48 (Sienna Lofipo 3, Eliza Lopamaua 3, Tavarna Papalii, Malaela Su'A, Rilee Jorgensen tries; Rilee Jorgensen 3, Tavarna Papalii goals) defeated Central 0
SEQ 34 (Rilee Jorgensen 2 tries, Eliza Lopamaua, Ariana Henderson, Uese Eliu, Jaydah Tofae tries; Rilee Jorgensen 5 goals) defeated Northern 4 (Brandy Yallop try)
SEQ 16 (Ebony Raftstrand-Smith 2, Malaela Su'A 2 tries) defeated Northern 6 (Brandy Yallop try; Jalen Pauling goal)
SEQ 12 (Ebony Raftstrand-Smith, Kiarah Siauane, Malaela Su'A tries) defeated Central 4 (Mackayla Oakley try)
Under 16 Boys
Central 18 (Keanu Wright-Dunrobin 2, Xavier Va'a tries; Brayden Paix 2 goals) drew SEQ Green 18 (Kaleb Winters-Chang, Ezra Howe, Kruz Rimene, Jodeci Tiraha tries; Jonathan Van Aswegen goal)
Northern 22 (Ieremia Nanai, Kmani Levi, Ragarive Wavik, Jordan Davies tries; Ragarive Wavik 3 goals) defeated SEQ White 16 (Tuvalli-Afoa Khan-Pereira, Rhythm Rhind, Leon Te Hau tries; Ezra Mam 2 goals)
Northern 18 (Toby Strecker, Ragarive Wavik, Tyreice Baira-Gela tries; Ragarive Wavik 3 goals) defeated SEQ Green 10 (Malique Douthat, Harradyn Wilson tries; Harradyn Wilson goal)
Central 22 (Glen Fisher 2, Cyron Tull 2, Angus Wright tries; Brayden Paix goal) defeated SEQ White 10 (Peni Auvaa, Prinston Esera tries; Ezra Mam goal)
SEQ White 26 (Prinston Esera 2, Daniel Ah-Chong 2, Isaiah Iongi tries; Mustafa Kaya 2, Ezra Mam goals) defeated SEQ Green 12 (Brock Priestley 2 tries; Harradyn Wilson 2 goals) defeated SEQ Green 18 (Brock Priestley 2, Jodeci Tiraha tries; Harradyn Wilson 3 goals)
Central 28 (Shaun Packer, Glen Fisher, Keanu Wright-Dunrobin, Angus Wright, Cyron Tull tries; Brayden Paix 4 goals) defeated Northern 12 (Dudley Dotoi 2, Ragarive Wavik tries)
1v2 Final: Central 22 (Cyron Tull, Brayden Paix, Shaun Packer, Tyler Conroy tries; Brayden Paix 3 goals) defeated Northern 20 (Xavier Chatfield-Mooka 2, D'Jazirhae Pua'Avase, Luke Jack tries; Ragarive Wavik 2 goals)
3v4 Final: SEQ White 26 (Ezra Mam 2, Rhythm Rhind, Peni Auvaa, Isaiah Iongi tries; Mustafa Kaya 2, Zachery Alley goals) defeated SEQ Green 14 (Jodeci Tarahi 2 tries; Harradyn Wilson 3 goals)
Under 16 Girls
SEQ 12 (Indee Brown, Lateesha Barker, Ebony Laing tries) defeated Central 4 (Courtney-Lee Nolan try)
SEQ 14 (Indee Brown, Emma Barnes, Hannah Larsson tries; Layne Northey goal) defeated Northern 12 (Shanaye Watson 2 tries; Hannah Geary 2 goals)
Central 10 (Alenna Whipp, Traevonnah Fisher tries; Georgia Voll goal) defeated Northern 8 (Etuina Suavai try; Hannah Geary 2 goals)
SEQ 30 (Emma Barnes 2, Ebony Laing, Sunny Gerrard, Tanisha Dhurrkay, Lateesha Barker tries; Layne Northey 3 goals) defeated Northern 0
Central 56 (Tamzin Taumafai 2, Alenna Whipp 2, Courtney-Lee Nolan 2, Georgia Voll, Delaney Claridge, Skye Girrard, Emmogen Taumafai tries; Georgia Voll 4, Traevonnah Fisher, Delaney Claridge goals) defeated Northern 0
Central 20 (Traevonnah Fisher 2, Delaney Claridge, Georgia Voll tries; Georgia Voll 2 goals) defeated SEQ 16 (Tanisha Dhurrkay, Ebony Laing, Fuatino Ah-Him, Lateesha Barker tries)