Southern Suburbs gearing up for biggest event of year

This Saturday is shaping up to be Southern Suburbs biggest day of the year as they go up against Edmonton Storm, with a reunion of the club's 2001 Under 18 premiership team, as well as Ryan Deemal Memorial Shield which is fiercely contested by both clubs.

Last year, Suburbs claimed the shield, so they will be keen to retain the honours, while Edmonton - who won the shield for the first time in 2017 - will be hoping to create an upset win.

The Southern Suburbs 2001 Under 18 Premiership team was made up of childhood mates passionate about their footy, hometown and club.

After winning multiple junior league titles while coming up through the ranks, this team were hot favourites to take out the premiership, having only lost one game all season and defeating a valiant Yarrabah Seahawks 38-26 in the grand final.

The side was built around a big, mobile forward pack, as well as a Foley Shield and North Queensland representatives including Clint Frazer, Michael Rayment (captain), Nigel Way, Jason Galeano, Lee Slatcher and Callan Myles which dominated the competition that year.

It was also a team that reconnected Suburbs link to the mighty Babinda Colts and rich vein of playing talent from the township.

Kyle Day, Anthony Zappala, Sean West, Derek Beaut and Shane Camilleri were the Colts juniors that helped deliver the premiership, and nearly 20 years later, Suburbs still have many talented players travelling up the highway to play for the mighty Cockatoos.

Southern Suburbs 2001 Under 18 Premiership winning team who defeated Yarrabah in the Grand Final
Southern Suburbs 2001 Under 18 Premiership winning team who defeated Yarrabah in the Grand Final

Kieran Anderson, Justin Whittaker, Gavin Morris, Darren Gordon, Ryan Paul, Eddie Fisher, Jason Frazer, Michael Piccolo, Wade Rowe and Paul Rayment made up the main group of Suburbs juniors which gave a good indication of the depth of young talent coming through the club.

This core group of talented juniors continued into the senior ranks who made up the 2003, 2011 and 2013 playing group of A Grade grand final sides and the perennial semi-finalists for the decade that followed the 2001 premiership.

This Saturday, all but two of the premiership winning team, along with coaches and their families will gather at Alley Park to reminisce about their win 18 years ago, with many travelling from all over Australia.

The Ryan Deemal Shield will be hosted by Southern Suburbs at Alley Park, Gordonvale and played this Saturday, July 20 at 5pm.

In 2009, an idea came about at a family table involving supporters and committee members from Southern Suburbs and Edmonton Storm senior rugby league clubs.

This occurred while telling stories about the intense rivalry between both teams in the years prior to and since the inception of Edmonton into the Cairns District Rugby League competition.

Haydn Busch, a former Southern Suburbs players who also played for Edmonton Storm A grade team in their maiden year, suggested there should be a shield for both teams to vie for in the years to follow. 

There is strong rivalry between both clubs similar to State of Origin, even with an imaginary border which intensifies even though the clubs are only eight kilometres apart.

When deciding who the shield should represent from the rugby league community, the initial choice was Harry Deemal, a former Cairns and North Queensland representative, as well as the inaugural Edmonton Storm and Southern Suburbs A grade coach a few years before.

The focus then shifted to a memorial shield and it was decided to name one in honour of Harry’s son Ryan Deemal, who had passed away a year before, so with Harry’s permission the shield was created.

Edmonton Storm lifted the Ryan Deemal Memorial Shield for the first time in 2017 after they defeated Southern Suburbs by 20 - 10
Edmonton Storm lifted the Ryan Deemal Memorial Shield for the first time in 2017 after they defeated Southern Suburbs by 20 - 10

Ryan had suffered from cerebral palsy and although confined to a wheelchair was always by Harry's side at footy games when both teams played against each other.

The shield not only represents Ryan Deemal, but also his daily struggle to fight this debilitating disease, which is a similar battle seen in the players on field who are playing for the honour of lifting the shield and in recognition of Ryan’s bravery.

The Ryan Deemal Shield game was initially played in the first round of CDRL competition with the host teams alternating each year.

Since the Shield's inception, Southern Suburbs have been in the winners circle, until 2017 when Edmonton Storm snatched victory by 20 - 10 over Suburbs to end their eight year winning streak.

There are three games on the day with Under 18 to kick off at 2.30pm, followed by Reserves at 4.00pm and A grade at 5.30pm.

(Ryan Deemal’s name is used with the expressed permission of Harry Deemal)

Main image: Post match celebrations by Southern Suburbs Under 18 team who won the CDRL premiership in 2001 after they defeated Yarrabah by 38 - 26 in the grand final