More than 2500 kilometres from home, the Queensland Outback team are hoping to retain the Skytrans Intrastate Challenge trophy when they face off against North Queensland United tomorrow afternoon at Thursday Island.
Playing as the curtain-raiser to the Round 18 Intrust Super Cup Country Week clash between the Northern Pride and Ipswich Jets, the boys from the bush know what they’re up against when the proud talents from the tip hope to put last year’s 40-16 loss behind them with the help of their passionate home fans.
Outback coach Wayne ‘Cabbage’ Collie said with only a few fresh faces, including an all-new front row, staying focused had been one of the main priorities this week.
“Coming off the back of last year’s big win, we have been really determined to focus on this year’s match and it will certainly be key for the boys after tomorrow’s captain’s run to not be overconfident and get into the grind,” Collie said.
“The last two match ups at TI (in 2014 and 2015) have only had two points in them both times and this year, I’m expecting it to be close again with it being a physical game and the NQ boys having the home crowd that will pump them up and encourage them.”
Beginning in 2012, the annual rivalry has given players living in remote areas a taste of higher-level rugby league, with the likes of former Queensland Outback representatives Michael Purcell and Billy McConnachie going on to both forge careers at the Jets.
Collie said the opportunities rugby league was able to provide had inspired him to lead this year’s Outback team.
“I just love rep footy,” the recent Courier Mail Queensland Footy Legend said.
“Where I came from, we never had the opportunities like the boys do now and that’s why I really enjoying coaching at this level.
“Playing ahead of the Intrust Super Cup match will really give these boys some exposure and an opportunity to progress further should they play well.”
Kick-off is at 3.30pm at Ken Brown Oval, Thursday Island.