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Strengthened Seagulls kick off trials with festival of footy

UPDATE: the junior and women's games set for Saturday, February 8, have been cancelled due to the weather. Tweed Seagulls Intrust Super Cup v Titans Rookie match will go ahead and will be played at Tugun SRL (44 Boyd St, Bilinga) at 3.30pm.

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Tweed Seagulls will provide a first glimpse of their capacity to follow up their best season for over a decade when they have four teams on show at Runaway Bay Rugby League Club this Saturday.

The venue has changed from Piggabeen where it was originally scheduled. 

The Seagulls’ Under 18 Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup team which won the national title, the Hastings Deering Colts and QRL Women's Premiership side will take on Northern Rivers / Titans representative teams with and Intrust Super Cup squad going head-to-head with a team of the Gold Coast Titans’ young NRL hopefuls.

While the senior teams are yet to be finalised, some of the region’s brightest young players will throw on their boots for the first time in 2020 and give local fans a glimpse of what is to come.

Tweed made the finals in all three men's competitions in 2019 for the first time.

It was the first grade side’s first finals appearance since 2014, going down in a heartbreaking last gap loss to defending premiers Redcliffe Dolphins 25-24.

The club also fielded a women’s team for the first time which produced a Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons representative in Jessika Elliston and an Australian representative (Nines) in Tarryn Aiken.

Several of last year’s the Under 18 players are now at NRL clubs and a couple are set to play in Titans colours, with halfback Toby Sexton and back-rower Juwan Compain, both allocated as Seagulls feeder team players, likely to be in the young Titans squad.

Their Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup team mates Caleb Hodges, Ben Liyou and Carsil Vaikai are likely to be in the Seagulls’ trial squad.

Ben Woolf’s side will have a similar look to last year’s squad, with the addition of some good acquisitions, developing players progressing from last year’s young squads and a surprise signing of a player with more than 200 games’ experience in the NRL and English Super League.

Fetuli Talanoa, a talented 32-year-old outside back, has returned from Hull where he played 130 games after an eight-season stint with South Sydney (95 NRL appearances) and was keen to play locally.

Last year’s skipper John Palavi will again lead a strong line-up in 2020 with backline mainstays Talor Walters, Lindon McGrady, Rowland Jacobs, Luke Jurd, Lee Turner and Titans-contracted Treymain Spry and forwards Lamar Liolevave, Jarrod Morfett, Kody Parson, Rory Lillis, Ioane Seiuli (Titans-contracted) and Brent Woolf.

The Gulls have lost Christian Hazard (Souths Logan), Jack Cook and Kirk Murphy (France), Kalani Going who has returned to Canberra and Cheyne Whitelaw who will sit out 2020 after a second knee reconstruction.

Yet they will be replaced by some exciting newcomers like Jesse Cronin (Parramatta), Ethan O’Neill (Sydney Roosters), the son of former Broncos and Australian fullback Julian O’Neill, Blake Goodman (North Sydney - NSW Cup), middle forward Jerry Key, Jamie Hill (Capras) and Fabian Keary, another big middle forward who has joined from Redcliffe Dolphins.

“I think we will have good strength and depth again in our ISC squad and plenty of talent in our under-age sides and the women’s team which improved so much during the course of last season,” Seagulls CEO Paul Stephenson said.

“We’ve concentrated on bringing in some good young talent which we fell can develop into very good players at this level and to pick up someone like Fetuli, who approached us just wanting to continue playing after moving back from England, is a real bonus.”

Saturday is the first of two trial match days for the Seagulls. They will play Souths Logan Magpies the following Saturday at Acacia Ridge.

This Saturday’s match schedule:

Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup: Seagulls v Northern Rivers / Titans at 3pm

QRL Women's Premiership: Seagulls v Northern Rivers / Titans at 4.15pm

Hastings Deering Colts: Seagulls v Northern Rivers / Titans Under 23s at 5.30pm

Intrust Super Cup: Seagulls v Gold Coast Titans at 6.45pm