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Cup has the talent to meet expansion plans

NRL expansion has been in the news again, with no shortage of opinions when it comes to if and when another team should enter the competition.

There is debate on where a new team should be based... should it be Perth or Adelaide to give our game a more truly national footprint?

Should there be a second team in Brisbane to capitalise on the strong support for the game in Queensland?

However, a common refrain has been “where will the players come from?”. 

Some of the same people who say this are also those who have been surprised at how well the Intrust Super Cup’s 2019 hooker of the year Harry Grant has been performing with Wests Tigers after the resumption of the NRL season in Round 3.

Since Grant joined the Sydney club on loan from the Melbourne Storm, he has rocketed to the top of the Dally M ladder by producing the same great football he did for the Sunshine Coast Falcons week-in, week-out last year.

More broadly, already this season we have seen 11 players who featured in Intrust Super Cup last year (plus one in Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who was set to make his debut for the Northern Pride this season after starring in the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup in 2019) take the step into the NRL in 2020.

Jamayne Taunoa-Brown - absolute machine

While admittedly, most have only experienced a handful of games so far, others like former Norths Devils forward Jamayne Taunoa-Brown made their debuts in Round 1 and have barely missed a game since.

There are plenty more players in the competition who have the skills, desire and the work ethic to succeed; and maybe another team in the NRL is just the opening they need.

Below is a team of players involved in the 2020 Intrust Super Cup, some with NRL contracts currently who have not yet played a game and others who have been part of NRL systems in the past and a more than worthy of another opportunity.

1. Kurtis Rowe – Burleigh Bears

The Burleigh Bears custodian claimed the 2019 Duncan Hall Medal as the player of the grand final, with his spark and skill a key feature of his team’s success in their premiership-winning season.

2. Jono Reuben – Redcliffe Dolphins

Named as winger in last year’s Intrust Super Cup team of the year for his performances with the Sunshine Coast Falcons, Reuben has speed, is hard to tackle and loves to score tries. What more could you ask for in an outside back?

Jon Reuben - 2019 highlights

3. Fetuli Talanoa – Tweed Seagulls

The Seagulls signed the former Tonga international to help provide guidance to their young team. Talanoa’s time playing in both the NRL with the Souths Sydney Rabbitohs and Hull in the English Super League means he has plenty of experience to share with his team mates.

4. Delouise Hoeter – Wynnum Manly Seagulls

The Wynnum Manly Seagulls centre is a reliable and experienced player who also has plenty of attacking prowess, as highlighted by his hat-trick in the XXXX Queensland Residents win last year. He is also a team player, and is happy to perform any role required of him, including being a kicking tee (see below).

Top five: Intrust Super Cup Round 1

5. Michael Purcell – Easts Tigers

Some might say Michael Purcell is too small to play NRL ... to them I say, how boring. While he might have to bulk up a bit to counter the extreme physicality of the toughest rugby league competition in the world, Purcell's speed is his greatest asset. Look at the impact former Intrust Super Cup gun Ryan Papenhuyzen is having with Melbourne Storm... some thought he was too small to play NRL as well.

6. Cameron Cullen – Redcliffe Dolphins

The Redcliffe Dolphins captain has said he only wants to play NRL if it is in a Redcliffe Dolphins jersey, and while the club do have a hat in the ring with regards to NRL bids, if Cullen were to change his mind, the proven premiership winner's organisational skills and competitive attitude would be an asset for any team. 

7. Todd Murphy – Sunshine Coast Falcons

Todd Murphy often seemed on the cusp of an NRL appearance in the past, only for bad luck and injury to strike. Known as a fierce competitor, Murphy has been at the top end of the competition for a number of years and has the confidence and skills to direct a new team around the field.  

8. Luke Page – Burleigh Bears

Intrust Super Cup fans have been calling out for the PNG Kumuls prop to get another go at the NRL and voted him as the best prop to play Cup in the past 25 years. He also claimed the popular vote to be named captain of the team. A hard running, no frills player, Page can get your team on the front foot and bring plenty of energy to the side.

9. Pat Politoni – Burleigh Bears

The Burleigh Bears rake was also a winner in the recent 25-year team voting and is also a two-time winner of hooker of the year in the Intrust Super Cup team of the year. A clever player on the field with a high work rate, the former Tonga representative would help build the defensive starch needed to succeed.

10. Jordan Grant – Redcliffe Dolphins

Earlier this year, I picked Grant as a player who could help boost the then-diminished forward stocks of the New Zealand Warriors; and I still believe he has what it takes to deliver with an NRL side. The teams he plays with think highly of him too, with Grant winning back-to-back player of the year awards at his respective clubs Mackay Cutters and Redcliffe Dolphins over the past two seasons.

11. Blake Leary – Burleigh Bears

Blake Leary has been in the game for a while and still has plenty to offer on the rugby league field. Matured as a player and a person in recent seasons, Leary has captained the XXXX Queensland Residents side in victory, has won premierships with two different clubs, was voted second rower of the year in the 25-year team and has been one of the more consistent performers in the Intrust Super Cup in the past few seasons.

12. Nixon Putt – Norths Devils

The former PNG Hunter slotted in well with his new team Norths Devils in 2019 and was voted as the second rower of the year by fans in the end-of-season Team of the Year poll. Putt has a powerful running game and has gained valuable experience under pressure having played on the international stage with the Kumuls.

13. Jamie Hill – Tweed Seagulls

While he moved to the Seagulls to start the 2020 season, Jamie Hill had been a standout performer with Central Queensland Capras for a number of seasons. A regular inclusion in the weekly Intrust Super Cup Team of the Week selections, Hill was the club’s rookie of the year winner in 2018 and players’ player recipient in 2019. Often leading from the front with metres run and tackles made for his side, Hill was in the top three tacklers overall for the 2019 season with 825.  

14. Kobe Hetherington – Souths Logan Magpies

Another player who was flagged as a potential option for the Warriors when they were on the hunt for loan players due to his versatility, Hetherington is currently signed with the Brisbane Broncos can fill in at hooker, lock, second row and five-eighth. 

15. Nat Neale – Ipswich Jets

The Ipswich Jets captain runs hard (he made 182 metres in Round 1 this year), tackles hard, is an on-field leader, five-time Allan Langer Medal winner and one of the few props to win the Petero Civoniceva Medal for player of the year.

16. Temone Power – Townsville Blackhawks

A try-scorer for XXXX Queensland Residents last season, Power also finished in the top five in the 2019 Petero Civoniceva Medal tally, with a total of 20 votes. The Blackhawks ace is a player who can be relied on in defence, finishing in the top 10 tacklers in 2019 with 693.

17. Ase Boas – PNG Hunters

Sure, the bench might be a bit unconventional, but you never know when you might need to inject someone with the experience and footy nous of Ase Boas into the play. The popular captain of the PNG Hunters could also help bring across new fans – you have to take in off-field considerations as well and on-field performances when establishing a new team.

Twenty questions with Wynnum weapon Sam Scarlett

There are also enough players to fill an extended 30-player squad.

Here’s some more potential candidates

Hookers and halves

  • Sam Scarlett – Wynnum Manly Seagulls
  • Pat Templeman – Wynnum Manly Seagulls
  • Josh Cleeland – Ipswich Jets
  • Josh Chudleigh – Townsville Blackhawks

Backs

  • BJ Aufaga Toomaga – Redcliffe Dolphins
  • Sami Sauiluma – Burleigh Bears
  • Lindon McGrady – Tweed Seagulls
  • Guy Hamilton – Souths Logan Magpies
  • Paul Ulberg – North Devils

Forwards

  • Emry Pere – Mackay Cutters
  • Hayden Schwass – Burleigh Bears
  • Ben Condon – Northern Pride
  • Ben Shea – Redcliffe Dolphins