A new-look In Safe Hands Cup finally gets underway this weekend in Brisbane.
They say good things come to those who wait... and after a few tedious months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new look eight-team competition will see Normanby and Carina return after initially playing in the Brisbane Rugby League A Grade competition when it restarted back in 2015.
West Brisbane, Valleys and Wynnum Manly all remain, and will be joined by Bulimba, Pine Rivers and Brighton to make up the eight to contest 10 rounds with a three-week, top six final series.
This year, the competition has been split into a north and south division.
The first ‘rotation’ will have each side play each other twice, and in the final three rounds, each side will play each other in their division to round out the 10 weeks.
No byes are on offer for any club giving no respite for what no doubt will be a bruising encounter from all fixtures, especially with the modification to the interchange rule - the first six rounds allowing 10 changes before being reduced to eight.
The Normanby Hounds will be at home at Bert Saint Claire Oval, hosting Wynnum.
Seagulls coach Darren Ferricks has some inside oil on the Hounds as last year's coach of Normanby’s affiliate club, Souths Logan, but Normanby coach Luke Srama is under no illusion as to the task at hand.
“We have to stay in the grind and play for each other," Srama said.
"The Seagulls are one of the big sides to beat and we are looking forward to seeing where we are after two pre-seasons."
Ferricks will not hesitate to change his game plan if the Hounds start taking control.
“A 10-week competition leaves little room to lose any games, even more so if you lose back-to-back," said Ferricks.
"We don’t have the luxury of giving players a few weeks to find form."
Carina, under the keen eye of coach Jason DiLizio, have their co-Easts Tigers affiliate up first.
Whilst it's Bulimba’s ‘home’ game at Langlands Park, Di Lizio has the advantage of coaching and playing out of Totally Workwear Stadium.
“We have a big forward pack led by Lachlan Barr, but so do Bulimba with Anthony Cheng on the bench," said the quietly spoken Tigers coach, who is keeping his cards close to his chest.
Bulldogs coach Michael Lambert, on the other hand, can’t wait.
The In Safe Hands Cup match of the round will feature Valleys and Pine Rivers with the Diehards naming former NRL and Queensland Maroons representative Scott Prince at halfback.
Both sides have plenty of wheels out wide - Valleys have the mercurial Marlon Doak, while the Bears have the try scoring machine Justice Utatao to cut loose.
The final game of Round 1 has newcomers, the Roosters hosting the West Brisbane Panthers under lights at Brighton.
The Panthers have been regular semi-finalists and will be led by fullback Kyle Van Klaveren.
Coach Craig Ingebrigtsen has given ‘KVK’ a free leash while the other 16 players have a structure to follow.
“While it is only the first round, we have structures in place that I want us to play to," Ingebrigtsen said.
"If we don’t, we will be gassed after the first 15 minutes.
"We have 10 interchanges we don’t necessarily need to use"
Roosters coach Dylan Slater is excited to be part of the A-Grade scene.
“I have spoken to Daniel Green who has been the coach of Redcliffe's BRL side the last six years and he has been very helpful," the new coach said.
"We want to play our Roosters style of football and we will see how we end up."
"The Panthers will be tough, but we won’t back down."
The In Safe Hands Cup match of the round between Valleys and Pine Rivers will be broadcast live on the Brisbane Rugby League Facebook page.
In Safe Hands Cup Round 1
|3pm||Normanby Hounds v Wynnum Manly Seagulls||Bert St Clair Oval, Graceville|
|3pm||Bulimba Bulldogs v Carina Tigers||Totally Workwear Stadium, Coorparoo|
|3pm||Valleys Diehards v Pine Rivers Bears||Emerson Park, Grange|
|6pm||Brighton Roosters v West Brisbane Panthers||Jim Lawrie Field, Brighton|