With a new coach in charge and some new rules to contend with, the Souths Logan Magpies are counting on their young players – and a cross code star – to get the job done in season 2021.
Steve Bretherton, who has been involved in the junior pathways at the club for a number of seasons where he previously coached the club’s Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup and Hastings Deering Colts teams, said he was excited by the opportunity to step into the Intrust Super Cup coaching role.
“It’s obviously something I have aspired to for a long time, it’s nice to be there and making those big decisions for the whole football club, it’s been good,” Bretherton said.
“It’s always got its challenges, but I have enjoyed working with the playing group that we have managed to sign, and it’s been a good change for sure.”
This pre-season, the playing group has benefitted from the experience of former Queensland Maroons star Karmichael Hunt, who the club announced as an official signing today, after he had spent the past few weeks training with the squad while he considered a move to European rugby.
“Karmichael has been with us since after Christmas, he’s been outstanding with the way he prepares himself, obviously the knowledge that he has around three elite sports, for him, and the way to get your body ready to do those things and your mind... Karmichael has been outstanding,” Bretherton said.
Souths Logan Magpies CEO Jim McClelland said while Hunt's playing history made him a great addition to the squad, for the player, the chance to learn the ropes as a coach was an added incentive to join with the club.
"He basically came to us through Wayne Bennett... Wayne sees a really good potential coach in Karmichael Hunt and because he is a corridor junior, obviously our main clubs are Logan Brothers, Waterford, Greenbank, Souths Juniors, he’s come back to be part of that," McClelland said.
“He’s doing a degree in psychology, he’s got one semester to go, but... he’s going to help Mark Beaumont in the corridor and learn a little bit about coaching and potentially play some games for us as well.
"But I think the real key is having someone who’s played as a junior in the Souths Logan Magpies corridor to come back and impart some knowledge back into those kids, it’s sensational.
"It’s just great for those kids to be able to see someone who has gone on and achieved, to be back out there potentially wanting to help kids achieve those same goals and dreams, that’s where I see his value.
“Those sort of guys, who have achieved at the highest level, they don’t want to give back that much sometimes, and when you get somebody who does, well, it’s sensational.
"The fact that they want to be part of something, there’s no money attached to it and they realise what they are there for and that’s a really good thing.”
Former New Zealand Warrior Kevin Locke has also linked with the club and was scheduled to take part in his first training session with the group this week.
“Kevin Locke … was supposed to be here in January, then obviously their COVID lockdown happened (in New Zealand) and in Australia too,” Bretherton said Souths Logan's other high-profile signing.
“We have been in dialogue with him and getting him to do certain things and doing tests over there... we are expecting him to be fit and ready to roll, it will just be trying to get the footy side into him pretty quickly and he should be okay doing (that)... an elite player like that.”
With some key experience signed on to guide the squad, Bretherton said he was also looking forward to seeing what the young talent could do.
“We have got a group of guys there who are willing to try and improve themselves as individuals, there is no real elitism in the group and no one is above anyone and everyone is willing to work hard to try and play first grade, it’s been pleasing.
“We have probably got a core group of senior guys that we wanted to keep at the club which is good, and now it’s about developing the younger guys that I have obviously had a fair few dealings with over the years, coaching Colts and reserve grade and the 18s last year.
“So, developing those guys now, rather than signing guys from all over the country to play first grade for us, that’s the model we are tending to lean towards.”
While reluctant to single out too many names from the squad, Bretherton said there were a handful of players who had been part of the Souths Logan pathways for a number of years and would be aiming to push into Cup contention this year.
“It’s hard to single out guys, you don’t normally like to do it, but Creedence Toia has been outstanding... he’s played Cyril Connell and (Auswide Bank) Mal Meninga Cup; he would have played Colts for us last year; he’s done two full Cup pre-seasons which is good, so he’s challenging the senior guys for that fullback or wing spot,” Bretherton said.
“Cruise Ten has been around for a long time now, he’s in the same sort of boat, he’s the same age as Creedence and those two guys are working extremely hard.
“And you have got some young guys who were in our junior rep program who went to NRL who have now come back like Geordie Brand and Lance Baygon … it’s hard to individualise one person, they are all a good group at the moment.”
With pre-season trials taking place this month and Round 1 just over a month away, Bretherton said he and his players were “itching” to see footy out on the field again.
“It was a long break from Round 1, 2020; the boys are itching, the staff are itching, it’s been a long pre-season, will be good to finally get some footy under our belt,” Bretherton said.
“It’ll be good to get that level of footy back again that’s for sure, I think the standard should be excellent.
“I think the six-again will make it exciting and obviously, we will have to adapt to it and it’s definitely going to be an exciting brand of footy being played, that’s for sure.”