After a long pre-season, the opening round of the 2021 BHP Premiership season arrives this weekend with the competition bursting with talent across all the teams.
However, there is no denying the target that will have been fixed on the Burleigh Bears by the other competing teams, with the side claiming the shortened Holcim Cup title last year.
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While they have also been a successful club at the South East Queensland Women’s A Grade level, the Bears have some unfinished business in the BHP Premiership.
The statewide competition was called off after only one game in the inaugural season last year and Burleigh have set their sights on putting the club's name on the silverware first.
“To win the BHP Premiership was our goal last year, but obviously COVID turned that season into the Holcim Cup,” coach Tahnee Norris said.
“We’ve ticked that (Holcim Cup) box now, so this year we have the intent to carry on with that same goal from last year.”
Representative commitments which saw several Bears feature in the winning Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons squad last year prompted Burleigh to start their 2021 pre-season later than normal, but Norris - who is also a former Queensland representative herself - said the combined training sessions with the club’s Harvey Norman Under 19 side had been beneficial for both age groups.
“We’ve all been training together and we have had some really good sessions with great intensity,” the recently-appointed Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons coach said.
“It’s a good opportunity for both sides, especially the younger girls, to learn from the older and more experienced players.
“The challenge is trying to give them as much skill and knowledge of the game in such a short season.
“There is so much talent on the Gold Coast and it is great we can provide pathways here.
“If we have some really good quality coaching and squads in place, we can give these girls the absolute best chance of being able to represent not only the Bears, but that next level too.”
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The junior Bears will play their last game of the six-round competition this weekend at Ipswich on Saturday, while the women’s team will kick off their campaign on Sunday against Brisbane Tigers.
Match: Tigers v Bears
Round 1 -
Venue: Totally Workwear Stadium, Brisbane
Brisbane Tigers v Burleigh Bears
Like the Bears, the Tigers have a former Queensland representative in charge, with Adrian Vowles at the helm of the young squad.
Match: Seagulls v Valkyries
Round 1 -
Venue: Tugun RLFC, Tugun
The remaining four Round 1 games will all be played on Saturday, kicking off with Tweed Seagulls hosting new entity Valkyries Queensland at Tugun.
The Seagulls have signed some experienced stars of the NRLW, headlined by Kiwi Ferns leader Georgia Hale and Indigenous All Stars representative Shaylee Bent, who have both been named to make their club debuts this weekend.
This weekend, the Valkyries will be skippered by representative hooker Michaela Peck who recently represented the Prime Minister's XIII.
The side will boast an impressive forward pack overall, with Lyllian Mikaio, Liohana Theodore and Deb Barchard also named in the squad.
Match: Panthers v Capras
Round 1 -
Venue: Frank Lind Oval, Brisbane
Later in the day, West Brisbane Panthers will host Central Queensland Capras, with the two relatively young teams going head-to-head in what should be a great contest.
The Panthers will be captained by Maroons centre Julia Robinson this year and will also feature players with NRLW and representative experience including Acacia Wulf, Therese Aiton - who has moved from Souths Logan Magpies this season - and Asi Mafi, who is making her return from injury.
Match: Stars v Diehards
Round 1 -
Venue: Barlow Park, Cairns
Saturday’s final game will see a star-studded Valleys Diehards team travel to Cairns to take on the North Queensland Gold Stars.
A new team in the competition this year, the Diehards have attracted plenty of attention after signing reigning Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons captain Ali Brigginshaw to play under coach Scott Prince.
However, the Gold Stars will have plenty of support behind them and feature some home-grown stars of their own in the team, including Maroons forward Shaniah Power and former Queensland Under 18 representative Jasmin Peters.