The Bundaberg Bears will be hoping to break an eight-year drought at the 50th anniversary of the 47th Battalion carnival when Central Region's showpiece event returns to Bundaberg's Salter Oval this weekend.
The Bears have lost one of their best in reigning BRL A Grade player of the year Matt Craven to a back injury, while they will also be without three of their vastly experienced gun forwards in Dan Tanner, Steve Dwyer, and Dion Bunyan.
But they still have one of the real survivors in the team - 35-year-old lock Josh Tanner, who has been in career best form for his club Wests Panthers, and was an integral part of the side which won the title in 2011 under veteran master coach Dave Pearce, who has returned to the helm for the first time since 2017.
Tanner will play alongside his 18-year-old nephew Marcus Tanner, who has also been in outstanding form for the Panthers.
Another former Queensland Rangers representative second rower in Kevin Sherriff will again captain a “mostly very young” side which includes a string of debutants, including two other Wests young guns in powerhouse forward Lachlan Patterson, who has returned home after a stint with Redcliffe Dolphins' Hastings Deering Colts, and prolific try scoring centre Jensen Deamer.
There are also two former CQ Capras stars in Panthers five-eighth Caleb Tull and rampaging front rower Shaun Ezzy in action for the Bears; whilst, East Magpies’ Gladstone Valleys star recruits second rower Caleb Van Lawick and reserve five-eighth Andreas Nona, and Hervey Bay Seagulls excitement machine centre Jeremiah Pati will also line up for the home side.
Pearce said they rounded off their preparation with a “real good team run” last night, and he remains quietly confident of regaining the silverware despite the quality of the personnel they will be without.
The Bears’ first game is against South West at 11am tomorrow, and Pearce admits “they won’t be easy”.
“But we hope to get away to a flying start and go all the way - Toowoomba and Sunny Coast are probably the teams to beat," Pearce said.
"Sunny Coast have a lot of Melbourne Storm Reserve Grade players, but we have got a lot of great players as well.
"The thing I like is their versatility. They can all interchange just about anywhere, and I ask the people of Bundaberg to come along and get behind their team."
The 50th edition of the 47th Battalion commences 10am Saturday at Salter Oval.
47th Battalion Day 1
2021 47th Battalion draw
Saturday, May 1
|Time||Field 1||Field 2|
|10am||Rockhampton v Central Highlands (W)||Game 1: Toowoomba v Wide Bay|
|11am||Game 4: Bundaberg v South West||Game 3: Sunshine Coast v Gladstone|
|12pm||Game 2: Rockhampton v Loser Game 1||Central Highlands v Sunshine Coast (W)|
|2pm||Rockhampton v Gladstone (W)||Game 5: Loser Game 3 v Loser Game 4|
|3pm||Game 7: Winner Game 1 v Winner Game 2||South West v Sunshine Coast (W)|
|4pm||Central Highlands v Gladstone (W)||Game 6: Loser Game 2 v Loser Game 5|
|5pm||Game 8: Winner Game 3 v Winner Game 4|
|6pm||Rockhampton v South West (W)|
Sunday, May 2
|Time||Field 1||Field 2|
|10am||Rockhampton v South West (W)|
|11am||Rockhampton v Sunshine Coast (W)||Game 10: Loser Game 7 v Loser Game 8|
|12pm||Plate Final: Winner Game 5 v Winner Game 6|
|1pm||South West v Central Highlands (W)|
|2pm||Trophy Final: Winner Game 7 v Winner Game 8|