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Lachlan Cooper and Brian Canavan at the 2021 XXXX Chairman's Challenge. Photo: Bruce Clayton

The banter has begun, the rivalries are heating up and the excitement is at fever pitch – it’s XXXX Chairman’s Challenge time.

I love this time of year because this representative carnival just seems to have a little bit of everything.

Not only does it showcase the immense talent we have across our three South East leagues – Brisbane, Gold Coast and Ipswich, but it really unites the region, even if the competition is fierce.

The passion always starts to first come out in the chairs of each league and their banter with each other.

That then translates into the performances on the field and the clashes between Brisbane Blue, Brisbane Red, Gold Coast and Ipswich.

The competition has been running since 2007 and it is always such a level playing field between the four teams and hard to pick out a “favourite” or an “underdog”.

But what we can guarantee is that they all want to represent their leagues and families in the best way they can.

That and the fact they just love to beat each other.

Michael Purcell plays for Brisbane Blue in last year's XXXX Chairman's Challenge.
Michael Purcell plays for Brisbane Blue in last year's XXXX Chairman's Challenge.

There’s no doubt in the world there’s great rivalry between the leagues, what with them all being so close in location and with a lot of people knowing each other in both the A grade and under 20s draws.

Some of the greatest battles will be with people you know and love to play against – that will be evident from the first kick off on Friday night.

And while rugby league and this carnival are about those team efforts and team showdowns, it’s also quite a significant representative opportunity for players on that personal level.

Quite simply, it’s a great chance for our local players to get exposure.

We’ve had numerous examples over the years of players moving on from the XXXX Chairman’s Challenge to the next level.

Lachlan Cooper and Brian Canavan at the 2021 XXXX Chairman's Challenge. Photo: Bruce Clayton
Lachlan Cooper and Brian Canavan at the 2021 XXXX Chairman's Challenge. Photo: Bruce Clayton

One such example is Lachlan Cooper who last year was named the man of the match in the XXXX League Championship final. He has now signed a contract with the Ipswich Jets and is playing in the Hostplus Cup.

It’s a really good stepping stone.

We also have players in the Hostplus Cup squads who may not have had the opportunity to take that next step yet but can showcase their ability in this competition.

Last year’s efforts proved just how strong the talent is in the South East corner.

Brisbane Blue claimed the 2021 XXXX Chairman’s Challenge and went on to play Toowoomba in the XXXX League Championship final.

They claimed an outstanding 46-26 victory, making them the top A grade team in the state.

Because of COVID we actually had a number of changes to that team before the final and yet, they were still the best in Queensland.

It was gratifying from that point of view.

The strength of our region was shown in that win.

And now it’s time to do it all again.

This year’s competition will be held at Runaway Bay, which is our first time on the Gold Coast in a while.

We usually try to hold it at a “central venue”, such as Brandon Park at Acacia Ridge, but we’re actually looking to share around the hosting duties between the three leagues in the future and give everyone the chance to enjoy holding the event and the economy that comes with it.

The players will stay at the Gold Coast across the weekend and we work with the local council to enable that to happen, plus local organisations, such as the Runaway Bay Seagulls, who have been fantastic through this.

Our leagues have certainly put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this weekend’s XXXX Chairman’s Challenge – they’re making sure their teams are competitive and that they’ve got everything they need to be successful on the day.

I especially have to thank the chairs of each league, their boards and our staff - the efforts and organisation from all have been outstanding, particularly Brendon Lindsay and Linda Saunders on the Gold Coast.

The volunteers that have helped us put this carnival together also deserve recognition and have worked tirelessly to get our game on the field.

With the Queensland Rugby League’s community awards now open, I sure hope to see a couple of volunteers from the XXXX Chairman’s Challenge be put forward as nominees.

But, in the meantime, it’s shaping up to be yet another excellent tournament.

Bring on the weekend.

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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