Round 1 kicks off tomorrow for junior statewide competitions, with southeast clubs in action for the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup, Harvey Norman Under 19s and Cyril Connell Challenge.
Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup
Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup kicks off this week and where else would you start but with the premiers, Souths Logan Magpies, coming up against the Redcliffe Dolphins at Kayo Stadium.
It will be a hot Saturday on and off the field as Souths begin the trek back to the top of the mountain but this time with a new line up and new coach.
It’s been 293 days since Jye Gray and Blake Mozer manufactured a win over the Townsville Blackhawks on the Sunshine Coast to clinch the premiership for the Magpies.
New Souths Logan coach Ben Trim is ready for the challenge of a new season.
“Mal Meninga throws up lots of challengers, it’s a short competition so you have to be ready Round 1,” Trim said.
“We may have won the competition last season but we are a new team and new players and new coach too."
When Souths Logan are looking to score tries or bring the ball back with venom it will be Israel Leota they look to.
Match: Dolphins v Magpies
Round 1 -
Venue: Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe
“I am really looking forward to seeing Israel Leota... it’s his second year of Meninga and he is looking like he is ready for a big year on the back of that trial game for the Broncos,” Trim said.
“You need a smart hooker and we have one in Jacob Tinsley, so he will play a big role for us this season too."
But even with the talent he has in his side, Trim knows what’s waiting for him at Kayo Stadium this Saturday.
“The Redcliffe middles are terrific - that is their strength and I think they have the best middle third," Trim said.
“Michael Waqa is sensational.
“It’s going to be hot and with the two extra interchanges I think that might help the bigger teams."
Meanwhile Dolphins coach Scott Tronc knows he’s got a job on his hands in 2023.
“Mal Meninga Cup is a 50-metre sprint. You don’t have time to start slowly or come home late,” Tronc said.
“For a lot of guys this is their first introduction to senior football... getting their preparation right, their hydration and diet.
“I want to see our players stick to a plan... know the plan and stick to it. Show they can follow the map."
Tronc is excited about two Dolphins that might be jumping waves by the end of the Mal Meninga season.
“We have two players in Michael Waqa and John Paul Donevski who have done the pre-season with the NRL squad so they can see the top of the mountain ... it’s still the same hard climb but they can see it," Tronc said.
“They are both going to be good for us this year, as a middle forward and a fullback.”
In other games this round, Wynnum Manly will play host to Burleigh at 3.15pm at John Frederick Park, Capalaba, while Norths Devils will take on Brisbane Tigers from 2.10pm at Bishop Park.
Harvey Norman Under 19s
Round 1 of the Harvey Norman Under 19s competition will see three games be played on Saturday, finishing with a clash between the Burleigh Bears and Wynnum Manly Seagulls.
When the Bears and Seagulls met last season, it was the Bears who walked away victorious, 24-18.
A big part of that was hooker Lily-Rose Kolc, who will be back again for the Bears.
Bella Thompson, the Bears fullback, will be the vocal point of everything Burleigh do on Saturday and they will be looking for her to break open the Seagulls' defence.
Match: WM Seagulls v Bears
Round 1 -
Venue: John Frederick Park, Capalaba
“Bella is a real player, she’s going to turn some heads this season,” Taplin said.
“I think off the bench Nadia Windleborn will have an impact and of course Lily-Rose Kolc.”
It’s been a disrupted start to the season for the Bears with new coach Spencer Taplin barely having time to check his pigeon hole.
“You’re right it’s been disrupted... I have only been involved two weeks but we are ready to go,” Taplin said.
“They’re such a great group, so coachable and willing to learn.
“They take notes when I talk and retain everything and want to get better. There's not much more a coach can ask.
“I want to see connection... connect as a team and as a unit.”
On the opposite side of the match-up, if you said Wynnum Manly coach Steve Casey was excited for the start of the season it would be a massive understatement. In 2023, Wynnum Manly are ready.
“We are preparing to play the best team in the competition. The Bears are the benchmark,” Casey said.
“I am so excited about the season and what our forwards and outside backs can do. The players in this age group are just amazing. They’re genuine rugby league stars and they will play NRLW.
“It’s so exciting what is happening.
“Defence is our focus, that’s what I want to see. If you don’t do that well you will always struggle.”
In other games for Round 1 Redcliffe will host Souths Logan from 11.20am at Kayo Stadium while Norths and Brisbane Tigers will meet at 3.40pm at Bishop Park.
Cyril Connell Challenge
Round 1 of the Cyril Connell Challenge will see Bishop Park play host to two Brisbane clubs that ooze tradition.
Norths Devils and Brisbane Tigers have been rocking each other’s worlds for 90 years and on Saturday the youngest Devils and Tigers get to have their turn.
Cyril Connell played 21 games for Queensland and two games for Australia, but it was off the field that the former maths teacher at Brisbane State High and director of secondary education for Queensland excelled.
Match: Devils v Tigers
Round 1 -
Venue: Bishop Park, Brisbane
Connell was able to turn to his network of contacts, his driving skills and fondness for pie eating to successfully scan Queensland in search of talent, finding rising stars for the Brisbane Broncos for 19 years. There wasn’t a boy in rugby league across the state that didn’t know his name.
The Tigers have several players that Connell would have been keeping a close eye on - Max Blanch is the Tigers captain and played one game last season. He will be at lock.
Meanwhile Frank Howarth will be in the second row for the Tigers and will provide mobile physicality with front rower Kobi Floro set to be a 100kg wrecking ball.
Coach Lote Tuqiri is in his second year of coaching the Tigers and excited for what the season could bring.
“I think I have improved a lot around communication and my message to the players, making it very clear and concise,” Tuqiri said.
“Saturday will be about a few things, I think we are fit so the heat won’t be a problem but I just want us to compete in a smart way.
“I want to see Raymond Nagas in the clear. He has flown under the radar but I think he could score some tries for us but we need to give him the room to do that too.”
Devils coach Shannon Tupara is a realist and ready for what lies ahead this season.
“It’s such a quick competition that we will be looking to start sharp. Trials don’t mean too much but our message has been improvement every week,” Tupara said.
“I think we can gel quickly and be a cohesive group. You can’t afford to ease into the season when it’s only six weeks.
“We will be about being a team that competes and plays a fast style of football.”
Elsewhere, Redcliffe and Souths Logan will kick off the Round 1 action at 10am when they clash at Kayo Stadium, while Wynnum Manly and Burleigh will meet at 2pm at John Frederick Park, Capalaba.