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Western Clydesdales: Cup squad list for 2023

If there’s one team that all eyes are going to be on in 2023, it’s the Western Clydesdales.

Formerly known as the Toowoomba Clydesdales, this is the first Hostplus Cup season for the franchise, after the original team withdrew from the competition back in 2006 – a season in which they were minor premiers and grand finalists.

The Toowoomba Clydesdales were a strong force back in the 1990s and 2000s, winning two premierships during their 11-year run. The first was during the inaugural Cup season in 1996 and the second was under the tutelage of former Queensland Maroons coach, Kevin Walters, in 2001.

For their return season under their new name, the Clydesdales have assembled a solid squad.

There is a mix of youth and experience; a combination of Cup players and players from the local region.

Inaugural coach Jason Alchin said they had built “from the ground up” and he was proud of those who had come to the club and how they were buying into the vision.

Coaching staff and players are predicting fans and opponents will see them as a tough and resilient group of men.

For former Brisbane Tigers back Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga, he has no doubt the Clydesdales will be viewed as the underdogs.

But, like all Queenslanders, that is just how the Clydesdales like it.

Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL
Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL

“We have a good, young side,” Aufaga-Toomaga said.

“We have some experienced players in our side, like Darryn (Schonig). I reckon we’ll go good. Some teams are not expecting us coming. We’re going to be the underdogs this year.

“I like that. Everyone’s looking down at us, but we’ll just show them what we’ve got when we play against them.”

Aufaga-Toomaga – who has also played at the Central Queensland Capras and Sunshine Coast Falcons - is one of the biggest signings for the club alongside inaugural skipper Schonig, Jayden Corrigan, Blake Lenehan and Mathew Lyons.

Meanwhile the likes of former Ipswich Jets Cup duo Hugh Sedger and Todd White are returning to their hometown of Toowoomba.

For 26-year-old Aufaga-Toomaga, one of the appeals of coming to the Western Clydesdales was not just to get the club up and running, but to have the opportunity for an NRL pre-season with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

And while his chance to impress down south was interrupted by a knee injury, Aufaga-Toomaga can see the pathways and knows he’s in a good place.

“Everything’s been going really well here,” he said.

“Last year in the first week of finals, I got a call from coach Jason and he was pretty much calling me because he wanted me to come over. He wanted to sign me.

“I caught up with him after finals and now here I am, in Toowoomba. I didn’t know what I was doing before this.

“I was pretty much looking for an NRL pre-season and getting into that system again. He mentioned they’re the Bulldogs feeder club and I thought this might be that. He gave me the opportunity to go down there. That’s how it all started.

“Everything didn’t go to plan – I had to have surgery on my knee - but I’ve been putting the work in to be ready for the season.

“I played my first game back (in a Clydesdales trial) and the knee feels good. There’s still a little bit of work to get through as a team but I’ll ready for Round 1.

“It’s coming along good. There’s heaps of young boys that have joined the team and the coach is really good too. All the staff, they’ve been good to me. It’s just a good club.

“All I can do now is have a really good season, play my best footy and there will be people watching.”

The Western Clydesdales will open their season on Sunday, March 12, against the PNG Hunters.

Western Clydesdales 2023 squad list

Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga (Brisbane Tigers), Alexander Brighton (Western Clydesdales Hastings Deering Colts), Hnaloan Budden (Ipswich Jets), Chayse Cavanagh (Redcliffe Dolphins), Jayden Corrigan (Norths Devils), Blake Cullen (Pittsworth Danes), Brock Diment (Toowoomba Valleys), Darryl Erepia (Western Clydesdales Hastings Deering Colts), Tapou Fifita (Otahuhu Leopards), Melino Fineanganofo (Valleys Diehards), Cooper Howlett (Northern Pride), Joshua Keoller (Highfields Eagles), Blake Lenehan (Ipswich Jets), Mathew Lyons (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Nofoasa Malutoa (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Cory McGrady (Highfields Eagles), Takai Mokohar (Central Queensland Capras), Riley Moore (Maroochydore Swans), Patrick O’Callaghan (Toowoomba Valleys), Neihana Oldham (Mounties NSW Cup), Tui Oloapu (Warwick Cowboys), Lachlan Perry (Souths Logan Magpies), Mitchell Revell (Toowoomba Brothers), Luke Rouland (Canterbury Bulldogs), Darryn Schonig (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Hugh Sedger (Ipswich Jets), Jerome Taulaga (Western Suburbs Magpies - NSW), Drew Timms (Redcliffe Dolphins), Cole Waaka (Souths Logan Magpies), Josese Waqalevu (West Brisbane Panthers), Mitchell Watson (Warwick Cowboys), Todd White (Ipswich Jets)

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