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BMD Premiership Round 1 preview

Two new teams, many familiar faces, fresh talent, and a chance to push yourself for State of Origin or NRLW glory – season 2023 of the BMD Premiership is here.

The Norths Devils and Mackay Cutters will enter the fray this year, replacing the West Brisbane Panthers and the 2022 premiers, the North Queensland Gold Stars.

With eight teams vying for that premiership trophy, the stage is set for another thrilling season and the dynamic of two new sides is certainly going to add some extra excitement to the equation.

The Cutters – who have taken on the Gold Stars model – will open season 2023 against the Wynnum Manly Seagulls at BMD Kougari Oval from 1.20pm on Saturday.

For coach Marco Peters – former assistant coach of the Gold Stars, one of the key moments in this match will actually be getting to see his team together for the first time, with players spread out across Mackay, Cairns, Townsville, Gladstone and Brisbane.

“Having girls across the state, it’s still a challenge,” Peters said.

“It is one of my biggest learnings from over the last three years, is if you get everyone on the same page, you can overcome any obstacles from the distance.

“We had a camp last week – not everyone was able to come - and we had some real good team building. We went up Cape Hillsborough and we talked about our whys on our individual level.

“We’re the most travelled team by far because of location so it’s really important the girls get along and understand the standards and what it takes to work together.

“Part of doing this was also about understanding Mackay; for the other girls to understand we’re playing for Mackay and it’s a proud football region.”

Peters said outside of getting to see his team work together for the first time, he expected Saturday to be a tough match, given the talent within the Wynnum Manly side, including Julia Robinson, Karina Brown, Emily Bass and Shaylee Bent.

Mackay boast plenty of talent themselves, with the likes of Shannon Mato, Emma Manzelmann and Tahlulah Tillett among the line-up.

And outside of the big names, Peters said fans should keep an eye out for two players in particular, who he predicted would make their mark this BMD Premiership season.

“We have a young lady, Zoe Cook… Zoe played 19s Origin back in 2021 and then played one game last year but basically had the season off from a BMD point of view,” he said.

“She went back and rebuilt her game and got player of the year in the local league, so I’m really excited to see how she steps up back into it.

“Then we also have Xanthe Topping, another local league player of the year. She was in all the junior (Northern) Marlins programs.

“We all develop in different ways and times, and she’s taken a little bit of time to develop but she’s ready to show what she can do and gets a start this weekend because of her training and how she’s performed.

“If you look at our bench, it’s a testament to her that she’s starting.”

Mackay Cutters hooker Emma Manzelmann and Wynnum Manly hooker Patrice Chambers. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL
Mackay Cutters hooker Emma Manzelmann and Wynnum Manly hooker Patrice Chambers. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL

Meanwhile, fellow newcomers in the Norths Devils will close out Round 1, when they play host to Burleigh Bears at Bishop Park at 4.20pm on Saturday.

To be led out by young competition winner and “Devil for the Day” Zahlee Stewart, it will be a historic occasion for the proud club.

Coach Zac Wallwork said he was trying to balance the excitement around the BMD Premiership debut with the need to focus on the task at hand in Round 1.

“Everyone is excited about playing this weekend. For a new team, we were ready to play last year,” Wallwork said.

“I need them to understand the importance around being that first statewide team and the first 17 girls that will ever run out.

“They’ll be the first 17 names on our honour board, filled with so much history. They’ll be up on that honour board by next week.

“So we are talking about it and the importance of it, but we’re also having to dull it down at the moment a bit and focus on the football side of it. With the experience in the side, they get that.

“They’ve been around that pressure before. You do want to talk about the club and the moment but come Saturday, the girls will know it’s time to play footy.”

Wallwork said his team were preparing for a challenging first hit-out against a Burleigh Bears side that had Zahara Temara, Chelsea Lenarduzzi and Tazmin Gray.

But with the likes of Ali Brigginshaw, Shenae Ciesiolka and skipper Jada Ferguson in his own team, Wallwork knows just how competitive Norths will be.

Burleigh Bears captain Zahara Temara and Norths Devils captain Jada Ferguson. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL
Burleigh Bears captain Zahara Temara and Norths Devils captain Jada Ferguson. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL

“We have so many girls in the side that are winners and they want to win and they compete on every play,” Wallwork said.

“If we can compete for 60 minutes, we can go on and get the job done. We have to stay in the grind.

“Like I said, they’ve been ready from day one to play footy.”

Wallwork said he expected Georgina Tuitaalili and Breanna Eales to impress this year and be two younger players who push for NRLW contracts.

“It’s a really big year for Georgina to stamp her mark and take her footy to the next level,” he said.

“She’s represented Queensland Under 19s and has so much ability in her footy and the work ethic to go to the next level.

“Another unknown is Breanna Eales, who was in the Valleys SEQ team last year. She’s only 12 months into her footy but she’s just excelled in pre-season and has been rewarded in starting this weekend.”

Elsewhere in Round 1, Central Queensland Capras will host Tweed Seagulls while Brisbane Tigers will take on the Souths Logan Magpies.

For the full draw and team lists, click here.

You can watch all BMD Premiership games live by subscribing at

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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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