Hostplus Cup and former Colts players will spend the upcoming summer chasing their rugby league dreams, with about 55 Queensland Rugby League statewide competitions athletes earning NRL or Super League opportunities off the back of 2023.
While some have signed fulltime contracts, others will strive to put their best foot forward in train-and-trial deals across the pre-season, with many already hitting the training paddocks.
Former Sunshine Coast Falcons forward Max Bailey – who picked up the club’s James Ackerman Medal for best and fairest in 2023 – is one who is re-learning the ropes of an NRL system.
Having signed with Redcliffe for the 2024 Cup season, Bailey has also earned a train and trial deal with affiliate NRL club, the Dolphins.
The 26-year-old has done pre-seasons before with the Roosters in 2019-20 and the Melbourne Storm in 2021-22, but he said each opportunity brought a new way of looking at things.
“Everyone's different… it’s three different clubs, three different ways of doing things,” Bailey said.
“But they're all very, very challenging. It’s a good challenge to see how much you can improve and take that back to club footy and see where you're at.
“You get a chance to train with the NRL players, the blokes that have been doing it for a long time and just learning as much as I can off them guys and of the coaching staff. I get to work with a guy like Wayne Bennett… it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I am just learning as much as I can and taking that into Cup.”
Bailey said his move to Redcliffe happened quickly with coach Ben Te’o reaching out to him just weeks before he started training with the Dolphins.
His train-and-trial will keep him at the Dolphins’ training grounds until Christmas, but Bailey hopes a good impression in that time will see him stick around longer.
“Obviously, the goal is to get in the NRL, so whether that's more pre-season time in the new year or whether I go back to the Cup and work my way back up here, that's the end goal,” Bailey said.
“While I'm doing it, (it’s about) just playing consistent footy, staying on the field, staying healthy and playing well for the Cup team.”
Central Queensland Capras playmaker Aaron Moore has also been handed an opportunity with the NRL Dolphins – an affiliate of the Capras – is also hopeful he can push for a return after Christmas with a good train-and-trial stint in December.
Moore said the new affiliation had provided plenty of motivation to those at the Rockhampton-based club.
“It's the best thing for the Capras, especially as it is a smaller region, a country region, so it's certainly good to get a bit more experience back in our team,” he said.
“It was certainly good having JJ (Collins) and Kurt (Donoghoe) who were the two big ones that played the most games last year and it's a massive benefit for us and just strengthens the whole side a little bit.
“The whole community has been getting around us the last couple of years, so hopefully leading in the next year we can do the exact same thing and hopefully go a couple better.”
Moore said the key for him over the next few weeks would be to not sit back but to show the Dolphins staff exactly what he was capable of.
“I am certainly trying to put my best foot forward... not trying to stand in the shadows too much, but get out there and show them what I've got and hopefully just get fitter, faster, stronger by the end of it,” he said.
“It's just fulltime until Christmas. (But) if they want you, they want you and if they don’t, you go back to where you come from sort of thing. Pretty brutal, but it is what it is.”
Deals for 2024
Rory Ferguson (Souths Logan Magpies)
Ethan Quai-Ward (Souths Logan Magpies)
Matt Milson (Wynnum Manly Seagulls)
Kalolo Saitaua (Wynnum Manly Seagulls)
Josh Stuckey (Wynnum Manly Seagulls)
Cooper Page-Wilson (Wynnum Manly Seagulls)
Josh Patston (Burleigh Bears)
Creedence Toia (Burleigh Bears)
Bailey Butler (Central Queensland Capras to Burleigh Bears)
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Melino Fineanganofo (Western Clydesdales)
Bud Smith (Western Clydesdales)
Jackson Gibbons (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
James Walsh (Redcliffe Dolphins)
Ryan Jackson (Redcliffe Dolphins)
Jordan Lipp (Western Clydesdales to Norths Devils)
Gerome Burns (Ipswich Jets to Norths Devils)
Trey Brown (Central Queensland Capras)
Aaron Moore (Central Queensland Capras)
Lachlan Hubner (Central Queensland Capras)
Max Bailey (Sunshine Coast Falcons to Redcliffe Dolphins)
Tukimihia Simpkins and Cooper Jenkins (Norths Devils) - recruited from New South Wales
*PNG Hunters will have players join the Dolphins NRL for train and trial opportunities in the new year. These players are yet to have been selected.
Gold Coast Titans
Tom Steadman (Burleigh Bears to Tweed Seagulls)
Vaka Sikahele (Burleigh Bears to Tweed Seagulls)
Luke Burton (Tweed Seagulls)
Kaleb Ngamanu (Tweed Seagulls)
Kyle Coghill (Norths Devils to Ipswich Jets)
Jordan Penquitt (Brisbane Tigers to Ipswich Jets)
Manly Sea Eagles
Max Lehmann (Brisbane Tigers)
Lazarus Vaalepu (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Nofoasa Malutoa (Western Clydesdales to Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Jack Campagnolo (Souths Logan Magpies to Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Caius Faatili (Wynnum Manly Seagulls to Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Tom Rafter (Brisbane Tigers)
Tristan Hope (Brisbane Tigers)
Treigh Stewart (St George Illawarra Dragons to Brisbane Tigers)
Blake Woodford (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
North Queensland Cowboys
Sean Mullany (Mackay Cutters)
Hiale Roycroft (Mackay Cutters)
Rayden Burns (Mackay Cutters)
Josh Smith (Mackay Cutters)
John Radel (Wynnum Manly Seagulls to Mackay Cutters)
Lachlan West (Brisbane Tigers to Northern Pride)
Kyle Schneider (Mackay Cutters to Northern Pride)
Ewan Moore (Northern Pride)
Rashaun Denny (Northern Pride)
Hastings Deering Colts Player of the Year Lachlan West
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Adam Christensen (Burleigh Bears)
Cade Maloney (Townsville Blackhawks)
Nick Halalilo (Central Queensland Capras to Townsville Blackhawks)
Byron Johnson (Souths Logan Magpies to Ipswich Jets)
Kyle Foxwell (Wynnum Manly Seagulls to Ipswich Jets)
Dominic Macumboy (Ipswich Jets)
Max Banditt (Ipswich Jets)
Gordon Whippy (Ipswich Jets)
Super League contracts
Josh Simm (Wynnum Manly Seagulls to Castleford Tigers)
Sylvester Namo (Townsville Blackhawks to Castleford Tigers)
Nixon Putt (Central Queensland Capras to Castleford Tigers)
Rodrick Tai (PNG Hunters to Warrington Wolves)