Junior statewide competitions are all set to kick off on Saturday for season 2024.
With the newly-introduced Harvey Norman Under 17s and the new-look Mal Meninga Cup, Harvey Norman Under 19 and Cyril Connell Cup, the year ahead is set to be a massive one for up-and-comers of Queensland rugby league.
Here's how they shape up in Round 1.
Mal Meninga Cup
Like the first day of school, Round 1 can throw up more questions than it provides answers. And, just like school, there can be plenty of unknowns and nerves.
The Redcliffe Dolphins will close out the first week of competition when they take on traditional rivals the Brisbane Tigers on Sunday.
Last year's Scott Tronc is back at the helm in 2024 but knows that 2023 doesn’t mean too much anymore and a new group of Dolphins are ready to tackle the now under 19 competition.
“We will have about eight players from last season again,” Tronc said of the reigning premiers.
“I am all about moving those players up and getting them ready for the next challenge.
“We are about working hard and our values and that’s all we can control.
“I am looking forward to Tevita Naufahu our centre and (lock) Lewis Symonds as well.”
On the other side of halfway will be the Brisbane Tigers. The Tigers didn’t have the best year in the Mal Meninga Cup in 2023 and coach Ben Weston will be looking to right some wrongs.
“I sat down and we had a real think about what has not worked for the Tigers and I am new to the club, so I came with fresh eyes,” Weston said.
“We have identified a few things we need to change and we have gone about changing that now.
“Redcliffe in Round 1 is a great challenge. They are the premiers and that’s not by accident - that is because they’re the best.
“The key to us being competitive is our defence. We have to defend well, especially under pressure.
“We played Dolphins in a trial game last week so we had a bit of a look at them but every coach will say the same thing that Round 1 is about you and making sure you have things in order.”
Harvey Norman Under 19
Burleigh Bears and Souths Logan Magpies on Saturday at Logan Metro Sports Complex will headline the opening round of the Harvey Norman Under 19 competition.
Souths Logan coach Warren Bernardin is ready for what the season brings and thinks the Magpies have the talent to improve on their 12th-place finish in 2023 and play in this year's finals - a first for the Harvey Norman Under 19 competition.
Bernardin wants to see effort and attitude and thinks he will get both from his captain.
“Our No.10 Ma’u Halatoa has come from the Wests Tigers and she has been fantastic in the off-season," he said.
“She’s our captain and she will lead those little efforts that we have been talking about.
“That’s what I want to get right - effort and attitude.”
The Bears had five members play in last year's BMD Premiership final and they’re ready to bring that experience back to the Under 19s.
Bears coach Spencer Taplin is ready for the season to start.
“This year we are a very young and energetic side,” Taplin said.
“The energy and attitude toward our current challenges has been so far okay.
“I'm looking forward to seeing how they develop over the season.
“We have our Titans academy girls just coming off their program, who got to play against the Newcastle Knights’ girls not long ago.”
Cyril Connell Cup
The Cyril Connell Cup will start at 1pm on Saturday with the Wynnum Manly Seagulls and Tweed Seagulls engaging in aerial warfare.
The Tweed Seagulls weren’t satisfied with their season in 2023 and the steep learning curve of a statewide competition took some getting used to.
Eleven players will return for 2024 and coach Neil Richards can’t wait for the weekend’s football.
“We have a good mix of experienced 17-year-olds who will feature in the competition for a second year running,” Richards said.
“Along with some talented 16-year-olds from the local competition and signings from local NRL clubs, this provides us with a lot of depth across the park.”
Wynnum Manly were also reflecting on their last season and weren’t happy with sixth spot. Change is in the air for the Seagulls and it started in November at training.
Seagulls coach Blake Trace said the team has bought into the club culture.
“We have put an emphasis around a team-first mentality and they have been working hard to grow and develop as a squad," he said.
The Seagulls are after a fast start in 2024 and know you don’t have time to make up ground.
“Every game is different but it’s important to start the season well.
“It’s a short competition, so every game counts.”
Harvey Norman Under 17
The opening round of the short Harvey Norman Under 17 season will bring the Dolphins and Tigers to Kayo Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Tigers coach Kim Bray is excited for what lies ahead for the squad.
“We will be a very competitive team with great strength all over the park,’’ Bray said.
“The key to having success this season will be to play to our strengths and keep doing the little things.’’
Dolphins coach Ana Fotu meanwhile has said she wants her team to show their best qualities starting with Round 1.
"Effort, attitude and energy will always be our main focus in being competitive in games,’’ she said.
“Like they say – hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’’
The Dolphins are excited about lock forward Keira Rangi, who made the Under 16 Queensland schoolgirls team in 2023.