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Denzel Burns. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

Denzel Burns is no stranger to success at Toowoomba’s Clive Berghofer Stadium.

The former Valleys junior won four straight premierships between 2013 and 2016 on the town’s hallowed turf, at the corners of Arthur and Mary Streets.

He returned there in 2019 with the A grade side to enjoy grand final day glory yet again.

And this year, Burns is back, this time with the Western Clydesdales.

The former Ipswich Jets fullback is feeling right at home.

Denzel Burns. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL
Denzel Burns. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

“I was born here, bred here and been playing here ever since I was six,” Burns said of Toowoomba.

“It’s really good to be playing for my hometown.

“This feels like home to me, playing here. To get to play here nearly every week, it’s awesome. I’ve played a lot of footy here, so it feels like home.

"There’s been a lot of success at this field for me so hopefully that luck comes through for Cup.”

If there is someone who deserves a bit of luck, it is Burns.

The 24-year-old – who has only played in Cup for the Jets, with 41 appearances across five seasons - faced his most challenging year yet in 2023 after Ipswich failed to notch up a single win and he was sidelined twice with concussions.

Burns in Clydesdales' pre-season. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL
Burns in Clydesdales' pre-season. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

These concussions turned into a serious matter for Burns over his first pre-season with the Clydesdales, when he was referred to a neurologist.

“When I first got told that I had symptoms of my concussions still – and this was about a month and a half or two months after the injury – it was a bit of a worry and I was anxious and nervous,” Burns said.

“Hearing that from a neurologist made me think the worst – am I going to get cleared? Am I going to play footy again?

“It was a case of, if you don’t get it right, you might need some time off footy.

“During the off-season, I had to do rehab and get cleared by the neurologist. It was a bit longer off training than what I thought it was going to be, but eventually we got there and I got cleared a couple of weeks ago and I’m back into rehab and going into normal conditioning.

“I’m very close to full contact. The goal is to be back around the first round.

“It was a very tough year last year. Mentally and physically both, it was just tough. Losing the games and also taking those injuries... it always comes to your head, you know, is it worth it?

“But your love for the game and your passion just stays there.”

As he navigated the tricky year, Burns said he was encouraged by his family, especially his brother, Gerome.

The duo played together at Ipswich, both riding the rollercoaster of the 2023 season.

And while Burns has returned home for a fresh start with the Clydesdales in 2024, his older brother is getting a shot at an NRL system after signing with the Norths Devils and picking up a train and trial with affiliates, the Dolphins.

Burns said conversations with loved ones and watching Gerome succeed helped keep him motivated and on track to return to the sport he loved so much.

"Last year, my family, the coach and my brother Gerome, they were real supportive to keep me going down there,” he said.

“To see Gerome playing as well as he was and to see his success, it definitely gives me something to strive for. He’s my brother and he makes it look like it can happen at any time.

“When he was younger in the 20s systems and Queensland teams, we felt like it was just about biding your time. After those things went away, he almost went away from footy himself.

“He’s come back really strong and he should be proud of himself… he found love for the game again. It’s really awesome to see and that’s what helped me stay positive and see out the year there.

“I’ve had this conversation (about what keeps him going) with a couple of friends and we’ve talked about how much of my life has been put into footy.

“It puts it into perspective, when you hear these things and hear from a neurologist yourself… you think, well, footy is my life and it could be taken away from me.

“It also makes you appreciate other things outside of footy but it was pretty scary because it means the world to you. It’s your second life. It’s a different feeling with footy and how much it means to you.”

Burns’ major goal now for 2024 is to see out a whole season for his first year with the Clydesdales.

He wants to remain healthy, be consistent and hopefully enjoy a bit more success in his hometown.

He is one of a number of new faces among the Clydesdales squad, with coach Jason Alchin also signing the likes of Burleigh Bears star forward Emry Pere, former New Zealand Warrior Taniela Otukolo, and local young guns Brock Patti, Darcy Carswell and Kaden Buhse.

Outside of his major goals, Burns also has his sights set firmly on a big performance in Round 7 in particular, when he meets the Norths Devils and, hopefully, his brother.

Gerome Burns with the NRL Dolphins. Photo: Supplied
Gerome Burns with the NRL Dolphins. Photo: Supplied

“We’ve already talked about this, me and my brother,” Burns laughed.

“We’ve promised not to make each other look bad. I was hoping to get a round up against him up here (in Toowoomba) but down there (at Bishop Park) will still be good.

“I hope all our family gets down there to see it because I know it will be passionate. We’re very competitive with each other and always have been so that’s what makes each other better.

“I’m looking forward to that round if he’s playing in it and not playing for the Dolphins.”

Western Clydesdales 2024 gains and losses


Tahj Amone (Melbourne Storm), Kaden Buhse (Clydesdales Colts), Denzel Burns (Ipswich Jets), Darcy Carswell (Clydesdales Colts), Levi Helleur-Atiga (New Zealand Warriors), Luke Jurd (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Mitchell Leard-Lamont (Central Queensland Capras), Braden Leigh (Clydesdales Colts), Lopeti Mafi (Blacktown Sea Eagles), Taniela Otukolo (Redcliffe Dolphins), Tareq Parter (ACT Brumbies), Brock Patti (Clydesdales Colts), Emry Pere (Burleigh Bears), Ketesemane Pouli (New Zealand), Mac Puafisi (Parramatta Eels), Chris Schwalger (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Nicholas Toeava (New Zealand), Dylan White (Townsville Blackhawks), Connor Williams (Souths Logan Magpies)


Alex Brighton (released), Hnaloan Budden (France), Brock Diment (Toowoomba Valleys), Matt Duggan (Wattles Warriors), Melino Fineanganofo (Canterbury Bulldogs), Harrison Leonard (Central Queensland Capras), Jordan Lipp (Norths Devils), Nofoasa Malutoa (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Cory McGrady (Toowoomba Valleys), Lachlan Perry (released), Mitchell Revell (released), Darryn Schonig (France), Hugh Sedger (Toowoomba Valleys), Bessie Toomaga (Ipswich Jets), Cole Waaka (Easts Carina), Mitchell Watson (Burleigh Bears)

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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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