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Sunshine Coast Falcons: Cup gains and losses for 2024

The Sunshine Coast Falcons’ semi-final loss to the Central Queensland Capras last year was a turning point for the club.

In what was a must-win match for Brad Henderson’s men, the Falcons were stripped of a number of star players, after their affiliates in the Melbourne Storm rested the majority of their starting line-up and called up a bevy of Sunshine Coast players to the NRL.

The Capras ran away with the victory in front of a Rockhampton home crowd – notching up a 38-10 win – and the Falcons were left to nurse their wounds.

While Henderson will never use the lack of Melbourne-affiliated players as an excuse for why they lost, it showed the Falcons they needed to strengthen their playing stocks.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done ahead of the 2024 season, recruiting the likes of young Redcliffe Dolphins playmaker Cody Hunter, gun forwards Caius Faatili (Wynnum Manly), Nofoasa Malutoa (Western Clydesdales) and Poasi Manu (Melbourne Storm), and Mackay’s 2023 Rookie of the Year, Flynn Camilleri.

Cody Hunter. Photo: Zain Mohammed/QRL
Cody Hunter. Photo: Zain Mohammed/QRL

It’s been described as a “busy recruitment season”.

And for Hunter, it is evident the drive for more talent across the board has worked.

“They did go looking for more depth in their squad,” Hunter said.

“That last semi-final they had against the Capras, most of the boys got called up to the NRL and they were left a bit thin. They don’t want that happening again.

“You can’t be relying on the feeder boys coming back from Melbourne and doing the job for you. The club are focused on making sure everyone in that squad is ready to play Cup.

“You can already see it at training. The gap between your starting squad and the renegades (reserve grade), you can’t see a difference.

“In some teams when you do 13 on 13, you can see the top side blow out. But here, it’s different. The competition has been crazy… everyone is fighting for spots and anyone can get in that first 17.

“The competition is great. I know this year I have to be playing to a high standard of footy because you never know what’s going to happen.

“I have (fellow half) Corey Herdegen coming through… he’s quality and he’s been killing it at training.

“If anyone slacks off, we’ve got someone that’s ready to come up to take our spot and the Storm boys coming back too.

“You have to be playing good footy week in, week out.”

Hunter, a Redcliffe junior, joins the Falcons this year after identifying he needed a fresh start.

The 22-year-old never thought he would leave the Dolphins, especially after last year enjoying a train-and-trial with the NRL side.

But, after struggling to find consistency with his game time, Hunter knew he wanted to have a crack elsewhere – and the Falcons certainly saw his potential.

Hunter at Falcons training. Photo: Sunshine Coast Falcons
Hunter at Falcons training. Photo: Sunshine Coast Falcons

“I went straight back to Cup after my train and trial last year and I had a few niggles and what not but couldn’t get the game time I wanted,” Hunter said.

“I wanted to play week in, week out… it’s not that I wasn’t enjoying my footy where I was last year but I got stuck in a bit of rut and I needed something new.

“Everything happens for a reason and it was time for me to start exploring other options. A few other coaches noticed that… Hendo noticed that.

“Hendo really stood out to me when we spoke and we got along from the start.

“They’ve got a good culture and they’re with the Storm so that’s a big opportunity for me if I do the right things. It was a no-brainer. Sunny Coast just felt like the right thing to do and I haven’t regretted it once.”

Hunter, who still lives in Redcliffe, said since arriving at the Falcons’ Kawana base, he felt at home.

He did enjoy a stint with Melbourne, including a trial appearance, but is thriving under the likes of Henderson and his assistant coaches, Dan Murphy and Leon Cherry.

“I’ve learnt little things I haven’t ID’d in my game before,” Hunter said.

“Having them as my three coaches has been a massive help.

“Hendo is easy to talk to. You get intimidated sometimes and get scared to talk to or crack a joke with a coach but he loves a chat or a joke. He’s very approachable.

“Footy is about having fun. You can be serious when it’s time to be serious but having that time for fun is what you need in a squad and Hendo delivers that.”

Hunter is also fitting in well with the squad, even with those he least suspected.

Having come up against the Falcons while at the Dolphins, he long believed one of their players – Luke Polselli - deserved the title of “biggest pest”.

But now after training in the halves with him throughout pre-season, Hunter couldn’t be more grateful for Polselli’s presence.

“We’re all just learning off each other at the moment but I’m gelling good with Luke Polselli,” Hunter said.

“I’ve sorted hating playing against him for the last three years but he’s been great for me.

“Normally when you don’t like someone you verse, you actually do gel really well with them when you’re on the same team.

“He’s by far the biggest pest in the game. There is no one that comes close to him. But he has really big days at work and then comes to training and that’s our time to get back at him.

“He’s definitely someone who has taught me a few things. The whole leadership group – Gez (Louis Geraghty), Burnsy (Sam Burns), P (Patrice Siolo) and him - they’re your typical old heads and we all just help each other.

“We have a real new squad so one of our goals was to gel as quick as we could and we definitely have. We’re a tight group and we’ve been looking good in these trial games.”

With two major goals already ticked off – to recruit well and gel quickly – the Falcons now have their sights set firmly on success in 2024.

Hunter said there was no beating around the bush at the Sunshine Coast; they know what they want and they’re determined to get there this year.

“We’re going big this year,” he said.

“We really want that premiership. That’s a big goal is to get in that top eight, top four if we can, and from there we make our way into that grand final if we can.

“To start off the season, we want a good start, get all the basic things right. But hopefully we can go through a good run that takes us through to the finals.”

Sunshine Coast Falcons gains and losses


Jed Bignell (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Flynn Camilleri (Mackay Cutters), Caius Faatili (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Liam Harris (Wests Magpies), Cody Hunter (Redcliffe Dolphins), Cruz Lasike (Burleigh Bears), Mathew Lyons (Wagga Wagga), Nofoasa Malutoa (Western Clydesdales), Poasi Manu (Melbourne Storm), Harrison McIndoe (Redcliffe Dolphins), Morgan McWhirter (North Sydney Bears), Riley Moore (Western Clydesdales), Kai Parker (Newtown Jets), Kyle Paterson (return to game), Thallon Peters (Central Queensland Capras), Kaden Williams (Canberra Raiders)


Max Bailey (Redcliffe Dolphins), Lucas Bell (Central Queensland Capras), Jack Brock (long-term injury), Daniel Dole (retired), Campbell Duffy (Norths Devils), Jack Gibbons (Cronulla Sharks pre-season), Luke Jurd (Western Clydesdales), Rohan Messer (local A-grade), Tayler McCann (local A-grade), Wyatt Reynolds (Norths Devils), Jai Smoothy (break from game), Lazarus Vaalepu (Melbourne Storm), Blake Woodford (Newcastle Knights), Jack Wright (Norths Devils)

Acknowledgement of Country

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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