Exclusive: Insiders look at the Intrust Super Cup
TOWNSVILLE Blackhawks look the team to beat but the race for the 2018 Intrust Super Cup premiership is hardly a one-horse race.
Redcliffe, Easts, Sunshine Coast and reigning premiers PNG Hunters have all enjoyed solid pre-seasons and are likely to be in the mix come finals time.
With the season set to kick off on Saturday, we look at all the comings and goings across the competition, and get a final word from the coaches and the Fan on the Hill on what shapes to be another exciting season.
Ins: Josh Berkers (Coogee Dolphins), Blake Leary (NQ Cowboys), Matt Robinson (Limoux Grizzlies), Justin Tavae (CQ Capras), Zae Wallace (Titans NYC).
Outs: Connor Broadhurst (CQ Capras), Anthony Gray (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Darren Griffiths (retired), Jesse Malcolm (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Daymeric Pelo (Runaway Bay Seagulls), Dylan Pelo (Runaway Bay Seagulls), Daniel Schwass (refereeing), Keanu Te Kiri (Tugun), Waka Wanahi (retired).
2017 finish: 9th (10 wins, 13 losses)
Coach Jim Lenihan says: "The feeling in the club is pretty good. The boys have had enough of training, they're pretty excited about playing. It's a really tough competition this year. So many teams have got really good gains. The usual suspects Townsville, Sunshine Coast, Easts Tigers and Redcliffe. A lot of teams have really good rosters. Injuries and NRL players coming back from full-time systems will play a big part. If I had to pick one now - Townsville.”
Fan on the hill says: Would have been 2017 finals contenders if not for a shocking injury toll. Have the talent and experience to be right back in the mix this year.
CENTRAL QLD CAPRAS
Ins: Dave Taylor (Toronto), Jerry Key (Wests Tigers), Connor Broadhurst (Burleigh Bears), Dave Cowhan (Albury Thunder), Blake Goodman (Wests Tigers), Jamie Hill (St Marys), Zeik Foster (Mounties), Brad Lupi (Northern Pride).
Outs: Guy Williams (Brisbane Norths), Gavin Hiscox (retired), Bill Cullen (Canberra Raiders), Krys Freeman (Blackhawks), Matt Groat (Easts Tigers), Jack Kavanagh (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Justin Tavae (Burleigh Bears), Reece Baker (Moranbah Miners), Ayden Cooper (work).
2017 finish: 14th (4 wins, 18 losses, 1 draw)
Coach Kim Williams says: "We will be fielding a vastly different squad in 2018 after a disappointing finish to 2017. Our recruitment was targeted at players with a strong work ethic and we feel as though we are ready to show significant improvement in 2018. A strong pre-season has prepared us well for the many challenges that lay ahead.”
Fan on the hill says: The signing of NRL star Dave Taylor will be sure to boost the confidence of a new-look squad that boasts plenty of home-grown talent who will be keen to make a mark.
Ins: Harley Aiono (Redcliffe Dolphins), Jack Anderson (Souths Logan Magpies), Lachlan Barr (Broncos/Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Delroy Berryman (retirement), Joe Bond (Valleys Diehards), Jayden Carroll (Raiders), Evander Cummings (Souths Logan Magpies), Jake Elmore (Storm), Brett Greinke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Matt Groat (CQ Capras), Jaiyden Hunt (Storm), Lachlan Lanskey (Brisbane Broncos), Kea Pere (Melbourne Storm), Josh Ralph (Gold Coast Titans), Jarred Tuite (Canberra Raiders), David Tyrrell (South Sydney Rabbitohs).
Outs: Mat Pitman (retired), Luke Lavelle (retired), Steve Thorpe (retired), Matt Zgrajewski (retired), Billy Walters, David Murphy (Northern Pride), Tekina Vailea (released).
2017 finish: 4th (17 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw)
Coach Scott Sipple says: "We're always looking to improve and we were disappointed with how we finished last year. We're pretty keen to go further this year. I have to go Townsville (as the team to beat) with the roster they have assembled. They have got a list of quality players with NRL experience.”
Fan on the hill says: Easts have a hugely talented squad featuring several current and past NRL players. No reason why they should not be in contention given the talent and recent finals experience in their squad.
Ins: Marmin Barba (Mackay), Kierran Moseley (Sea Eagles), Ben Shea (Wynnum- Manly Seagulls), Pio Seci (Fiji), Julian Christian (Broncos NYC), Sam Caslick (Sevens rugby), Silas Redd (Washington NFL), Josh Robinson (Oakey Bears), Denzel Burns (Western Mustangs).
Outs: Lachlan Roe (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Sam Martin (retired), Mikaere Beattie (released).
2017 finish: 7th (12 wins, 11 losses)
Coach Shane Walker says: "The last two years have been (awful). It's not something we're comfortable with. We're looking at not just returning to the finals but winning the grand final. Redcliffe are always strong and have a big budget, so do Easts. Both Easts and Sunny Coast are well supported by the Storm, so the blokes that play in those two teams are well coached.”
Fan on the hill says: I am looking forward to seeing Ben Shea and Marmin Barba. The Jets found support for Nat Neale with Shea. He can be the support Neale will need to keep the Jets moving forward. Barba back on the Jets' left-hand side will see him add to his 59 tries and close-in on Donald Malone's record of 67 tries for the Jets.
Ins: Jordan Grant (Wests Tigers), Tyson Martin (returning), Darcy Cox (Wests Tigers), Jack Brock (Northern Pride), Bailey Hartwig (Norths Devils), Jesse Dee (Illawarra Steelers), Jack Hickson (Woden Valley Rams), Walter Lauenstein (Runaway Bay Seagulls), Kellen Jenner (Mackay U20s), Jared Maguire (Mackay U20s), Jayden Batchelor (Mackay U20s), Jardine Bobongie (Mackay Magpies), Sheldon Bobbert (Souths Sharks).
Outs: Jordan Pereira (Dragons), Cooper Bambling (Raiders), Jack Blagbrough (Leigh Centurions), Andrew Davey (Blackhawks), Jacob Pottinger (Tweed Seagulls), Setaimata Sa (MDRL), Jake Eden (MDRL), Isaac Richardson (MDRL).
2017 finish: 8th (10 wins, 11 losses, 2 draws)
Coach Steve Sheppard says: "I thought we made some good steps forward last year and hopefully we can build on that. With the addition of Alex Kertesz the group has been working extremely hard and I feel have given themselves every chance to perform well.”
Fan on the hill: There was a buzz around the club at the end of the last season with some impressive performances against top sides. That enthusiasm has slipped over into this season.
Ins: Todd Carney (Salford), Adrian Henley (Easts Tigers), Jack Murphy (England), Jonico Hardwick (Cairns Brothers), David Murphy (Easts Tigers), Brett Anderson (Innisfail Leprechauns), Jack Camponolo (Tully Tigers), James Clark (Bulldogs).
Outs: Luke George (released), Khan Ahwang (released), Jack Brock (Mackay Cutters), Fred Koraba (released), Brad Lupi (Central Capras), Ben Reuter (released), Joel Riethmuller (retired), Marvin Toko (released).
2017 finish: 12th (6 wins, 17 losses)
Coach Ty Williams says: "We weren't happy with how we finished last year. Our focus is to make finals and we want to stay in the moment. We were so close in so many games but couldn't finish it off. We want to take advantage of the momentum when we have it.”
Fan on the hill says: Carney and the Cowboy allocations will help keep the Pride in matches for longer but it's up to the young bucks to show they've improved on last season. Ryan Ghietti is a club legend but may end up playing off the bench if Connor Jones comes on as expected.
Ins: Jack Ahearn (Redcliffe), Guy Williams (CQ Capras), Alex Bishop (Sunshine Coast), Oshae Tuiasau (Townsville Blackhawks), Carne Doyle-Manga (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Sam Wright (Sunshine Coast), Nat McGavin (Sunshine Coast), Jamayne Taunoa-Brown (Knights), Calum Gahan (Cowboys U20s).
Outs: Billy Brittain (South Sydney), Mathiu Love-Henry (NZ Warriors), Delouise Hoeter (Wynnum), James Taylor (Redcliffe), Tama Koopu (Newcastle league), Michael Sio (Wakefield Trinity/Halifax).
2017 finish: 11th (9 wins, 14 losses)
Coach Rohan Smith says: "This is a new-look Norths team for 2018. We've worked hard in the off-season to bring together players from different backgrounds and we expect to be a strong team. We want to create an environment in which our players can play to their potential and in a way that excites our supporters.”
Fan on the Hill says: The Devils have finally bolstered the thin front-row stocks that have hampered them since their last finals appearance in 2012, but they may still be lacking the all-round class to challenge the competition heavyweights.
Ins: Adam Korave (Ipswich league), Junior Rau (Hela Wigmen), Mekenzie Yei (Hela Wigmen), Kennedy Ben (Mendi Muruks), Julius Yakopa (Mendi Muruks), Stanley Olo (Rabaul Gurias), Illa Alu (Rabaul Gurias), Dilbert Isaac (Rabaul Gurias), Junior Bobby (Enga Mioks), Baunda Aba (Enga Mioks), Brendon Gutuno (NCDC Vipers), John Andy (Lae Tigers), Charlie Simon (Lae Tigers), Patrick Morea (POM Academy).
Outs: Wellington Albert (Widnes Vikings), Stanton Albert (Widnes Vikings), Israel Eliab (released), Bland Abavu (released), David Loko (released), Brandy Peter (released), Karo Kauna Jnr (released), Esau Siune (retired).
2017 finish: Premiers (20 wins, 5 losses, 1 draw)
Coach Michael Marum says: "Our focus this season is to make the finals again. We understand it's going to be tough but we will take it one game at a time. Sunshine Coast Falcons will be one of the (teams to beat) but most have recruited well.”
Fan on the hill says: Expectations are high, as per usual, but history tells the competition that premiers tend to find life a bit tougher after a title.
Ins: Tony Tumusa (Capras), Obed Karwhin (North Sydney), Jeremy Hawkins (Storm), Bryce Donovan (Knights), Jake Sparey (Titans NYC), Kotoni Staggs (Broncos NYC), Scott Schulte (Eels), Jordan Pinnock (Warriors NYC), James Taylor (Devils), Toby Rudolf (Rabbitohs), Manaia Rudolph (Bulldogs), Josh Fauid (Broncos NYC), Cameron Cullen (Manly).
Outs: Jack Ahearn (Devils), Sam Anderson (Toulouse), Tyson Gamble (Wests Tigers), Christian Hazard (Knights), Matthew Lodge (Broncos), Myles Taueli (Broncos), Hayden Hansen (Swinton Lions UK), Danny Bridge (Rochdale Rovers UK).
2017 finish: 3rd (17 wins, 8 losses).
Coach Adam Mogg says: "We just want to improve on last year. We have a new squad. We ticked a lot of pre-season boxes so we're happy. I haven't paid much attention to anyone else.”
Fan on the hill says: They're the perennial heavyweights and it's time to end their title wait since 2006. A lot of turnover but nothing fans haven't seen in recent seasons.
SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES
Ins: Sam Lavea (Broncos), Travis Waddell (Broncos), Guy Hamilton (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Darcy Maroske (Norths), Uiti Baker (Newcastle), William Samuel (Canberra NYC), Keenan Yorston (Titans NYC), Benaiah Bowie (Wynnum Seagulls), Lane Ferling (Cronulla NYC), Johnnie Fox (Redcliffe Dolphins).
Outs: Joe Boyce (Townsville), Matt Minto (work).
2017 finish: 5th (15 wins, 9 losses)
Coach Jon Buchanan says: "The experience of playing finals (last year) for a young side was good, even though it was a tough day. Hopefully that experience will come in handy at times throughout this year. We have a mostly healthy squad going into Round 1 so we're in fairly good shape. I think Papua New Guinea again are going to be extremely tough to beat and Townsville with the money they're able to spend on their roster are going to be up there.”
Fan on the hill says: Last year played finals for the first time since 2011 and the expectation will be for the club's young squad to build on that. Logan junior Guy Hamilton broke Sunshine Coast's club record for most points in a season in 2017 and should bring X-factor.
SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS
Ins: Charlie Galo (Storm), Jacob Hind (Dragons), Keelyn Tuuta Edwards ( Dragons), Ben Fritz (Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles), Brentt Warr (France), Jack Kavanagh (CQ Capras), Jake Ainsworth (Storm NYC), William Toloi (Storm NYC), Caleb Daunt (Storm NYC), Matt Egan (Storm NYC), Mackenzie Reid (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Lachlan Roe (Ipswich Jets), Kurt Aldridge (North Sydney), Liam Higgins (Souths Newcastle).
Outs: Lachlan Timm (Storm), Jon Grieve (retired), Donald Malone (retired), Christian Morris (retired), Guy Hamilton (Souths Logan Magpies), Alex Bishop (Norths Devils), Tom Geraghty (Redcliffe Dolphins), Sam Wright (Norths Devils).
2017 finish: Runners-up (18 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw)
Coach Craig Ingebrigtsen says: "I think we've got a really good engine room, a really stable pack. But it's going to come down to our key positions, our nine, seven, six and one and what we get back from Melbourne is going to really help us.”
Fan on the hill says: Came close to the title during the past two years so high expectations they can win this time around. A link with Melbourne Storm should ensure they have some handy players at their disposal.
Ins: Krys Freeman (CQ Capras), Rod Griffin (Bulldogs), Jaelen Feeney (Knights), Joe Boyce ( Broncos/Souths Logan), Andrew Davey (Mackay Cutters), Levi Dodd (Dragons), Kalifa Faifai Loa (Dragons), Duane Dempsey (Cowboys NYC), Michael Carroll (Cowboys NYC), Zach Docker-Clay (HKR-UK), Jake Marketo (Dragons), Brendan Santi (Roosters).
Outs: Anthony Mitchell (retired), Michael Parker-Walshe (retired), Dan Beasley (French League), Blake Leary (Burleigh Bears), Oshae Tuiasau (Norths).
2017 finish: 6th (12 wins, 10 losses, 2 draws)
Coach Kristian Woolf says: "What we have as a point of difference from last year is (props) Rod Griffin and Brendan Santi, and outside backs like Kalifa Faifai Loa have great second-phase ability. We've certainly got the potential to play a bit of footy and use the ball more than what we probably have previously, but we have have to have the discipline to pull it off.”
Fan on the hill says: Depth and NRL experience across the park, with one of the more dynamic backlines in the competition looking to wreak havoc behind a well-established pack.
WYNNUM MANLY SEAGULLS
Ins: Micheal Dobson (Salford Red Devils, UK), Matthew Allwood (Warriors), Mitchell Cronin (Broncos), Aaron Rockley (Broncos), Alex Barr (Broncos), Delouise Hoeter (Norths Devils), Lachlan Lee (Bulldogs).
Outs: Brendon Gibb, Benaiah Bowie, Travis Burns, Mitchell Buckett, Ben Shea, Paora Kemp, Will Brimson, Dan Wallace.
2017 finish: 10th (9 wins, 14 losses)
CEO Hanan Laban says: "I'm expecting us to be much improved. We've had really growth in the club in the last 12 months and there is a good confidence around the group. I'm backing us to be up there but I think the normal characters such as Easts, Redcliffe, Townsville and Sunshine Coast will be there or thereabouts.”
Fan on the hill says: The Seagulls have had two disappointing seasons without finals football but they have recruited strongly and look ready to push for a finals berth. The return of 2016 captain Patrick Templeman from a shoulder injury which sidelined him for all of the 2017 regular season should help.
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS
Ins: Shaun Carney (Mullumbimby Giants), Beau Cordtz (Rabbitohs NYC), Ali Grant (Ballina Seagulls), Anthony Gray (Burleigh Bears), Rhys Jacks (Toronto Wolfpack), Ryland Jacobs (Wests Tigers), Eli Levido (North Sydney Bears), Siuatonga Likiliki (out of retirement), Rory Lillis (Titans NYC), Jesse Malcolm (Burleigh Bears), Jacob Pottinger (Cutters), Ethan Roberts (Titans NYC), Hiale Roycroft (Cowboys NYC), Maia Sands (North Sydney Bears), Jaleel Seve (Wests Tigers), Cheyne Whitelaw (North Sydney Bears).
Outs: Nathanael Barnes (retired), Michael Burgess (Currumbin Eagles), Jackson Clarke (police force), Carne Doyle-Manga (Norths Devils), Phoenix Hunapo (Norths Devils), Nick Harrold (Tugun Seahawks), James Wood (retired).
2017 finish: 13th (5 wins, 18 losses)
Coach Ben Woolf says: "We'll get better as we go. I wouldn't be expecting us to set the world on fire in the early rounds but round one we will be better than we were in the trials.”
Fan on the hill says: There's been mass change but whether that can spark an upturn in results is to be seen. Recruited well but still likely to be reliant on Titans-affiliated players.
ROUND 1 DRAW (all times AEST)
Sunshine Coast Falcons v Burleigh Bears at Sunshine Coast Stadium, Kawana Waters, Saturday, 1.10pm
Mackay Cutters v Townsville Blackhawks at BB Print Stadium, Mackay, Saturday, 6pm
Northern Pride v Wynnum Manly Seagulls at Barlow Park, Cairns, Saturday, 6pm
CQ Capras v Easts Tigers at Browne Park, Rockhampton, Saturday, 7pm
Redcliffe Dolphins v Souths Logan Magpies at Dolphin Stadium, Redcliffe, Sunday, 2pm
Norths Devils v Tweed Heads Seagulls at Bishop Park, Nundah, Sunday, 2pm
PNG Hunters v Ipswich Jets at National Football Stadium, Port Moresby, Sunday, 3pm