Canberra star John Bateman could be sidelined for the opening eight weeks of the NRL season after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this month.
It’s time for the Queensland Cup Finals. 25 Rounds down and just four weeks and six games to go to determine the best team in Queensland. Or Papua New Guinea.
For those that have been too busy or too lazy, provided is a short catch up so you can jump on the bandwagon just in time.
The 2016 season has seen some changing of the guard as three regular finalists Wynnum (since 2010), Ipswich (2011) and Northern Pride (2013) all miss out this year.
In their place are some old powerhouses returning after an absence of finals football.
Redcliffe haven’t played finals since losing the 2012 grand final and for Burleigh it has been much longer than that. There’s also the Sunshine Coast Falcons who won this competition earlier in the decade, but under the different guise of the Sea Eagles and under the wing of Manly. That team featured Daly Cherry-Evans and Tony Williams.
Two of the constants are last year’s first and second sides and the two newest teams in the comp. Townsville Blackhawks (entered 2015) and Papua New Guinea Hunters (entered 2014) who finished third and fourth this year are both in their second finals series. The Blackhawks were last year’s losing grand finalists and the Hunters bowed out after two straight finals losses.
Easts Tigers are the other, who scraped into sixth by halting a poor late run of results by winning on the last day and the Souths Logan Magpies losing.
But enough of the 2016 history lesson, it’s time to convince you why you should care.
Some may say that it is just rubbish second tier, local rugby league not worth your time. Their loss I say.
QUEENSLAND CUP FINALS FIXTURES / RESULTS
Game 1 Sun Sept 4 1:40pm – Townsville Blackhawks v Easts Tigers
Game 2 Sun Sept 4 3:00pm – Papua New Guinea Hunters v Sunshine Coast Falcons
Game 3 TBC – Redcliffe Dolphins v Burleigh Bears (Likely TV Game Sun 11th Sept 1:40pm)
Game 4 TBC – Winner Game 1 v Winner Game 2
Game 5 Sun 18th Sept TBC – Loser Game 3 v Winner Game 4
GRAND FINAL – Sun 25th Sept – 4:00pm
Winner Game 3 v Winner Game 5
New Dolphin Oval has equalled New Dolphins success
It’s been a while since Redcliffe have been in the sharp end of the Queensland Cup finals, 2012 in fact when they were the losing finalists.
The former powerhouse of the competition have been absent since then, and their many fans would welcome their return.
What better way to celebrate their shiny new stadium than with a home finals and a premiership. They’ve already had Timomatic sing at their new ground.
The upgrade to Dolphin Oval was a reason that the Dolphins did 2016 the hard way. They had to wait until Round 11 to play at home, either playing away fixtures or moving their home matches to glamorous locations like Brendale and Burpengary.
But that early season on the road also provided a great launch pad to the finals with so many home games. They were in the bunch of top four teams throughout, but with a few rounds to go assumed top spot and held onto it with a big win against Tweed Heads.
They ended the season as top scorers and best defence, and the best record against the top six sides. Who could argue that they don’t deserve top spot. Being first doesn’t always mean that you win grand finals though.
Redcliffe have a great forward pack, and the leading point scorer of the competition in Darren Nicholls among a quality backline. It’s hard to argue against their attack and defence.
Season: First – 18 Wins – 5 Losses – 40 points – +383
Odds to win: $2.50
Player to watch: Tyson Cleal
Why you should follow Redcliffe: Best attack, best defence. What’s not to like?
Bbbbburleigh Bears bring back the bbbbounce
Burleigh’s 2016 compared to 2015 can be summed up by their performances Townsville Blackhawks. The Bears were beaten by the first timers from North Queensland 78-6 and 46-10 last year. This year they have bounced back with a win and a draw against the same side.
The Bears, like Redcliffe, were powerhouses of this competition back in the day. Their non-finals streak goes a lot further back than the Dolphins though. Burleigh haven’t played in the finals since 2005, but were a fixture of September football for a decade before that.
Some key recruitment in the off season has paid dividends with former Wests Tigers player Kurtis Rowe, Jamal Fogarty from Tweed Heads, Luke Page from the Dragons and Cameron Cullen from Mackay. All have been important contributors, especially the halves Fogarty (who has earned a contract with Parramatta) and Cullen who got a taste of NRL this year with the Titans.
While second is a fair achievement for a side who haven’t made a finals series in over a decade, they will be disappointed that they didn’t go on with the job and take the minor premiership when it looked certain to be theirs with just a few rounds to go.
Season: Second – 17 Wins – 5 Losses – 1 Draw – 39 points – +183
Odds to win: $3.00
Player to watch: Jamal Fogarty
Why you should follow Burleigh: One for fans on the Gold Coast. Or for North Sydney Bears fans. Plus five eighth and halfback of the year.
Willie Minoga and the Townsville Blackhawks
It’s not all about Willie Minoga for the Blackhawks, it is a star studded side who have achieved at a higher level than most clubs do in their infancy in any comp.
There’s so much talent in the Blackhawks side, that reinforces that the Cowboys will be well looked after for years to come.
Some have already shown their highly capable wares in the NRL this year – Jahrome Hughes, Ray Thompson. Others will be knocking on the door soon – Moses Pangai has signed up for the Broncos alongside his brother Tevita Jnr.
Jonathon Reuben and Rhyse Martin are surely on the radar of at least the Cowboys. And Willie of course. Even Matty Bowen has been named in the 18 for this weekend. What a treat for fans to see him run around in the Queensland Cup finals.
Townsville have been a dominant force since their introduction last year, falling just short in the grand final against Ipswich after leading the comp for most of their first year with a long unbeaten stretch featuring some very one sided wins.
This year they have lost a few more games, which cost them a chance to repeat last year’s minor premiership win. They will now have to go through knockout finals. It shouldn’t prove too much of a worry as they will get a home final in the first week and have been hard to beat there.
They appear a side who will be at the sharp end for a number of years to come, so will they have to wait another year?
Season: Third – 16 Wins – 6 Losses – 1 Draw – 37 points – +291
Odds to win: $5.00
Player to watch: Willie Minoga. Who else?
Why you should follow Townsville: Get on board at the beginning of the dynasty. And one for the fans north of Gympie, but south of Torres Strait. And for Cowboys fans as a back up if their side doesn’t repeat last year’s success. And for Willie Minoga.
17 Papua New Guinea Hunters hunting
The Gurgler’s favourite sporting team, the Papua New Guinea Hunters, return to the Queensland Cup finals in 2016.
Although disappointed they didn’t finish higher, the good news is they are ready to play finals again. As an added bonus they are rewarded with a home final this year for finishing fourth.
PNG Hunters seem to have become slightly more conventional this season, and one wonders if that is the reason for their drop in results. One big reason they finished fourth instead of second like last year is their record away from home which was awful in 2016.
All eight losses this season have been on the road, which is a worrying sign for a team who must go on the road three more times during the Queensland Cup finals if they wish to win this competition.
They play at home first up against the Sunshine Coast, which on paper shouldn’t be a worry given they haven’t lost in Papua New Guinea since June 2014. But then must go on the road. Can the Hunters continue their home dominance or will the Falcons get them on a very rare off day? The Sunshine Coast don’t seem to mind playing the Hunters though.
Season: Fourth – 15 Wins – 8 Losses – 34 points – +120
Odds to win: $7.00
Player To Watch: Justin Olam
Why you should follow Papua New Guinea – No one plays football like the Hunters. No one has seven million fans (approx – presuming everyone in PNG loves the Hunters. And they do). At their best even they barely know what’s coming next. A refreshing change from one out boredom.
Sunshine Coast Falcons: The Dark Horses (or birds)
Like other teams in this year’s Queensland Cup finals, the Sunshine Coast have turned themselves around to make this year’s finals series. Just two seasons ago, the reborn Sunshine Coast Falcons were belted most weeks and ended the season with a solitary win.
Sure they won a premiership as the Sea Eagles and were Manly’s reserve grade side and featured players like Daly Cherry-Evans, but they have given themselves their own identity, and in the process have secured an arrangement with the Storm from last year.
That arrangement has brought them players that will hold the key to the Falcons chances. Their backline is full of talent in which some have dipped their toe in the NRL for the mother club during the season.
But it is not just the Storm fringe players, seasoned Queensland Cup pros like Troy Giess have shone on the coast this year, who moved with former Easts coach Craig Ingebrigtsen in the off season.
They are The Gurgler’s dark horse and value for the crown. Sure they were beaten 34-4 last weekend in Port Moresby in Part 1 of the two part stoush. But this week’s side is a lot more dangerous. Hunters and other teams beware.
Season: Fifth – 12 Wins – 10 Losses – 1 Draw – 29 points – +39
Odds to win: $21.00
Player to follow: Curtis Scott
Why should you follow Sunshine Coast: To watch the next bunch of Storm nuggets before they hit the big time. For Sunshine Coast people to get one over the Gold Coast.
Tigers on the prowl
It’s hard to think of a finals series without the Tigers these days, but they almost missed out on the big show after a run of five straight losses after a draw with the Capras in Round 18. They needed a win over Mackay on the last Sunday which they got. They also needed a Magpies loss to Burleigh on the last Sunday which they got. So finals football again.
Tough task though to stay in the finals to play Townsville up north. But Easts have a good record at home against the Blackhawks with a win and a draw. The down side is their only fixture in Townsville ended up with a home win.
But the Tigers won’t mind being underdogs, and there’s no doubt they’ll put in.
They were as high as second at one point during the season, as the top five changed from week to week. But they have to settle for sixth place and knockout football from here to win the crown.
A good result for Melbourne Storm’s prospect going forward, as the Tigers finals appearance makes it two from two for Storm feeder sides. Broncos landed just 1/6. Cowboys 1/3. Titans 1/2. Papua New Guinea being their own men for now. Maybe a club with some foresight could come to the party in time, rather than pinching their best two each year.
Season: sixth – 11 Wins – 10 Losses – 2 Draws – 28 points – +43
Odds to win: $26.00
Player to watch: Dean Britt
Why you should follow Easts: For the underdog status. Yet to win a Queensland Cup, they have been in plenty of finals series and grand finals for no breakthrough. South Brisbane’s only representative.
Grand Final Day Triple Header
Ever long for the good old days? Sunday afternoon football that is not exclusive to Sydney clubs and grounds? Three grades of action, and nary a commercial radio station in sight? And cold reasonably priced beer in a can that is not XXXX Gold… oh, sorry it is still at Suncorp Stadium. Sorry can’t have it all.
But for just $20 (hmmm, nice increase on usual gameday prices) you can almost have it all, so there’s no need to stay at home and watch. With all the above six teams offer, it doesn’t matter who makes the final, rugby league will be the winner. And you.
QUEENSLAND CUP FINALS QUICK STATISTICS
FINISHING POSITION OF EVENTUAL PREMIERS
Only one team in the past 10 seasons has finished first and won the competition. That was the Northern Pride in 2014. So the history books are against Redcliffe.
Here’s the finishing positions of the winners.
2015 – third, 2014 – first, 2013 – second, 2012 – second, 2011 – sixth
2010 – fourth, 2009 – fourth, 2008 – second, 2007 – third, 2006 – second
QUEENSLAND CUP FINALS TOP 6 RECORD AGAINST EACH OTHER IN 2016
Redcliffe Dolphins – 7 wins / 9 games
Burleigh Bears – 4 wins + 1 draw / 8 games
Townsville Blackhawks – 4 wins + 1 draw / 9 games
Papua New Guinea Hunters – 5 wins / 9 games
Sunshine Coast Falcons – 3 wins / 9 games
Easts Tigers – 2 wins / 8 games
QUEENSLAND CUP FINALS OTHER SLIGHTLY INTERESTING STATS
Redcliffe have beaten all the top six sides at home except for the Sunshine Coast who they beat twice on the Sunshine Coast.
Papua New Guinea Hunters have also beaten all of the top six at home, but have beaten none of them away.
Both Sunshine Coast and Easts have beaten their first week Queensland Cup finals opponents – but that was at home and they play them away this weekend.
QUEENSLAND CUP FINALS FEARLESS PREDICTIONS
Townsville to beat Easts
Sunshine Coast to beat Papua New Guinea
Redcliffe to beat Burleigh
Sunshine Coast to beat Townsville
Sunshine Coast to beat Burleigh
Redcliffe to beat Sunshine Coast.