Tweed return to defend title after season-long delay
Author : Michael Nunn QRL correspondent
It’s an old axiom in football that defending premiers have a target on their backs, but normally rival teams don’t have to wait nearly two years to do the hunting.
At the end of the Auswide Mal Meninga Cup season in 2019, Tweed Seagulls beat Wynnum Manly Seagulls 28-24 in the grand final and then kept the winning streak going to beat Illawarra in the National Championship.
It’s hard to believe that 661 days later, Tweed are still the premiers after last season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic following the completion of just one round.
This Saturday, the Seagulls will host Ipswich at Piggabeen in the opening round of the 2021 competition, bringing to a close a long wait to get back to football.
Match: Seagulls v Jets
ROUND 1 – SATURDAY 6TH MARCH 2:00 PM
Venue : Piggabeen Sports Complex, Tweed Heads
Seagulls coach Tim Maccan said he and his club were ready for the new season.
“We haven’t thought too much about it to be honest, but you’re right, it’s a strange one to still be premiers so long after a grand final,” Maccan said.
“We haven’t talked about it, it’s a new group of players and Saturday we start again.
“It’s been a long off-season and thankfully our players got to play some football at the end of last season.”
This season will see Tweed return to the field without previous superstars like Reece Walsh and Brendon Piakura, who are now part of the Brisbane Broncos system, while Xavier Coates has since gone on to represent the Queensland Maroons.
However, Maccan feels his new crop can also shine in the competition.
“I think we have a well-rounded team this year; Tom Weaver from Palm Beach Currumbin will certainly be appearing on some tip sheets by the end of the year I think,” Maccan said.
Standing on the other side of halfway with the clip board this weekend will be Ipswich coach Michael Armstrong, who knows the length of the competition will present a challenge.
“Tweed will be hard, there is no argument there, we have to play them twice so Round 1 is a good time (to do it),” Armstrong said.
“It will let us know exactly where we are for this (Auswide Bank) Mal Meninga Cup.
“It’s only six weeks, so you can’t ease into the season, it’s about winning six games. In 2019, three of the top four teams only lost one game each.
“We just missed out on the finals with four wins, but that wasn’t enough to play finals.”
With a talented young group of players in his care, Armstrong knows where the strength of his side will lie.
“I think our middle of Josiah Pahulu, Zachery Allley and Samson Sauaso is strong and has shown over the trials that they can be a strength for us,” Armstrong said.
“They are going to have to do that again on Saturday.”
The first game of the season on Saturday sees the Blackhawks head to Mackay to take on the Cutters. The home side started last season with a win over Norths Devils, while the Blackhawks lost to the Jets.
Match: Cutters v Blackhawks
ROUND 1 – SATURDAY 6TH MARCH @ 1:55pm
Venue : BB Print Stadium, Mackay
Souths Logan Magpies will be looking to re-create their top-of-the-table 2019 form and swoop over Burleigh Bears at Pizzey Park on Saturday at 1pm, while later on Saturday afternoon, the Capras take on Sunshine Coast Falcons in Bundaberg.
Wide Bay Bulls return to junior football and will play Western Mustangs on Saturday afternoon, while the final match of the day will see traditional rivals Redcliffe Dolphins and the newly named Brisbane Tigers do battle at Albany Creek.
Sunday’s only match will feature Norths Devils and Wynnum Manly Seagulls at Bishop Park and will be broadcast on QRL.com.au, the Intrust Super Cup app and the QRL Facebook page.
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