The Bears Round 1 line-up is packed with NYC and FOGS Colts experience. 5 of their 17 played in the now defunct Holden Cup, including captain Apiata Noema. The Queensland under-20 representative played 32 games over two seasons for the Gold Coast Titans. Diminutive half Zae Wallace played 15 games for the Titans in 2017, while lock Reihana Marsh played 13.
In last year’s Mal Meninga Cup, winger Callum Boomer was the Bear’s leading try (5) and point scorer (62). Coming off the bench in Round 1, Huston Holloway was the club’s leading try scorer (6) in the FOGS Colts Challenge, while hooker Kai O’Donnell picked up five himself after moving up from the under-18 side.
The boys from Rockhampton won’t be one of the more favoured teams heading into the Hastings Deering Colts season but they are filled with promising local talent. Just to further highlight that point, three players from last year’s junior sides signed with NRL clubs for 2018 (Ben Condon – Cowboys, Tom Farr – Panthers, Tyler Szepanowski – Titans).
Their Round 1 side features several players who have moved up from their Mal Meninga Cup side. One of those being hooker Jack Pattie, who was the club’s leading try scorer (4) in that competition. Five-eighth Ryan Flintham was a member of the club’s FOGS U20s side in 2017, scoring 3 tries in 5 games.
The Tigers under-18 side went within one game of the Grand Final last season and several players from that side will make the jump to Colts in 2018. Four of them will start in Round 1, outside backs Kea Pere and Lorenzo Mulitalo and forwards Blake Pyle and Zac Teevan.
Pere and second rower Jaiyden Hunt bring NYC experience to the side, having spent time with the Melbourne Storm. A Queensland under-18 representative, Pere played 14 games for them in 2017, scoring 5 tries, while Hunt played 29 games over the last two seasons. Another to keep an eye on is five-eighth Nathan Brown, who kicked 63 goals and scored 131 points in last season’s FOGS Colts.
FOGS U20s Cup Grand Finalists in 2017, the Cutters should prove to be tough opposition again in 2018. North Queensland Cowboys contracted players Kurt Wiltshire, Jye Andersen and Sam Murphy will also turn out for the side, Wiltshire and Murphy with NYC experience. Wiltshire was named the Cowboys’ NYC Player of the Year in 2017, scoring 13 tries in 19 games, while Murphy played 7 games, scoring 2 tries.
The club’s Round 1 starting pack also features four players from last year’s Grand Final side in Harrison Black, Brendan White, Darcy Head and Luke Schulte. Centre Ryan Schill was Mackay’s top try scorer (6) in the Mal Meninga Cup and moves into the under-20s side.
The Pride’s under-20s finished in 3rd in 2017, and despite heavy player turnover, will be bolstered by several new faces. Halfback Jack Campagnolo and hooker Patrick Gallen remain from last year’s semi-final side, being joined by the likes of Joshtel Charlie, Ewan Moore and Chase Taia from their Mal Meninga Cup side.
Cowboys contracted players Wiremu Greig, Peter Hola and Connor Luhan add experience to the forward pack, Hola playing 8 NYC games and Luhan playing 19 in 2017. Lock James Clark returns to the Pride after two seasons with the Bulldogs, where he won the club’s NYC Player of the Year award last season. Quinlyn Cannon also returns to Cairns after spending time in Canberra.
A number of former Brisbane Broncos NYC players will help strengthen the Devils under-20 side in 2018. Former Australian Schoolboy David Fauid played 42 games over two seasons, scoring 24 tries, while English fullback Herbie Farnworth scored 8 tries in 17 games in 2017. Five-eighth and Queensland under-20 rep Gerome Burns will lead the side around, he played 35 NYC games, scoring 20 tries and kicking 93 goals.
The side is captained by Joe McGuire, younger brother Brisbane’s Josh, who played for the Devils’ FOGS U20s and FOGS Colts sides last season. Centre Elliott Vincent joins from Easts under-18 side, where he scored 7 tries. He played in the Broncos’ NRL trial against Wynnum last month.
Redcliffe dominated the QRL’s under-20 competitions in 2017, taking out both the shortened FOGS U20s Cup and the FOGS Colts Challenge later in the year. Two returning players who played in both Grand Finals are winger Michael Walit, who scored in both games, and five-eighth Radean Robinson, who scored in the FOGS Colts final.
Fullback Travis Turnbull, who won Man of the Match in the 2017 Mal Meninga Cup Grand Final, joins the side after signing with the Brisbane Broncos. Kotoni Staggs, who scored 12 tries in 25 games for the Broncos NYC side in 2017, has been named on an extended bench for Round 1. He spent the pre-season with the NRL side, playing in their last trial.
Souths Logan Magpies
Under-18 Grand Finalists in 2017, Souths Logan will be boosted by several NYC-experienced players. Halves Sato Ketia-Opo and Dray Ngatuere-Wroe both played Holden Cup last season, Ketia-Opo playing 6 games for Canberra, while Ngtuere-Wroe played 12 for the Broncos. Forwards Rory Ferguson, who captains the side, and Clayton Mack also played a handful of NYC games for the Broncos.
Ngatuere-Wroe and Mack both played in the Mal Meninga Cup Grand Final, alongside fullback Thane Kellermeyer, hooker Blake Scott and prop Amosa Aumua, who return in 2018. The highly touted David Fifita has been named to start the year in the Mal Meninga Cup but is likely to feature for the Colts later in the year.
Sunshine Coast Falcons
After a disappointing FOGS U20s Cup campaign, the Falcons regrouped and qualified for the FOGS Colts finals later in the year. Prop and captain Stephen Buckley was named FOGS Colts Player of the Year and returns in 2018 to lead his side in the Hastings Deering Colts. Other returnees include hooker Damian Forde-Hurrell, who scored 5 tries in the FOGS Cup and 5 in the FOGS Colts, and winger Dakota Tolhurst, who also scored 5 tries in the FOGS Colts.
A number of ex-Storm NYC players also join the side, including fullback Jack Cornford, who played 12 games in two seasons and centre Augustus Rangihuna, who played 4 games in 2017.
A usually strong junior outfit, Townsville missed the finals in the FOGS Cup last season and will be looking to bounce back under new coach David Tangata-Toa. Tangata-Toa joins from Penrith, where he coached their NYC side in 2014 and 2017. Halfback Sam Martin-Savage follows Tangata-Toa to the Blackhawks, the Townsville junior played 27 games for the Panthers last year.
5 former Cowboys NYC players will bolster the Blackhawks’ line-up. The most experienced being second rower Duarne Dempsey, who played 16 games over two seasons. Five-eighth Sean Mullany, prop Logan Bayliss-Brow and second rower Nathan Barrett are the Cowboys contracted players in the side. Bayliss-Brown played 2 NYC games in 2017 and also represented Queensland under-18, scoring a try.
Tweed Heads Seagulls
Like local rivals Burleigh, the Seagulls will feature several former Titans NYC players, giving them quite a formidable line-up in 2018. Strike centre Daniel Brownbill played 29 games for them last season, scoring 17 tries and representing Queensland under-20. Five-eighth Bostyn Hakaraia played 14 games in 2017, while winger Jordan Birch played 14 games over two seasons.
Other new recruits include Kiwi centre Lee Turner, who played 20 games for the Warriors NYC side in 2017, and Canberra Raiders SG Ball duo Gideon Afemui and Aublix Tawha. Another former Raiders’ lower grader, lock Jese Smith-Shields, also joins after playing for the Gungahlin Bulls senior side in the Canberra Raiders Cup last season.
Rebranded as the Thunderbolts in 2018, a new name and new faces will hope to inspire Victoria to a finals spot this season. Four members of the Melbourne Storm’s NRL development squad will line-up for the side in Round 1. Halfback Cooper Johns, who joins from Manly, prop Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, who joined the club last year, and Kiwi duo Junior Ratuva and Kayleb Milne.
All four spent the pre-season with the NRL squad and played an NRL trial against the Warriors. Victorian product Jordin Leiu also participated in the NRL pre-season, he’ll start at prop in Round 1. Fa’asuamaleaui brings NYC experience, having played 3 games for the Storm in 2017, as does centre Sale Finau, who scored 12 tries in 20 games last season.
Mal Meninga Cup premiers and FOGS U20s Cup finalists, the Western Mustangs enjoyed a great first season as a club in 2017. While they’ll be without under-18 halves Travis Turnbull and Cory Paix in 2018, several players return for the inaugural Hastings Deering Colts. Among them is five-eighth Wally Pegler, who scored six tries and 110 points in all under-20 competitions last season.
New faces to the side include NSW Combined Catholic Colleges prop Aidan Kennedy, who hails from Lismore, hooker Cody McNiece, a recruit from Manly’s SG Ball side, and former Singleton halfback Zac Butler, who was named Group 21 U18 Player of the Year in 2017.
Wynnum Manly Seagulls
Wynnum Manly endured disappointing campaigns in all three QRL junior rep competitions in 2017, even finishing last in the FOGS Colts Challenge. With a tough first up trip to Cairns, they’ll be looking to turn things around quickly. Second rower Eddie Burns returns after playing 15 NYC games for the Broncos in 2017. He’s joined in the forward pack by former Queensland under-16 representative Mitipere Tuatai, who also returns for the 2018 season.
Halfback David Quinlan, the club’s top point scorer in the 2017 Mal Meninga Cup, moves up to the under-20 competition, where he’ll partner former Sydney Roosters SG Ball five-eighth Shannon Gardiner.
Note: We never received a squad list from the Ipswich Jets during the pre-season and as they have a bye in Round 1, we don’t know who exactly is in their squad, so we were unable to write a preview.