Cairns Thunder dominate early rounds of Queensland Country Championships

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By QRU Media

Cairns Thunder have dominated their Far North Queensland counterparts in the early stages of the Graincorp Queensland Country Championships, accounting for Mt.Isa and Mackay in bonus point wins over the past two weekends. 

Cairns followed up a successful Easter weekend trip to Mt.Isa (36-5), with a comprehensive 50-11 win over the Mackay Stingers at the home of Rugby in Cairns, Barlow Park on April 6.

The hosts scored eight tries courtesy of a hat trick to Taputoa Rae, Sitiveni Navuetake and Dale Ahwang crossed for two tries a piece and Joshua Sargent found the line to account for Mackay, while the visitors’ sole try was scored by Scott McPherson.

These matches form part of the sub-regional leg of the Country Championships which will see the best players from Cairns, Mt.Isa, Mackay, and Townsville, fight for selection for the Far North Queensland representative side. This team will then go on to face Central Queensland and South Queensland in regional matches before a Queensland Country Heelers side is selected.
Cairns Coach and former Wallaby Troy Jacques believes that his side can claim a clean sweep of the Far North Queensland competition.

“I’m pretty confident we have what it takes to win our remaining game against Townsville,” said Jacques.

“Our performance against Mackay was one of the best performances I’ve seen from this side in the past few years and we will be taking basically the same squad into the match against Townsville.”

In 2013 Queensland country players will have the unique chance to play against the best of the Northern Hemisphere when a combined Queensland and NSW country side take on the touring British and Irish Lions in Newcastle this June.
Jacques acknowledges this match is a major draw card for his players.

“There is a lot of excitement amongst the boys regarding the possibility to play the British and Irish Lions, its early days but it’s definitely in the back of their minds,” said Jacques.
“There is some real talent in our program this year, namely our fullback Dale Ahwang who I believe could be in real contention for a future in sevens, and our outside centre Sunny (Taputoa) Rea who at over six foot tall and 105kg, has an impressive offload.”
The Queensland Country representative pathway will provide players with the opportunity to progress through to higher honours in 2013.

The 2013 Queensland Country program will run from late March through to June and will feature sub union matches in North, South, and Central Queensland before regional teams are selected and players compete for selection in the Queensland Country Heelers.

In 2012 Townsville, Rockhampton & District, and the Gold Coast were standouts for their regions while North Queensland claimed a full trophy cabinet winning both the Opens and U19 Championships.

Also in 2013, the Queensland Country Heelers will have the opportunity to play against NSW Cockatoos in Townsville and at the Interstate carnival in Adelaide which features teams from the Northern Territory, Tasmania, and Victoria, as well an Australian Army side in Brisbane.

Queensland Rugby’s Head of Game Development Rob Donaghue is looking forward to seeing what talent will be identified from the program in a special year for Country Rugby.

“We’ve worked hard in recent times to establish a clear representative pathway for country players in Queensland and the regional players will have just reward this year now they have the opportunity to progress through to the match against the British & Irish Lions in New Castle,” said Donaghue.
“It is important that we develop our game in all areas of the state and provide a clear representative pathway to our regional affiliates and players and I’m looking forward to seeing what talent we can unearth in 2013.”

As well as developing players, the country program also provides coaches and administrators with the chance to further develop their skills therefore providing greater service to country players state wide.

The Queensland Country Heelers in 2013 will be coached by former Queensland Red and Wallabies player Garrick Morgan. He will be assisted by fellow former Red Brett Johnstone and Scott Barnes from the Gold Coast.

The 2013 Country Program is as follows:
2013 Draw - Regional Zone (Sub Union) Matches
               March 29: Mt Cairns 36 def. Mt.Isa 5 - Mt Isa
               April 6: Cairns 50 def. Mackay 11 - Cairns
               April 20: Townsville v Cairns - Townsville
               April 27: Mackay v Townsville - Mackay
               May 11: Western Qld v Central Highlands- Longreach
               May 16: Western Qld v Wide Bay- Rockhampton
               May 18: Central Qld v Central Highlands - Capella
               May 25: Wide Bay v Central Highlands- Hervey bay
               May 27: Western Qld v Central Qld- Longreach
               June 8: Sunshine Coast v Darling Downs - Helensvale
               June 9: Darling Downs v Gold Coast - Helensvale
               June 10: Gold Coast v Sunshine Coast - Helensvale
Graincorp Country Championship Matches
               July 6: Central Qld v North Qld – Rockhampton
               June 22: South Qld v Central Qld – TBC
               June 29: North Qld v South Qld – Cairns
Heelers Matches
               May 4: Heelers v NSW Cockatoos - Townsville
               July 12-14: Inter State Carnival - Adelaide
>  Competing States: Qld Country, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria
> NOTE: Qld Country U19’s will also be completing
               September 28: Heelers v ARMY - Brisbane
> Venue TBC


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