Tag Archives: qrl

A deep dive in to the 2020 Queensland Cup

I was always vaguely aware of the Queensland Cup growing up, but only really took an actual interest in it when I started this site a couple of years ago. I became a Souths Logan fan, because that’s where I lived most of my life, and started going to games. Since then, I’ve toyed with doing a similar season preview to my NRL ones but really only feel confident enough now to actually do it.

Being the kind of parochial Queenslander described in the excellent book, Heartland, I care about the Queensland Cup. There aren’t many institutions that cut across the city-country, white-black and, to an extent, class divides in as well-balanced and popular way as rugby league. The Queensland Cup, equally representing all parts of the state and a substantial part of our rugby league heritage, is an extremely important part of that and it does not get the attention it deserves from the people it should appeal to the most.

This season I am running a tipping competition for the Queensland Cup. Details below:

Last season in a nutshell

For all intents and purposes, it seemed like 2019 was going to belong to the Sunshine Coast Falcons. The Falcons joined the 2011 Tweed Seagulls and 2001 Toowoomba Clydesdales as the only clubs to complete a Queensland Cup campaign with one loss and one draw. While Burleigh, Wynnum Manly and Townsville gave chase, there looked to be no stopping them. Then came the finals, their seemingly invincible talent deserted them (partly because of Melbourne drawing down on their reserves late in the season) and they went out in the preliminary finals. Instead, it was the Burleigh Bears who overcame Wynnum Manly in a straightforward affair to win the grand final at Dolphin Stadium.

How it all works

I appreciate that it’s difficult to keep up with the Pythago NRL Expanded Universe™ of metrics and ratings. Not only are they generally more complicated than standard stats, I tweak them almost every year based on what I learned during the previous season. I created a short reference guide to what it all means.

Why the QRL website doesn’t have full squad lists (preferring to only list gains and losses) and a predicted 1-17 for each team as part of the season previews, I don’t know. I tried my best to work out the squads for 2020 based on the regulars last year and the gains and losses but to save myself some embarrassment from this process not yielding 100% correct results, I removed a few of the roster sections I had in the NRL preview. The 2020 Taylor projections and sims are based on the round 1 team lists.

Jump ahead

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qcup-bur Burleigh Bears

Founded: 1934

First QCup season: 1997

Home: Pizzey Park, Burleigh

Feeder: nrl-gct Gold Coast Titans

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As is often the case, the roster of the winner of the Queensland Cup gets raided by other clubs who suddenly take notice of what’s going on in the second tier of Australian footbal around grand final time. Of the halves that won the grand final, Dylan Phythian has been lured away to Central Newcastle Blacktown and Jamal Fogarty has finally signed to the Titans. Whether Fogarty will get much game time in the NRL – he is presumably behind Taylor and Roberts and on par with Boyd on the depth chart – is an unknown but if he spends enough time at Burleigh, then the Bears should keep winning matches.

If Fogarty does make it to the big time (a QCup career TPR of .120 suggests it is possible but perhaps not likely), then Tanah Boyd is an option. He filled in towards the end of last season after a mid-season transfer from Souths Logan. Boyd’s numbers while at the Magpies were not particularly impressive with an average TPR of .081. Still, development is a funny thing and a TPR can be context-based, so we will see if that is a deficit in talent or attitude or opportunity.

Otherwise, there were two retirements and Tyrone Roberts-Davis is joining Matt Soper-Lawler at Newcastle. The team that won the grand final is largely intact. Rick Stone won two premierships as head coach at the turn of the century and he returns to Pizzey Park to retake the reins in 2020. Provided the Bears settle on a halves combination quickly and one that functions well, then back-to-back premierships – the first since Wynnum-Manly in 2011 and 2012 – should be on the cards.

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qcup-cqc Central Queensland Capras

Founded: 1982 as a representative team for the Central Queensland region, 1996 as a standalone football club

First QCup season: 1996

Home: Browne Park, Rockhampton

Feeder: nrl-bne Brisbane Broncos

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I’m starting to think that the Capras need some sort of salary cap dispensation. Even though the cap has only been in place for a season, it has proven very difficult for the Rockhampton Leagues Club to attract talent to Browne Park. Marquee signings of late have included one busted David Taylor and one newly minted léopard de Villeneuve, Eddy Pettybourne. The Broncos don’t help because stashing top prospects in Rockhampton when Wynnum or Souths Logan or Norths or Redcliffe are right there doesn’t make much sense. Case in point: BJ Aufaga-To’omaga (.135 in 2019) has decamped from the Capras to the Dolphins.

For a region that produced Cameron Munster and Ben Hunt, the Capras have not managed to translate available junior talent into wins. It turns out city clubs can scout too if they only have to drive five hours up the road and most prospects seem to prefer the city over Rocky. So what to do? Wait until the next genetic freak comes along and hope no one spots him first? It’s been over a decade since the Capras last played in the finals. Something needs to change because the alternative is a wooden spoon every other year.

qcup-est Easts Tigers

Founded: 1917 as Coorparoo, 1933 for Eastern Suburbs

First QCup season: 1996

Home: Totally Workwear Stadium, Coorparoo

Feeder: nrl-mel Melbourne Storm

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Its been nearly thirty years since Easts last won a title. The last three trophies were a post-Broncos BRL premiership in 1991 (so that doesn’t count), a Winfield State League title in 1989 and a legitimate BRL premiership in 1983. I actually had to consult a book for some context of the early 1980s: the BRL regular season was only 14 games, with the season split between the local premiership and the State League. Wally Lewis was still at Valleys, leading them to a win in the State League that year (over Easts no less). Mal Meninga was a crucial part of the Souths setup and Wayne Bennett had taken the year off coaching. They were all years away from dominating the NSWRL. In other words, its been a while.

Here in 2020, as it often does, Easts’ season will hang in the balance of which players Melbourne assigns to them and how long it takes before they need to return to first grade. This week they get Brenko Lee and Christian Welch but the likes of Billy Walters and Brodie Croft won’t be back this season. The squad wasn’t too crash hot last year and this year looks marginally better. Linc Port returns from West End, Jayden Berrell and Caleb Daunt are down from Kawana and Michael Purcell arrives from Ipswich, which is a good get despite his TPR. Aaron Booth is back for another tour. Above all, the Tigers get a new coach in Craig Hodges, who has signed on for two seasons. His main priority should be fixing the Tigers’ defence which was well below average in 2019.

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qcup-ips Ipswich Jets

Founded: 1909 for rugby league played in Ipswich, 1985 as the Ipswich Jets

First QCup season: 1996

Home: North Ipswich Reserve, Ipswich

Pathway: nrl-new Newcastle Knights

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Big changes abound at the Jets. Ipswich have abandoned (or been abandoned?) the traditional feeder club arrangement with a Queensland NRL side, instead preferring to link up with the Newcastle Knights because “Newcastle is Ipswich-by-the-sea“. We won’t see Knights players dropping back to QCup but some of their prospects might end up in Ipswich and some of the Jets best might sign on to Newcastle’s system. The Knights have already sniffed out a couple of QCup talents to take south of the border.

Long time and premiership-winning wunderkind coaches, Shane and Ben Walker, have split with Ben heading headed off in to the sunset, leaving Keiron Lander at the helm. After a a slightly-better-than-average decade (average winning percentage of .533), some renewal into the 2020s will likely benefit the club long term. In the short term, some of the club stalwarts, like Michael Purcell and Richie Pandia, have departed. The rest of the roster looks thin enough that the Jets might struggle through 2020 without the benefit of NRL players dropping down to bolster the squad.

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qcup-mky Mackay Cutters

Founded: 1919 for rugby league played in Mackay and Districts, 2007 as the Mackay Cutters

First QCup season: 2008

Home: BB Print Stadium, Mackay

Feeder: nrl-nqc North Queensland Cowboys

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I honestly don’t have a lot to say about the Cutters, partly because they don’t get a lot of screentime. Mackay did sign Ata Hingano in the off-season. While Hingano may not have been up to the task in the NRL, he put up a reasonable .090 in NSW Cup for Mounties last year. He also transforms into a superplayer for Tonga. What kind of player he becomes for the Cutters we don’t know but it’s not a bad signing for a club that’s running closer to the Capras than the Blackhawks.

Reuben Cotter at hooker/utility, Yamba Bowie on the wing, Shane Wright on the edge and Jayden Hodges at various spinal positions all performed well in 2019 and appear to be returning for 2020. Cotter and Wright were the stars on .145 and .130, respectively. A little like Rocky, Mackay is a bit too out of the way to get the best of the Cowboys’ depth signings. Overall, I expect them to be in the bottom part of the table, as they have been every year barring finals appearances in 2010 and a borderline miracle premiership in 2013, which is why I don’t have much to say.

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qcup-ntp Northern Pride

Founded: 1918 for rugby league played in Cairns and Districts, 2007 as the Northern Pride

First QCup season: 2008

Home: Barlow Park, Cairns

Feeder: nrl-nqc North Queensland Cowboys

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If I said that the Pride were the best Queensland football club of the 2010s, would that sound strange? The Pride had the highest average Class rating through the decade and hold the record for the longest winning streak. I guess recency bias and 2017 and 2019 being their worst seasons would suggest otherwise but through the early-to-middle of the decade, the Pride were dominating. I guess the difference is that the Pride’s lows were shorter than Burleigh’s and their highs were higher than Wynnum’s. A thought experiment worth considering as we enter the new decade.

And in this new decade, there is still not a lot to recommend the Cairnsittes. One of their most productive last year, David Murphy, is done. Their signings are thin on State Cup experience. Javid Bowen and Gideon Gela-Mosby coming in-house from the Cowboys aren’t going to turn the franchise around. On the other hand, finally moving on Jordan Biondi-Odo after several seasons of subpar production can’t hurt. There’s still a fair bit of work to be done before the Pride can return to the former glory.

Keep an eye out for American Joe Eichner as we see if he can turn himself into a starter at AAA level.

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qcup-nsd Norths Devils

Founded: 1891 as Past Grammars rugby union club, 1920 as Past Grammars rugby league club, 1933 as Northern Suburbs

First QCup season: 1996

Home: Pathion Park, Nundah

Feeder: nrl-bne Brisbane Broncos

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The Devils looked good last year without giving anyone a real reason to fear them. Norths had six stars, the equal third highest in the league after Redcliffe and Sunny Coast. They were a highly productive team that well out-performed their projections. There’s a lot to like about their younger players. Herbie Farnworth (.167), Sean O’Sullivan (.166), Ethan Bullemor (.158), Troy Dargan (.141), Pride Peterson-Robati (.137) and Paul Ulberg (.136) is a very good core to have access to. Admittedly, some of these guys will end up in Broncos colours, possibly even this year, but there’s a lot to like there. Bryce Donovan is a signing with some potential, possibly as a replacement for the ageing Jack Ahearn.

The trick will be taking a very good season and building on it to displace one of Wynnum, Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Burleigh from the top four and beating Redcliffe to do so. The opportunity will be there, particularly if the Falcons come back to the pack and the Broncos’ assignments are available. Rohan Smith is coming in to his third year as coach at Bishop Park and the Devils have improved each year under his command. There’s a lot of signs pointing the right way for them.

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qcup-pgh PNG Hunters

Founded: 1930s for rugby league in Papua New Guinea, 2013 as the PNG Hunters

First QCup season: 2014

Home: Oilsearch National Stadium, Port Moresby

Feeder: Unaffiliated

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The broom has been put through the Hunters squad. Ten of the underperforming regulars from 2019 have been released. They’ve been replaced, in part, by Casey Dickson and Mark Piti, from Digicel Cup premiers, the Lae Tigers, as well as Emmanuel Waine from the runner-up Hela Wigmen and Steven Bruno of the Kimbe Cutters and Francis Takai of the Rabaul Gurias.

I still see it being a tough year ahead. The Hunters’ main advantage is that they have more or less exclusive access to the talent pool of 7 million people but they have used it poorly over the last two seasons, struggling to replace the players that made up the premiership class of 2017. The structure of Papua New Guinea’s pathways and comparative lack of professionalism have seen their best players leave for other Queensland Cup or League 1 clubs, some on their way to the majors (see: Edene Gebbie, Justin Olam). While that benefits the national side, the Hunters need a better approach.

The new head coach, Matt Church, is making reformation of talent pathways and linking up with the Digicel Cup clubs a priority, which bodes well for a few years down the track but right now, it will be a tough ask to improve much on last year.

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qcup-red Redcliffe Dolphins

Founded: 1947 as a club, 1960 for first season in Brisbane Rugby League

First QCup season: 1996

Home: Dolphin Stadium, Redcliffe

Feeder: nrl-bne Brisbane Broncos

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What really crimped the Dolphins’ season was a surprisingly slow start to the year. Across four grades, it took a month for Redcliffe to find their first win. Once they got there, the Dolphins won more often than not but were already too far behind the main challengers to make up ground. Nonetheless, a good run through mid-season, defeating the Sunshine Coast, Wynnum and Burleigh in the space of four weeks, showed they could mix it with the best.

So, no surprises: the Dolphins will probably be good again, especially if they come out of the gates a bit faster. The strongest club commercially and the one with the tightest relationship with the Broncos, the Dolphins are usually fed the best recruits. If Perese is persona non grata with the Broncos (and stays out of jail), a smart bit of business would be to sign him to the club. He was the Dolphins’ most productive player in 2019 with a TPR of .181.

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qcup-slm Souths Logan Magpies

Founded: 1909 as South Brisbane (later Carlton) in the BRL, 1933 as Southern Suburbs, 1988 for Logan City Scorpions, 2003 as Souths Logan after Southern Suburbs took over Logan City

First QCup season: 2003

Home: Davies Park, West End

Feeder: nrl-bne Brisbane Broncos

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The Magpies’ 2019 season was one of frustration. A big signing spree, followed by a lack of on-field cohesion and piss poor defence, saw Souths Logan miss the finals comfortably, three wins shy of eighth place. Embarrassingly, the Magpies handed over three competition points to the wooden spooner Capras, the only points Central Queensland would get all season. Linc Port has moved back to Easts, Matt Soper-Lawler is off to Newcastle, Gerome Burns to Ipswich and as attention turns to Tesi Niu and Ilikena Vudogo, who are likely to follow in the footsteps of Jamayne Isaako and David Fifita, Anthony Seibold’s insatiable lust for young players will see talent reserves drawn down.

The Magpies have signed a few hands from the Sunshine Coast and Wynnum Manly, an apparent gun in Christian Hazard from Tweed, as well as former Dolphin and Dragon, Darren Nicholls (QCup TPR .132 in 2016) and the roster is starting to resemble something of a reasonable Cup team on paper. Assignments from the Broncos – like hooker (?) Cory Paix (?) – and general squad cohesion, without chopping and changing the spine each week, will make or break the season.

qcup-scf Sunshine Coast Falcons

Founded: 1996

First QCup season: 1996, then returning in 2009

Home: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Kawana

Feeder: nrl-mel Melbourne Storm

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It’s still hard to believe that the Falcons fell over. Out of the three Cup teams that have finished the regular season with a single loss (no team has ever gone undefeated), the Falcons had the longest season and the best for-and-against, outscoring their opponents by 24.5 points per game (compared to 24.2 for 2001 Clydesdales and 13.2 for the 2011 Seagulls). At least the other two teams had the good grace to make the grand final, with Toowoomba winning and Tweed losing their respective games. The Falcons were comfortably bundled out of the race by the eventual premiers in the preliminary final.

Shockingly, their 21-1-1 winning record was built on solid fundamentals of not conceding many points and scoring a ton more. Harry Grant set a single season TPR record of .266 and led a team of highly productive players including the now-at-Coorparoo Caleb Daunt (.144), Nicho Hynes (.134), Justin Olam (.178), Jon Rueben (.158 and career WARG leader on 7.2) and soon-to-be-at-the-Gold-Coast Tino Faasuamaleaui (.169). With a number of their stars now set to emerge into the NRL this year or next, we wait with bated breath to see what the balance of the squad can do. Melbourne probably have a stash of kids in BRL and Sunshine Coast league just waiting for the opportunity, so I won’t hold my breath, waiting for a collapse, for too long.

qcup-tsv Townsville Blackhawks

Founded: 1919 for Brothers Townsville, 2014 for Townsville Blackhawks

First QCup season: 2015

Home: Jack Manski Oval, Townsville

Feeder: nrl-nqc North Queensland Cowboys

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My take is that it’s about time the Blackhawks won the Queensland Cup. In only their sixth season, Townsville have never finished below sixth on the ladder. Maybe its the distance to Brisbane or the newness of the club, but the Blackhawks don’t seem to be cited as the perennial contenders that they have been.

Offsetting a couple of retirements, the Blackhawks have signed ex-Cutter Carlin Anderson, ex-Hunter Moses Meninga, ex-Tiger Patrick Kaufusi and ex-Eel Josh Hoffman, which is a reasonable bolstering to a lineup that was in the top four or five squads last season. The Townsville club is not short a quid, seems to be favoured by the Cowboys for assignments and it seems hard to see how they won’t be in the mix in 2020. Kristian Woolf has left big shoes to fill but sophomore head coach Aaron Payne did well enough in his first season, with a top four out-performance of player projections and a trip to the preliminaries. Another step up is required this year for a real premiership push.

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qcup-ths Tweed Heads Seagulls

Founded: 1909 as a rugby union club, 1914 for the rugby league club in the Tweed District competition

First QCup season: 2003

Home: Piggabeen Sports Complex, Tweed Heads

Feeder: nrl-gct Gold Coast Titans

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Sometimes, but not often, a Queensland Cup club gets a million dollar halfback. Ipswich enjoyed having Ben Hunt for one game in 2017 and Ash Taylor closed out his 2019 season, unable to deal with the pressure of the NRL, with an elimination final loss to Redcliffe for the Tweed Heads Seagulls. Whether Taylor returns this season will depend on how his return to the majors pans out.

Once you take him out and Christian Hazard, who has departed for the Magpies, the list looks decidedly uninteresting. Despite a closer relationship with the Titans than their colleagues further up the coast, the Seagulls have a couple of players they can rely on, fullback Talor Walters chief among them, but lack sparkle otherwise. Their offence is in dire need of an overhaul if the numbers are to be believed. If last season was a surprising out-performance of their player projections and Pythagorean expectation, then I would expect to see a return to more normal programming this year. Unless something big breaks their way, Tweed look like they’ll camp themselves out on the edge of finals contention.

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qcup-wms Wynnum Manly Seagulls

Founded: 1931 as a club, merged into Eastern Suburbs in 1933, then returning to the Brisbane Rugby League as Wynnum-Manly in 1951

First QCup season: 1996

Home: Kougari Oval, Wynnum

Feeder: nrl-bne Brisbane Broncos

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That was unexpected. Not only were the Seagulls one of the protagonists for the 2020 Intrust Super Cup premiership, reaching the grand final, the Wynnum Manly club also made the grand finals for the Under 20s Hasting Deerings Colts, Under 18s Mal Meninga Cup and the Brisbane Rugby League. They only managed one win, a 22-20 victory over Valleys in the BRL. The other three were losses for the Baysiders. A tough look.

Still, at State Cup level, perhaps it should not have been unexpected, given the on-paper roster. Guys like Mitch Cronin (.177), Pat Tempelman (.158), Sam Scarlett (.163) and Edene Gebbie (.168) were instrumental in the team’s productivity. Indeed, the Gulls’ reliance on their playmakers was only matched by the Falcons. Wynnum has a comparatively low forward bias but when you break it down, the individuals involved are good enough. Kaolo Saitaua (.177) distinguished himself last year. With all of these gentlemen seemingly returning for the new season and a slight tightening of defence, evevn though the Taylors are down on them, then there’s no reason Wynnum-Manly couldn’t flip the script on last year.