The Ben Campbell Building Group Tweed Heads Seagulls will provide a first glimpse of their capacity to strongly follow up their best season for over a decade when they have four teams on show at Piggabeen Sports Complex this Saturday.
The Seagulls’ under-18s, who last year won the national title, under-20s and women’s side will take on Northern Rivers/Titans representative teams with and Intrust Super Cup squad going head-to-head with a team of the Gold Coast Titans’ young NRL hopefuls.
While the senior teams are yet to be finalised, some of the region’s brightest young players will throw on their boots for the first time in 2020 and give local fans a glimpse of what is to come.
Tweed made the finals in all three Sunday competitions in 2019 (ISC, under-20s Colts and Mal Meninga Cup under-18s) for the first time. It was the first grade side’s first finals appearance since 2014, going down in a heartbreaking last gap loss to defending premiers Redcliffe Dolphins 25-24. The club also fielded a women’s team for the first time which produced a Queensland State of Origin representative in Jessika Elliston and an Australian representative (Nines) in Tarryn Aiken.
Several of last year’s the under-18s are now at NRL clubs and a couple may be up against the black and whites in their first match in Titans colours with halfback Toby Sexton and back-rower Juwan Compain, both allocated as Seagulls feeder team players, who are likely to be in the young Titans squad. Their Mal Meninga Cup teammates Caleb Hodges, Ben Liyou and Carsil Vaikai are likely to be in the Seagulls’ trial squad.
Ben Woolf’s side will have a similar look to last year’s successful squad, with the addition of some good acquisitions, developing players progressing from last year’s under-20s and under-18s and a surprise signing of a player with over 200 games’ experience in the NRL and English Super League.
He is Fetuli Talanoa, the talented 32-year-old outside back who has returned from Hull where he played 130 games after an eight-season stint with South Sydney (95 NRL appearances) and was keen to play locally.
Last year’s skipper John Palavi will again lead a strong line-up in 2020 with backline mainstays Talor Walters, Lindon McGrady (pictured), Rowland Jacobs, Luke Jurd, Lee Turner and Titans-contracted Treymain Spry and forwards Lamar Liolevave, Jarrod Morfett, Kody Parson, Rory Lillis, Ioane Seiuli (Titans-contracted) and Brent Woolf.
The Gulls have lost Christian Hazard (Souths Logan), Jack Cook and Kirk Murphy (France), Kalani Going who has returned to Canberra for family reasons and Cheyne Whitelaw who will sit out 2020 after a second knee reconstruction.
Yet they will be replaced by some exciting newcomers like Jesse Cronin, a middle forward who played under-20s with Parramatta last year, Ethan O’Neill, the son of former Broncos and Australian fullback Julian O’Neill who has been in the Sydney Roosters system for five years, Blake Goodman, a former a CQ halfback who played for Norths Sydney last year, middle forward Jerry Key, who played for Norths in the NSW Cup last season, Jamie Hill, a middle forward from the Capras and Fabian Keary, another big middle forward who has joined from Redcliffe Dolphins.
“I think we will have good strength and depth again in our ISC squad and plenty of talent in our under-age sides and the women’s team which improved so much during the course of last season,” said Seagulls CEO Paul Stephenson,
“We’ve concentrated on bringing in some good young talent which we fell can develop into very good players at this level and to pick up someone like Fetuli, who approached us just wanting to continue playing after moving back from England, is a real bonus.”
Saturday is the first of two trial match days for the Seagulls. They will play Souths Logan Magpies the following Saturday at Acacia Ridge.
This Saturday’s match schedule:
Under-18s v Northern Rivers-Titans U18s at 3pm
Women’s v Northern Rivers-Titans at 4.15pm
Under-20s v Northern Rivers-Titans under 23s at 5.30pm
ISC v Gold Coast Titans at 6.45pm