Six players who have been sweating it out with the Titans NRL squad during the summer will go into battle in the Intrust Super Cup opening round this weekend while their other teammates will have their final weekend of rest.
Usually the NRL and QRL competitions start on the same weekend but this year the two Titans feeder teams will be in action a week earlier with Tweed Heads Seagulls at home this Sunday (2.05pm) to PNG Hunters and Burleigh Bears travelling to Bishop Park in Brisbane to take on Norths Devils.
Leilani Latu, Ryley Jacks, Treymain Spry and Ione Seiuli will run out for the Seagulls alongside former NZ Warriors and Norths Devil forward John Palavi who has spent much of the pre-season with the Titans and played in our final trial match.
Middle forwards Morgan Boyle and Jai Whitbread will start their 2019 campaign with the Bears, alongside several players with NRL experience like Sami Sauiluma, Pat Politoni, Jamal Fogarty, Kurtis Rowe and Luke Page.
The Seagulls will be without skipper Cheyne Whitelaw (recovering from an ACL injury) and recent signing Christian Hazard, who was injured in the final Titans’ trial match, but they will still field a strong side at Piggabeen Sports Complex on Sunday, with plenty of experience.
New co-captain Palavi (Warriors), fellow Kiwi Lamar Liolevave (Wests Tigers) who offers a powerful option with his switch from edge forward to centre, halfback Jacks (Storm) and prop Latu (Panthers and Titans) provide a solid base of experience.
But it is the up-and-coming talent that has excited coach Ben Woolf. Ipswich product Spry, the 19-year-old who has just picked up a two-year contract with the Titans, will debut for the Gullies in the centres with fellow Titans development player Seiuli, also 19, on the wing.
Back-rower Kurtis Dark, 20, who picked up the coach’s award last year in the Newcastle Knights under-20s (Jersey Flegg) side, is another Seagulls newcomer along with halfback Luke Jurd who played in Cronulla’s premiership-winning Jersey Flegg side in 2018.
Add fullback Talor Walters (Storm), hooker Jack Cook (Storm), Kalani Going (Raiders), Lindon McGrady (Bulldogs), Jaleel Seve (Wests Tigers) and former Titans under-20s players Shane Gillham, Harry Hughes, Tevita Folau and Blake Lenehan, and Woolf has a good blend of youth and experience at his disposal.
“The positive thing for us is that even with our captain Cheyne Whitelaw and the experienced Christian Hazard missing with injury, we can still start the season with a strong squad and some exciting kids who our supporters haven’t seen yet,” CEO Paul Stephenson said.
“And while we have four players from the Titans dropping back in Leilani Latu, Ryley Jacks, Tremain Spry and Ione Seiuli, another three or four might be with us in round two with Garth Brennan’s squad pretty healthy.
“We certainly have better depth than we’ve had in recent seasons and it would be a big confidence boost to start the season with a win.”
The clashes with the highly physical and enthusiastic Hunters, who also have a largely new look side, has been a feature of the Seagulls’ past two seasons.
Tweed won both matches in 2017, becoming one of only three teams at that stage to beat the Hunters in PNG, before going down 32-18 in PNG and 22-18 in a thrilling contest at Piggabeen last year.