THE pipeline of players from the Sunshine Coast to the Peninsula shows no sign of abating.
Matt Mapes is the latest recruit to follow that path, although he originally played with the Broncos from when he was 16.
Now 25, Mapes has not allowed the stiff competition for second-row spots at the Dolphins put him off. In fact, he has relished the challenge and recently won two players' player awards.
"I'm enjoying my time at the Dolphins," the quietly spoken Mapes said.
Mapes spent the past two seasons with the Nambour Crushers, who won the 2003-04 Sunshine Coast premierships.
"I played the two seasons with the Crushers but missed the grand final last year with a rib cartilage injury, which was pretty disappointing. Dan Stains coached the side last year and has the job again this year.
"Craig Polla-Mounter, the former Canterbury half, also played in the side and I learnt a bit from those two.
"James Hinchey watched a couple of games and it went from there."
Mapes turned out in Redcliffe's A grade for the opening two fixtures before his sheer form pitchforked him into the Premier League.
His strong defence and clever offloads have ensured his spot in Anthony Griffin's side ever since.
At 190 centimetres and 97 kilograms, Mapes is the ideal build for second-row, his preferred position.
"It's the spot I like," he said. "I've found the Redcliffe set-up very professional and there's been no worries since I moved down in February. I didn't really know anyone at the club except Jason Campbell, who came from Nambour to play with the Colts.
"It's good to have Troy Lindsay and Adam Starr up front with the Dolphins because they give a lot of experience."
Mapes said the away win over Tweed Heads Seagulls was gratifying as his side won the second half.
"To come from behind was a struggle but it was a good sign," he said. "We're working our way up the table but there's plenty of work still to do."
Mapes is no stranger to Brisbane, having played with Wests Arana Hills as a youngster and joining the Broncos organisation when he was 16.
An electrician, he lives at Ferny Grove and works for a mate. But it was his trade which almost forced him out of football despite reaching the Clydesdales level.
Several years ago he found the task of combining work and virtual fulltime training with the Broncos too much and gave the code away.
"I lost interest," he confessed. "I gave league away as it was interfering with work. I was doing my apprenticeship and starting work at 5.30 and not getting home until 9 o'clock some nights.
"I gave it away for a few years before getting back into it at Nambour."
He spent from 1996 to 1999 with the Red Hill giants, much of it with team-mates such as Dane Carlaw, Chris Walker and Craig Frawley, ironically two of whom are former Redcliffe Colts.
"I haven't really given going back to the NRL set-up any thought," he said. "I'll take it as it comes. I'm just happy to play every game in Premier League this season."
AFTER eight years on the National Rugby League treadmill, Jamie Russo is back home on the Sunshine Coast.
He's also stamping his class on the Queensland Cup with the Pepsi Dolphins. The 24-year-old utility joined Redcliffe soon after the 2005 season started, but did not take long to make an impression. After one match in A grade, he forced his way into the Premier League set-up and has not been away since.
"I came home to live at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast to take it easy and get away from Sydney for a year," Russo said.
"I still wanted to play football but I knew I needed a higher level than the Sunshine Coast comp. "I approached Redcliffe and soon spoke to coach Anthony Griffin, whom I knew after he coached my brother Michael at Norths."
Russo finds himself in the forwards at Redcliffe, although he has played a lot of five-eighth.
"I played in the centres at Canberra last year, although I prefer lock or second-row," he said.
"I didn't know what to expect as I have been at NRL clubs since I was a teenager, but the set-up at Redcliffe is good."
At 98 kilograms, he is well built to take care of himself, although he knows competition in the Dolphins backrow is red-hot, especially with firebrand Daniel Green back from his off-season shoulder operation.
Russo makes no secret of the fact that he wants to return to the NRL next season, but for now is content to bide his time in the nation's second-best competition.
He joined the Sydney Roosters virtually from school in 1997 before linking with Parramatta in 2002 ,then skipping to Souths for 2003 and 2004, although he spent the second half of last year at the Canberra Raiders.
"I was going to be at Canberra this year again when I decided to come home to the Sunshine Coast," he said. "They were pretty good to give me a release."
Russo gained an early insight of Redcliffe's potential at the Raiders from friend Adam Mogg (another former Sunshine Coast product) and winger Phil Graham.
"I've known Moggy a while and we were also together at Parramatta," he said. "He was always going on that I would be playing at Redcliffe and that's what has happened.
"Adam is well regarded at Canberra and has signed on again for them, but he says he will finish up his career with the Dolphins.
"Phil Graham spent a bit of time in reserve grade last year, but he's back fit again and has a ton of pace. He's very quick."
Russo has been quick to make an assessment of the Queensland Cup.
"It's a pretty good comp, but a completely different game to the NRL and NSW Premier League,'' he said. "The fitness levels are not as high, but that is to be expected as the players are not fulltime and some of the little things are not as well executed.
"But it's certainly as physical as the other comps and the games I've played against Souths and Wynnum have been tough. I was hoping to celebrate on the Saturday after the North Queensland Young Guns game as that was my birthday, but I've never won in Townsville in any visit there with an NRL club.
"Any clubs with NRL feeders can be expected to be hard clashes, so that takes in Norths, Toowoomba and North Queensland."
A BUSINESS idea has helped land the Redcliffe Dolphins one of their former Colts.
Mark Christensen, 22, returns to the club after three seasons with National Rugby League outfits St George Illawarra and Souths.
The quicksilver back, a member of the 2001 premiership Colts side at Dolphin Oval, arrives with a plan to start a personal training business on the Peninsula.
"I have applied for a business name and am organising my insurance so I'm hoping to get the go-ahead soon. I did some courses last year and I have played sports all my life,'' Christensen said.
"It is pretty quiet in that area on the Peninsula and I have been studying up on training, circuits and weights."
Recruited at 17 from Brothers club at Mackay in 2000, Christensen was signed by St George at the end of 2001 after playing a pivotal role in the Colts premiership.
Stints in that club's Jersey Flegg and Premier League sides followed with his pinpoint goal-kicking a feature. His best effort was 10 out of 11 while he enjoyed an 80 percent success rate in one season down south.
His kicking has not been needed yet as veteran centre Greg Bourke has been looking after that aspect.
"The main feature of playing at NRL clubs was the difference in training," he said. "They are all very professional and I certainly did enjoy it."
A winger for a lot of his career, Christensen is also competent at fullback or the centres.
"I have not made my mind up about my football future," he said. "I will see what happens with the business and go from there. I want to get it set up and take it from there."
Christensen said he had relished his return to the Dolphins.
"I'm going all right on the field and they are a good bunch of blokes," he said. "I know quite a few of them from earlier days such as Starry and Micky Roberts."
Christensen had been playing on the wing in Premier League for the first few matches before dropping back to A grade against Tugun last month.
"The Queensland Cup standard is pretty good," he said. "The intensity is not there for the entire 80 minutes, but it depends on which side you are playing.
"The Queensland Cup is a lot tougher than Premier League in NSW although it might not be as skilful."
Christensen said his biggest surprise on his return had been the development of Redcliffe as a city.
"There is certainly a lot more development in the town," he said. "That's good and it's certainly good to be back in Queensland."
For now, Christensen is hoping to launch his personal training career and will be relying on word of mouth around the club for clients. Members interested in availing themselves of his services can contact Mark on 0421 706448 in coming weeks.
DUANE O'Grady provides the perfect example of local boy made good.
Within three seasons, the second-rower has transformed himself from a triallist to a full-fledged member of the Dolphins Premier League squad.
The 23-year-old Redcliffe junior has bypassed the usual track of junior development squads and elite Colts football to force his way into the top-level Queensland Cup.
"I was born and bred in Redcliffe and played from under sevens to under 10s at Burpengary before coming over to the Redcliffe juniors," O'Grady said.
"I then had a couple of years off before I ended up at Arlie Beach when I was 19 and spent a season and a half in the Whitsunday competition."
O'Grady then returned to the Peninsula to start an apprenticeship as a refrigeration mechanic.
The demand of his job meant an absence from football, but in his third year he could not ignore the bug any more and pulled on his boots.
"I went along to an open trial on the recommendation of Darren Smallhorn and also from my father and pop, who also both played for Redcliffe. My dad John played Colts and Morrie has been around the club for a long time."
O'Grady forced his way into coach Bertie Campbell's A grade side in 2003, winning a premiership and then making the semi-finals last season.
"I came to the club as a centre and got put on the wing, but now I'm a second-rower," he said.
"There are more opportunities in that position and last year I spent the entire season in the forwards.
"It suits my game better to be there as I like to try and hurt in my tackles. I'm certainly more of a defensive player, even though at 96 kilos I'm a bit light for a second-rower."
O'Grady's defensive capabilities have not been overlooked by new Premier league coach Anthony Griffin, who looks to rebuild a side decimated by off-season transfers and retirements.
O'Grady turned out in both pre-season trials against Burleigh and Souths-Logan, although his spot will become one of the hardest-fought in the club.
Rivals include long-serving backrower Danny Burke, Danny Green (recovering from a shoulder operation), Grant Flugge (suspended for the opening two matches), Shannon Fish, Gerard Parle and even Troy Lindsay.
"I enjoyed the trials very much," he said. "They were nice and quick, but I loved playing in them.
"There's plenty of competition and that helps you play better footy."
O'Grady's plan is to retain his spot in the Premier League squad throughout the season.
"I don't care if I'm in the run-on side or on the bench. Premier grade is premier grade. There's not much difference in what number you are named in."
O'Grady's impressions of new coach Griffin have been favourable.
"He is a man of few words but what he wants to get across he gets across," he said.
As for the future, O'Grady is still working as a refrigeration mechanic and has bought a house at Scarborough so his off-field situation is stable. Now all he needs is playing time in the top side.
GIANT Parramatta winger Matt Gruszka likes a challenge.
That would explain his gamble on moving from his Sydney home, club and family to try his luck with the Pepsi Dolphins.
Gruszka, all 99 kilograms and 188 centimetres of him, admits he knew virtually nothing about Redcliffe or the Queensland Cup competition when he joined in the off-season.
"I was on holidays when I got a call about the Redcliffe offer," he said. "I liked the offer and thought I would take the challenge of starting again with a clean slate at a new club.
"I had only a vague picture of the Queensland Cup and personally didn't know anything about Redcliffe. But some of the boys at Parramatta came from Toowoomba, Casino and Cairns so the Cup competition had made its mark in Sydney.''
Gruszka has had a quick introduction to the state scene with trials against premiers Burleigh and Souths-Logan.
He was man of the match against the Bears, although he knows their squad was split that weekend.
"We went into the matches at full strength and you don't take too much into account with trials," he said.
Gruszka had the opportunity to stay with the Eels, the club he had spent three seasons with, rising to its Premier League ranks.
"I'm actually from Lidcombe and played in the Canterbury junior competition," he said. "I started with Parramatta's SG Ball side and worked my way up to the Premier League and the fulltime list last season."
Gruszka had star wingers Matt Petersen and Eric Grothe in front of him in the Eels' NRL side, but decided to head north.
"I see Redcliffe as an opportunity to go forward in my career," he said. "I could have stayed with Parramatta on the same deal as last year but I want to see how good I can go here."
Gruszka makes no bones of the fact that he hopes to use the Dolphins as a stepping stone back to National Rugby League ranks.
"I want to get back to the NRL next year through the back door to the Roosters,'' he said. "I spoke to James Hinchey at Redcliffe and he made everything sound good.''
Gruszka's size makes him an ideal candidate for the forwards as well, "In my junior days I played in the second-row and centres," he said. "It was only when I went to Parramatta that they put me on the wing.
"I'm happy on the wing at Redcliffe as we've got much better centres than I would be. Everything is so comfortable here.
"The club is extremely professional and I feel comfortable, a lot more comfortable than I ever did at Parramatta.
"The lifestyle is great and the club has been most helpful in getting me settled."
After being a fulltime player with the Eels, Gruszka is working at the Leagues Club in the Bottleshop.And as for his name? It has Polish origins and to pronounce it correctly just drop out the z.
ON a very clear day, you could see that rugby league supporters were out in their numbers, wanting to register to play for the Redcliffe Dolphins in 2005.
Existing player numbers have been maintained, and with the crop of new starters, it will be another very busy time around the Dolphin Oval complex.
Wading through the paperwork required to enrol all of our budding league champs is no small task, so on that note the Dolphins wish to thank the dedicated group of people who sharpened their pencils and fought off writer's cramp as they registered somewhere over 600 footballers for this season.
A new major sponsor also has signed on for the Dolphins juniors and we welcomed Keystar Autoworld to the club's first big day of the season.
Our new sponsor came bearing gifts for the occasion and every player signing on was provided with a sample bag of goodies and introductory special promotions for the parents and supporters.
There was a healthy group of Keystar employees in attendance, led by popular Dolphins league identity Peter "Robbo" Robinson, sales manager of the Redcliffe/Rothwell dealership.
The Dolphin juniors look forward to a mutually rewarding association with Keystar Autoworld and their product line-up of Subaru, Hyundai, Kia and Daihatsu will be prominently displayed on our Redcliffe team jerseys.
The Dolphins are also fortunate to have the services of our new sponsor's special liaison Contact in Brian Winney, who will be able to assist all supporters in their inquiries on purchase of new or used motor vehicles on 0402 410844, 3203 7333 or email [email protected]
In this world of ever increasing cooperation of business entities, Redcliffe Leagues Club's long-standing banker, (which bank?), the Commonwealth Bank, has introduced a housing property and refinancing loan scheme.
This is not only a saving for the borrowing customer but will also return a reward bonus to the club and individual teams which refer new business to the Redcliffe and Kippa-Ring branches.
Contacts at these local Commonwealth Bank branches are Danny Hayes 3284 6444 and Nicola Torrisi 3284 1066.
The Commonwealth Bank is openly promoting its desire to be the most user friendly of the banking institutions and the current campaign can only be a benefit for club members and junior supporters in our efforts to maintain lowest costs of participation in junior sport.
Thanks also go to Leading Edge Sports for its presence on Dolphins sign-on day and the manner in which they attended to the many sporting goods needs of the Dolphin juniors.
Peter Clarke, of Leading Edge Sports at Clontarf Beach, has been a renowned supporter of sport on the Peninsula and his connection and commitment to the Redcliffe Rugby League Club is appreciated by our juniors.
Completing the show stall style presentation for our Dolphin junior supporters was the non-stop visiting spot for the players as they queued up to the Redcliffe Old Boys Club sausage sanger sizzle, which was an eat-out after Ron Pascoe and his rustys served up over 800 barbecued sausages.
To borrow from a great football quote, "cooked hard, done good!" (sorry Jack!)
Training has got under way for all sides and the schedule up until the juniors' first trial on the weekend of March 6 is:
Under 7s Saturdays 9am on Junior 1
Under 8s Saturdays 9am on Junior 2
Under 9s Saturdays 10am on Junior 2
Under 10s Saturdays 10am on Junior 1
Under 11s Mondays and Wednesdays 5pm Mod 2
Under 12s Mondays and Wednesdays 5pm Mod 1
Under 13s Mondays and Wednesdays 5pm Talobilla 3
Under 14s Tuesdays and Thursdays 6pm Talobilla 3
Under 15s Tuesdays and Thursdays 6pm Talobilla 4
Under 16s Mondays and Wednesdays 6pm Talobilla 3
Under 17s Mondays and Wednesdays 6pm Talobilla 4
Under 18s Tuesdays and Thursdays 6pm Junior 2
This program of training is necessary for important reasons:
1. Families from all player age groups know 'who' is 'where' and 'when'.
2. Any late sign-ons or those absent on sign-on day can follow the program.
3. This year, Talobilla fields 1 and 2 have undergone major groundworks of levelling and resurfacing and to allow proper regeneration are unavailable for use until mid-March.
4. The timetable can be adjusted once finalisation of teams and grades are completed, expected by the start of competition on March 18-20.
5. Cooperation from all concerned is naturally appreciated.
Coaches appointed to modified games teams are: under 7s, Jamie McDonald, Matt Buxton, Mark Payne and Bruce Castle, (another coach needed); under 8s, David McDonald, Brian Foley, Andrew Cullis, (another coach needed); under 9s, Darren Van Bruggen, Pat Murphy, Greg Gray, Aaron Lambourn; under 10s, Cam Cherry, John Boxsell, John Murrell, Glen Wilson; under 11s, Jason Warr, Mark Stringer, Adrian Beaven, (another coach needed); under 12s, Steve Peoples, Brett Morris, Mark Charlton, (another coach needed).
Any person interested in beginning the role of coach with one of the needed abovementioned teams should contact Grant Cleal on 3203 7333 to arrange further discussion.
Big year coming up - go the Dolphins!
THEY might up being called Redcliffe's own version of "The Three Musketeers".
Ryan Cullen, Shannon Fish and Gerard Parle joined the Dolphins in the off-season from fellow Queensland Cup club Central Comets.
THE Dolphins will start their 2005 Queensland Cup campaign without top-line forwards Daniel Green, Troy Lindsay and Grant Flugge.
Lindsay (one week) and Flugge (two weeks) were hit with suspensions from the final fixture of 2204 while Green is recuperating from an off-season shoulder operation.
But Dolphins coach Anthony Griffin has been buoyed by his side's strong pre-season trial form, beating premiers Burleigh 36-16 on the Gold Coast and then disposing of Souths-Logan 34-22 at Dolphin Oval.
"We won comfortably against Souths and I was pretty happy with their performance," Griffin said.
"We are building up a bit of momentum, although there are still a few areas we need to work on defensively."
Redcliffe led Souths 16-0 early, before the Magpies came back to 16-10, however the home side stormed away to 28-12 before defensive slips balanced the final scoreline.
Griffin said front-rowers Adam Starr and Nick Walker were impressive, along with halves Michael Roberts and Shane Perry and utility forward Shannon Fish.
"Daniel Jones injured his ankle in the Souths trial, which was our most serious injury," he said. "He was taken off and did not come back.
"Daniel Green might be ready at he start of the season but he could have a game or two in the reserves."
DALE Shearer was as well known for his number of clubs as his playing ability.
New Redcliffe signing Greg Bourke has been just as well travelled as the former Kangaroo back.
Bourke's playing resume makes interesting reading.
A Ballina product from the New South Wales North Coast,he turned out with National Rugby League
clubs Wests Tigers, Sydney City and North Queensland before moving on to Queensland Cup outfits Burleigh Bears and Wynnum, spending two seasons each with those clubs.
He started his top grade career with the Tigers before being recruited by to the Roosters and then spending two seasons with the Cowboys.
"The Roosters were the most professional of the clubs I had been with," he said. "But then I enjoyed playing at all the clubs I have been with.
"The Roosters' cause was helped by the quality of the players they had. ?
Bourke's experience will come in handy this season for the Dolphins with the loss of top centres Brian Jellick(France)and Damian Richters (retirement).
He has been called upon to fill the void and help Redcliffe back into the Queensland Cup semi-finals.
``I've been at pre-season training since it started on November 1 and I've really enjoyed it,'' Bourke said.
A centre for his entire career, Bourke has signed a two-year contract with the Fins.
``I'll play these two seasons and see how I go,'' he said. "I always thought Redcliffe were a really good team and they were always a hard team to play against when I was with the Bears and Seagulls.
"Last year was not as good as others for the club, but their future looks really appealing. I'm hoping to go one step better and win a premiership this season.
That is everyone's aim in their career."
Bourke has been close to taking a title with his two previous outfits,although the Bears won last year's title after he had left the previous
season for Wynnum, who made the finals in 2004, eventually finishing third.
Bourke and his wife Sharon, who have a son and a daughter, both work for Conrad Jupiters on the Gold Coast.He is on the security side of the operation while his wife is a dealer.
``They have been really good employers for me in allowing me time to play football," he said.
"We live at Eagleby, which is halfway between our work at Conrad Jupiters and Brisbane,'' he said. "It works out well as it's only 40 minutes either way to work or training."
Bourke's analysis of the Queensland Cup is interesting. He believes the standard is improving every season,although naturally not to the standard of the NRL where fulltime training and resources allows players to develop to their maximum potential.
'You only have to see how many players the NRL gets from this competition to realise it is at a high level," he said. "It is a good playing standard, much better than any of the country leagues and one of the better leagues in the world. Playing with Redcliffe will be a new challenge."
ANTHONY Griffin returns to Dolphin Oval older and wiser after five years developing his coaching skills in the National Rugby League hothouse.
A former junior development officer with the Dolphins, Griffin coached the Redcliffe Colts in 1997 before leaving to join the Melbourne Storm umbrella.
With the departure of triple premiership coach Neil Wharton in the off-season, Griffin threw his hat in the ring for the top job at Redcliffe.
"When I heard Neil had resigned, I got in contact with the club and it went from there," Griffin said.
"I knew other guys were putting in for the job, but I fronted for the interview and it went from there.
"It was good to get the job as it's just like coming home. It is that really because Dolphin Oval is where my senior coaching career started. It's great to be back."
In the 2005 Queensland Cup season, Griffin faces the tough task of blending new faces with the core of past campaigners.
Gone are Brian Jellick, Andrew Wynyard, Ben Jones, Trent Leis and Gavin Cooper while the recruiting net has been far and wide to join up and coming youngsters from Colts and A grade.
Griffin also has brought three players from Souths Logan, his previous assignment, in hooker Daniel Irvine, centre Nick Emmett and rookie prop Matt Morice.
Irvine turned out in 30 NRL matches for Parramatta while Emmett, a former Dolphins Colt, also played for the Sydney club.
Griffin said Redcliffe football manager James Hinchey had looked after most of the club's recruiting with the end of the 2004 season.
"We started back training on November 1 and we're looking good," Griffin said. "We are still looking for some outside backs. We have some quality in that spot but not the depth."
Griffin joined the Storm in 1998 with three years at its Brisbane offshoot Norths before going to Melbourne in 2001 as head coach Chris Anderson's assistant.
Anderson left the Storm halfway through the season to be replaced by former Dolphins and Sydney City coach Mark Murray.
Griffin finished his commitments down south at the end of 2002 before joining Souths Logan.
He said many faces were familiar at Dolphin Oval with Hinchey a player during previous stint at the club while Michael Roberts, Grant Flugge and Nathan Herbener members of his Colts squad.
Herbener returned to his hometown of Roma after receiving two sternum fractures at Redcliffe, but has made the most of his time away with selection in the Queensland Rangers side over the past two seasons.
Griffin now runs his own insurance and financial planning business, which although keeping him busy, allows him time for his football commitments.
A resident at The Gap, he also has a family now with two daughters and a son.
"We will be training three days a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday - as well as the players being required to do a weights session on Thursdays," he said.
Griffin believes the Queensland Cup has become stronger over recent seasons.
"The competition has gone ahead in leaps and bounds over the past four to five years," he said.
"I think it's because of the professionalism of the clubs and the quality of their players, as well as players who have come back from the NRL.
"The NSW Premier League might be quicker and the skills better, but it is not played in the same spirit as the intensity is not as high."