TO a rugby league player, a decade is a lifetime.Mark Shipway will discover time has not stood still when returns to Dolphin Oval next season.The last time he donned the red and white jersey was in 1996 in a Brisbane grand final against Souths.The teenage centre had already played in that season's Queensland Cup grand final, carrying a dislocated shoulder, before popping it again in the premiership decider.Ten years later he has signed with Redcliffe as a hard-hitting backrower who has been with two NRL clubs and a Super League outfit."I went from Redcliffe to the Cowboys for five years," he said. "Then it was two years with Manly before two seasons with the Salford City Reds."At 29, Shipway believes he still has plenty of football left in him and always intended to come home with his Australian bride Jodie, the daughter of former Redcliffe coach John Barber."I had still been following Redcliffe's progress on the Internet and had a couple of mates from the Cowboys playing with the club," he said."Of course, I had played with James Hinchey and kept in close contact. When it came time to come home to live here, it wasn't a hard decision to sign up."Like all footballers, I've had a few little injury problems but the body still feels good."'Shippy' will find former team-mates scarce at Dolphin Oval, although the indestructible Troy Lindsay shows no signs of weakening."The guys I played with were the likes of Hinchey,Wayne Miller, Crusher Cleal,Ricky Hewinson, Robbo and Danny Nutley," he said."I know Greg Bourke well from my time at the Cowboys but I can't put any faces to the names who will be at the club next season so it's hard to say how we will go, but we will be training hard in the next couple of months so I'm bound to get a good idea of our prospects."I've not seen any games but I know that the Queensland Cup goes from strength to strength especially with the NRL clubs using it as a feeder system." Shipway needs no introduction to coach Anthony Griffin, who was Redcliffe's development officer during his time with the Dolphins.Super League clubs are allowed three overseas players and ironically there was a Redcliffe connection to Shipway's departure from Salford.The Reds swooped on former Dolphin Aaron Moule from the Widnes Vikings, signing the free-scoring centre for two seasons."I enjoyed England and it was all a great experience," he said. 'I got to travel around and have a look at the world, but it's good to be back here in a warmer climate."Shipway also is trying to tie up a new profession after a fulltime playing career.He has applied for a QRL development officer post, saying he had attended numerous schools and camps during his time with the Cowboys and Manly as well as helping coach an under 16 team at Salford. "I've never had to apply for a job as my last job was in the office at the Redcliffe Leagues Club," he said. "It's time to get back to a normal life."
REDCLIFFE Dolphins coach Anthony Griffin thought he knew all about the anguish of coaching after his first Queensland Cup match in charge.
He had watched his new charges go down to a 60-point drubbing at the hands of Norths, his former employer.
But, according to Griffin, that was nothing compared with the tidal wave of emotions during the club's final two matches of the season.
After eliminating the Toowoomba Clydesdales 23-22 in week one of the semi-finals at Dolphin Oval, Griffin's men ran up against Norths in an elimination minor semi-final at Bishop Park.
The Devils had been favourites to take out the titles only a few weeks before, but the Dolphins dispelled any notions of that with a 33-10 thumping.
Then it was down to ominous task of fronting up to premiers Burleigh Heads at Pizzey Park in the preliminary final.
That Redcliffe got within a try of the premiers speaks volumes for the quality of the Redcliffe squad.
"I was shattered for my players," Griffin said. "As bad as it was for all the coaching and club staff, it was one hundred times worse for the players.
"I know how much it took out of them physically and the number of them that were playing with injuries.
"To be 18-6 behind to Burleigh at their home ground and come back and lead with three minutes was a great effort. I've never experienced anything like that finish before.
"At the start of the season I had no preconceived idea of what we wanted to achieve. All we were concentrating on was the work that was needed to help improve the place.
"But after the black opening day when he lost both the Colts and State League by 60 points, everyone responded and learned from their mistakes."
He said the Bears were still the benchmark of the Queensland Cup, and if his side had got through against them, he was confident they could go on and claim another Cup victory.
But the Dolphins are not resting on their laurels of third after missing out on the semi-finals last season.
The club is confident Griffin will re-sign for next season, along with virtually all of this season's squad. Missing will be Penrith-bound pair Liam Georgetown and Wayne Bond.
"It's a pity that we won't get to see those pair play for Redcliffe again as they have their best footy in front of them," he said.
Also back will be veteran forward Troy Lindsay, who during the finals again led by example.
"Troy tore his calf muscle at training on the Wednesday before the Burleigh match and needed pain killers in his calf to play," Griffin said.
"The physios said most players would have needed 10 days off, but that is the sort of player he is."
Griffin praised the standard of the Queensland Cup, saying the presence of the three NRL offshoots (Toowoomba, Norths and Young Guns) in the semis was a testament of how seriously they took the format and the improved depth of their squads.
"A number of their players are fulltime and so you have to be continually trying to improve to stay with the standard," he said.
"The good thing for us was that we learned from the tough patches during the year and everyone improved.
"I thought after our loss at home to Burleigh that we hit our straps and our form going into the finals was really good."
ONLY the best footballers seem to bypass the Colts competition and move straight into senior competitions.
Teenage Dolphin Wayne Bond is a case in point.
The inside back, who bears a striking resemblance to former Queensland star Adrian Lam in both looks and playing style, has played very limited time in the under 19 Colts ranks.
The starlet is now firmly entrenched in Redcliffe's Premier League side, playing five-eighth outside captain Shane Perry.
The fixture against the Comets marked his fifth top appearance, one at halfback and the other four at pivot.
"I really love it," he said. "It's great to be playing at this level and the sheer size, strength and speed of the players is something.
"The game kicks up a notch against the top teams and I want to keep playing at this level for the rest of the year right through until the semis.
"The game against Wynnum was something. It was so rough and the hits so huge. Our forwards kept belting their guys in defence and it was a real eye-opener."
The match against Tweed Heads marked his first match at Dolphin Oval and he was counting on a win.
Still eligible to play Colts, Bond has turned out in only two Colts fixtures in his time with the Dolphins.
"I've just turned 19 and played one or two Colts matches last year before playing reserve grade," he said. "Then this year I've been in reserve grade before making the Premier League side."
Redcliffe fans should make the most of this season to watch the 73 kilogram Bond in action.
Last month he signed up with the Penrith Panthers and will spend next season with the Mountain Men at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
His switch came as a surprise to some as he had been linked with the Sydney Roosters since he was 16.
"I've been on a scholarship with the Roosters and would receive gear and attend their training camp each year," he said. "It was a big decision to go to Penrith but I was always going to go to Sydney ... it was just which club."
Perhaps the Panthers see Bond as a possible replacement for livewire Preston Campbell, a player of similar stature and playing ilk.
One aspect of his game they will like is his pinpoint field kicking and stab kicks into the in-goal.
"I usually practise my kicking game before training. I muck around with my mates kicking,'' he said.
Bond naturally has kind words for coach Anthony Griffin.
"He helps me heaps in defence," he said. "He tries to help me read the play in a game.
"During a game, Danny Burke is the player who talks to me a lot and encourages me throughout a game. Most of the guys talk to me during a game a bit, but Burkey really gets in my ear and I like playing with him.''
A former Albany Creek junior, Bond joined the Dolphins when he was 15.
A wood machinist, he is in the second year of his four-year apprenticeship.
"I would like to keep going with the job, depending on what the workload is with football," he said.
The teen has an older brother and two sisters and lives at home at Burpengary.
Football runs in his family as cousin Michael plays with the Toowoomba Clydesdales in the Queensland Cup.
"Michael's dad and my dad are brothers," Bond said.
"He has been playing in the centres but can play all the over the place. He really is a half. He played with the Clydesdales last year but is now a big unit."
THE stars seemed to be in alignment for Nick Emmett to join the Pepsi Dolphins this season.
Even though the talented centre played only 11 matches for Souths- Logan last season because of injuries, he was on the minds of both Redcliffe CEO James Hinchey and incoming coach Anthony Griffin.
"I spent last year with the Magpies in the Queensland Cup and got on well with Griffo," he said. "Before Anthony was appointed this year, James Hinchey had rung me and asked what I was doing for the 2005 season.
"When I found out Anthony had been appointed it made it all the easier to join Redcliffe."
The Dolphins had prior knowledge of Emmett's abilities from his stint with the Redcliffe 2000 Colts side.
''I had signed with Parramatta from the Hervey Bay Seagulls and they wanted me to join a professional club for a year before coming to Sydney," he said.
"I had played under 18s and A grade with Hervey Bay as a centre and wing and met someone from Redcliffe at a school carnival so it all worked out well."
Emmett's three seasons with the Eels were soured by a succession of injuries, especially a lower back complaint which still troubles him.
He said his three seasons at Parramatta were enjoyable with stints in the Jersey Flegg and Premier Leagues.
"It was very hard and very competitive, but definitely a learning experience," the 23-year-old said.
"When I came back to Brisbane I had sort of retired with my back injury but Anthony called and I played some of the season with Souths."
Emmett's luck appears to have changed with his move to Dolphin Oval as he has missed only one fixture with injury.
He has shared duties in the centres with veteran Greg Bourke as the Dolphins have overcome a tentative start to the season to forge their way into the top five.
"This year has been great for me," he said. "I'm getting my form back and things are starting to look good, although I treat my back on a week-to-week basis.
"We're turning things around, especially as Souths only won one game last season.''
Few centres in the Queensland Cup would match Emmett for power with his 100 kilogram frame.
"I started at 107 kilos after I was in a good paddock in the off-season," he said. "There are a lot of good e3cntres in this competition.
"Greg Inglis is all class, but hopefully he is playing NRL when we meet Norths again. Bob Blair was at Souths when I was there and he is tough and really strong.
"He's from Maryborough and is only 20, however I think he will be playing NRL in a few years time.''
Emmett said coach Griffin had changed the Dolphins style of play.
"I believe there is a new professionalism to the club," he said. "Things have changed this season but it takes a while before everyone is on the same page.
"There's no reason why we can't win the grand final this season. If not this season, then in years to come. I can see us going from strength to strength as we start to gel as a team as we play more matches together.''
Living at Chermside, he has been working as a windscreen fitter with Windscreens O'Brien at Geebung this year.
As regards his own future, Emmett trots out the perennial 'I'll take it one year at a time', which with his injury in mind, is on the money.
PHYSIOTHERAPIST Steve Falconer is back with his beloved Dolphins.
Club physiotherapist in the halcyon 1990s through to 1999, Steve gave up looking after the Redcliffe senior grades in 2000.
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.