THE Dolphins' A grade brave bid to keep the flag flying bit the dust at the last hurdle.
DEPARTING Dolphins coach Neil Wharton has spoken of his emotions at the end of a six-year reign.
THE most prestigious occasion on the Dolphins calendar is being held soon.
THE Pepsi Dolphins have a history of producing top-notch players for NRL ranks.
Every year at least one Redcliffe junior or Colt forces his way into the top-level ranks.
Don't be surprised if Liam Georgetown joins that list in the next couple of seasons.
The 18-year-old already has turned out in two Queensland Cup fixtures for the Dolphins after playing a significant role in last season's Colts premiership.
And the flash has former Test prop Glenn Lazarus as his manager after a family connection tied the pair last year.
"A mate of my father's persuaded Glenn to come along to a couple of games last season and he is now my manager," he said.
"He has faith in me and I believe I can make a career out of playing rugby league," he said.
Georgetown's talent also has been recognised by representative selectors as he was picked for the Queensland Rangers side to take on New South Wales Country in late June at Murwillumbah.
"That was a big thrill," he said. "I played on the right wing and had a full match and got a try. It couldn't have been better."
He was selected for Brisbane South East to contest a carnival in Mackay from where the Rangers side was selected.
"Marshall Colwell was coach for the Rangers and we beat NSW Country 50-22 in front of a good turnout," Georgetown said.
"It was the first time I had made a rep team and it was close to playing to a grand final. I always get these nerves playing big matches."
He did not let nerves affect him in the 2003 grand final, scoring a try against Burleigh Heads.
This season shapes as just as successful. A few kilograms heavier at 76kg, the wingman has worked hard on his fitness and, as he says, "I'm starting to reap the rewards".
After turning out in a pre-season trial against Toowoomba, Georgetown took on Central Comets and Burleigh Bears in the top grade, nailing a try against the Comets.
"Premier League is heaps faster and I try to do what I normally do in a match," he said. "My second game was one of the best games I've played as I got more involved."
Originally from Cherbourg, Liam's family moved to Brisbane when he was six and he spent four years with the Brighton Roosters.
"Everyone else seems to hate Redcliffe, but once you play for them it's a different story again," he said. "The club itself is brilliant and you can see why they are so successful."
Still eligible for Colts, Georgetown is noted for his flashy wing play, capable of scoring a try with his acceleration and uncanny reading of play.
He scored two tries in last year's season decider at Dolphin Oval, including an 80m intercept.
"I had not played on the wing before until last season when Crusher asked me to play there," he said. "I had played in the centres all the time.
"But I like playing on the wing now, especially after scoring 18 tries last year. Last year I was on the left wing, this year it's the right."
His pace is an obvious asset, however he is coy as to whether he's the fastest player at the club.
"We had a race in the pre-season and I came third behind Joel Barnes and Maddison Murphy," he said. "I had a good off-season and played touch to help keep me fit."
Now in his third season at Dolphin Oval, Georgetown joined from Brighton and played with Redcliffe's under 17 before receiving a call to sign up with the Colts last season.
His goal now is to cement a spot in the club's Queensland Cup ranks.
Sport dominates Georgetown's life as he is in the middle of a 12-month diploma in sports management at Brackenridge TAFE.
"Eventually I want to have a management role in sport," he said. "I have been into sport all my life and want to stay in it."
ONE of the Redcliffe Dolphins' most promising players has joined the North Queensland Cowboys.
Boom second-rower Gavin Cooper will play the 2005 season with the NRL emerging force.
He will be joined by talented Redcliffe teenage centre Charles Vis, who already has turned out for the Dolphins in the Queensland Cup.
Cooper said the Cowboys, who had signed him for its 25-strong NRL roster, wanted him to start training in mid-October in Townsville.
"I signed with the Cowboys in late July when I was out with illness," he said. "I got glandular fever soon after the state under 19 match and missed six weeks of football."
The lanky backrower, who lost 13 kilograms from his 102 kilogram frame, has only just put the weight back on in recent weeks.
"I've been told I will be slotted into the second-row with the Cowboys depending how fit into the system of things there," said Cooper, who turned 19 on August 19.
"It would be great to get an early look in NRL calculations. Of course I know Shane Tronc up there, who is killing them, and a couple of the Queensland under 19s."
Cooper's brother Dustin also played for the Dolphins before joining the Melbourne Storm two seasons ago.
MOST rugby league followers realise that the hooker and halfback roles are fairly interchangeable in today's football.
Pepsi Dolphins No 9 Caleb McEniery fits that bill perfectly after graduating from the halves in the club's A grade to the man in the middle of the Premier League scrum.
By the time of the last regular season fixture, McEniery had racked up 12 top team appearances for 2004 after three previous outings in first grade last season and two in his first season at the club.
Most of his previous outings had been at halfback when Michael Roberts was out injured.
"I was playing five-eighth with Bertie Campbell's side when I was called up to Premier Grade this year," he said.
"I'd rather be at pivot because I like to be a playmaker, but maybe hooker is the position for me. Perhaps I could make it my own with the Fins."
McEniery's path to the No 6 jersey is halted by one S. Perry, a fixture since he joined the club.
"I've played 12 straight matches in the top side up until the last fixture against Norths and I've really enjoyed it," he said.
"You are always in the action and I've always been big on defence and that's my strength in the game.
"So that part of the game suits me and I find that once I get my defence right in a game the rest of it comes after that.
"Premier Grade matches are all tough and every team seems to step up a notch when they play Redcliffe.''
McEniery was one of several rakes for 2004 following in the boots of Nathan Black, Justin McKay and Matt Anderton as players tried in the spot.
Another Sunshine Coast product at Dolphin Oval, McEniery is still only 21 but in his three seasons with the Dolphins has notched two grand final appearances for a victory and a loss.
In 2002, he was a member of the Colts side downed by the Broncos-aligned Wests before claiming a title last side with the A grade against Wynnum.
At 87 kilograms, McEniery has the size to acquit himself well in the forwards, his darting runs and skill helping break up opposition defensive lines.
A Caloundra Sharks junior, some of his former clubmates include National rugby League regulars Casey Maguire, Craig Hall and Adam Mogg.
As for the future? "I've not decided what to do about next season," he said. "I'll see what comes around. I do know that I want to make a future out of football."
And if you think you have seen his surname before in a program, you are right. Caleb's older brother Drew played three seasons in the red and white before leaving for Perth the season his younger sibling arrived.
LANDMARKS are leaping out of the record books at Damian Richters.
The durable Dolphins centre last month racked up 100 first grade fixtures for the club, joining an elite group of players to make three figures.
"I never expected to make 100 games when I joined the club,'' he said. "It's not something you think about really. It's not a bad achievement as it's not a really big group who have made the hundred.
"I'm not really a player who looks at records and sets his mind on breaking them.''
With that in mind, Richters should not have too many worries as he zeroes in on 1000 points in the Queensland Cup.
He already has passed 900 points and an injury-free run for the remainder of the season should see become the first player in Cup history to reach the magical mark.
Richters played his 100th match for the red and whites against Souths at Dolphin Oval last month, a fixture also significant for the Dolphins breaking their losing run emphatically.
"Making a thousand points will be one of those things that happen,'' he said. "I know that I passed 900 points in my career against Easts, so to make 1000 will be great.''
Richters also holds the record for most points scored in an individual Queensland Cup fixture.
In a 88-0 belting of Logan in 2002, he nailed 40 points with five tries and 10 goals.
"These records tend to take care of themselves,'' he said. "The points just keep tallying up.''
Richters was keener to talk up the Dolphins chances this year than concentrate on his personal achievements.
"We might have lost four on the trot, but you always have to lose some time during a season,'' he said.
"But apart from the first two matches in that string, we have been competitive and the efforts against Burleigh and Wynnum were good.''
Richters is a firm believer in the theory that the Cup competition is hotting up. He said that after his side's victory over Souths, only two points separated the top spot from seventh-placed Redcliffe.
"It's certainly not a crisis as we are going alright,'' he said. "We've had a few injuries, but we're not in a dire situation. We could have been in a worse situation.''
Richters' form this season has been consistent enough for him to be selected in the City side to tackle Barcaldine, although he pulled out of the squad.
"It was a mix of things, including work, which saw me drop out," he said. "At least it means I get a week off."
Injuries have not dogged Richters this season after missing a large slice of the action last season with a torn quad muscle.
"I've been kicking alright too," he said. "Even though I missed four against Souths, my kicking's been good.
"I normally practise at our last session of the week and how long depends on how I'm striking them. It could be 15 minutes or 30 minutes."
In his seventh season with the club, Richters played only one fixture in his first season at Dolphin Oval while a broken bone in his leg ruined his second year, but since then he has accumulated a fine record, including multiple wins of the Ian "Bunny" Pearce Perpetual Trophy as highest points scorer in the club for a season.
As for the future, Richters is quite content to take the "one game at a time" philosophy.
"I've had a good run recently so it will be week by week," he said.
FOR whatever reason, Easts always have been well-blessed with hookers.
Think John Lang, John Dowling, Shane McNally, Wayne Smith (whose son Cameron is the current Origin hooker), Wayne Marshall, George Gatis and John Driscoll.
The 2004 season appears no exception with 24-year-old rake Trent Young making every post a winner, to make use of winter carnival parlance.
There's even talk around Langlands Park that Young could earn a City jersey for the clash against Country on Saturday, June 26.
There's a bit of irony in that considering Young is country born and bred. Now in his second year at Easts, he spent half of last season in A grade and the remainder in Queensland Cup.
But with retirements and the luring of Paul Dezolt to the New Zealand Warriors, Young gained first crack at the No 9 jersey and his busy displays have ensured he is one of the first selected by coach Michael Booth.
All this from a boy from Roma in south-western Queensland. The town best known for producing Artie Beetson, most Roma products head to Redcliffe following in the track set by Beetson and the Cherry brothers.
"I played with Cities club in Roma and after three seasons with All Whites in Toowoomba, I decided to have a crack at the state league with Souths in 2001," Young said.
"There were four or five of us from Roma, including Matt Lockyer, at Souths. They were a couple of hard years at Souths, but it was a good learning experience. It showed you what was required to make it at that level.
"We won a couple games in the two years, but mostly we were fighting out the bottom spot with West and Logan."
Young said uncertainty surrounding Souths future and the involvement of the Canberra Raiders prompted him to look for another club.
"I was looking to going to a stronger club for more exposure," he said. "I put the feelers out and also knew Matty Lockyer was heading to Easts.
"John Driscoll had the hooker role but I thought I would try my hand, although it took a while to settle down."
Young had played halfback as a junior and his size might have put preconceived ideas in certain minds, but he was playing first grade at 17 and a few kilograms would not hold him back.
He was willing to bide his time at Langlands Park behind Dezolt but when the former North Queensland Cowboy headed across the Tasman during pre-season, Young took his chance.
A civil designer with a Brisbane engineering firm, Young has not missed a Queensland Cup clash and has stormed away with "three or four" man of the match awards.
"I was always ready to compete for the position even if it meant waiting my time," he said. "It's a long season and you never know your luck.
"Things are travelling okay with the side and we have always set ourselves a goal of making the semi-finals."
The 80 kilogram rake said the main differences between Easts and Souths were a more professional outlook, better facilities and higher quality players.
"There's a different culture here and that relates to a better attitude," he said. "We might be equal third now, but we are taking each game as it comes so we are in the right position at the end of the season.
"It's a lot closer competition this season with only three points separating six or seven teams. The standard hasn't dropped and there aren't any guarantees of a win. You only have to look at Souths and see how much they have improved."
Young, whose team-mate Darren Smith says he has no doubt the hooker could make it in the NRL ranks, has the goal of the City jumper in the back of his mind.
"You just have to keep plugging away," he said. "We have to play two of the stronger sides in Redcliffe and Norths away."
Young has good words to say about Smith.
"He does good things on the field which show his experience," he said. "He is always willing to help and seems to turn up at the right time and takes the right options.
"He also gets around and tells players things he has picked up and certain areas where we need to improve."
The hooker showed his own class late in the win over Redcliffe when, confronted with the final line of defence, he put in a deft kick for a try to a team-mate.
YOUNG Dolphins back Joel Barnes has made a vow to himself ... he doesn't want to go back to A grade.
The 20-year-old has fought his way back into Neil Wharton's Premier Grade side and is determined to stay there.
Despite playing 11 top grade fixtures last season, Barnes could not force his way past established centres Brian Jellick and Damien Richters for the start of the 2004 season.
But the wedding of winger Phil Shilvock's sister provided the narrow opening that Barnes needed.
He slotted straight on to Shilvock's wing for the away match against the Toowoomba Clydesdales, performing well enough in the loss to keep his spot when Shilvock returned while youngster Chris Bond dropped back to A grade.
"I didn't go too bad against Toowoomba," Barnes said. "But of course it would have to be the only game the side has lost. It was good to get back up there in Premier Grade. It's a bit higher quality football and I want to make sure I stay there.
"I want to stay in Premier Grade and want to keep improving so OI do stay there. That's my aim for the season."
Barnes could have to bide his time on the left wing as Richters and Jellick are most probably the Queensland Cup's top centre pairing with Jellick a former New Zealand Test player and Richters closing on 100 appearances for the Dolphins and one of its leading points-scorers.
Barnes has a preference for left centre, but he says he does not care where he plays as long as he gets a game.
Now in his third season with the Dolphins, Barnes joined the club from the Nambour Crushers club, where he played under 19s after coming from Maroochydore.
"I'm a Sunshine Coast boy and have lived at Mooloolaba and Buderim all my life," He said. "It was only this year I moved to Redcliffe. I'm living a minute's drive from the club at Scarborough as I decided this season to concentrate on my footy. It certainly has knocked the travelling down."
Barnes came to Redcliffe via a schoolboys carnival at which he attracted the attention of Sydney Roosters recruitment boss Artie Beetson.
"Arthur sent me a letter inviting me to a trial at Dolphin Oval," he said. "I made the grade at the trial and ended up playing Colts with Redcliffe in 2002.
"We lost the grand final to Wests that year in the final year, but turned around last year and won the A grade decider.
"That match was the biggest game of my career and I loved it. It was great."
The 83 kilogram Barnes impressed last season with his elusive breaks from midfield, his pace allowing him to terrorise Wynnum and win the Don McLennan Trophy for best performance in a grand final.
He also cannot speak highly enough of the Dolphins organisation.
"It's the best club I've been at," he said. "They really look after you.
"What I want to do is get more involved in a game, get my hands on the ball more often."
Off the field Barnes has settled into life in property maintenance with local Peter Smink after earlier days as a machine operator with an earthmoving company on the Sunshine Coast.
Nicknamed Barnesy or Jimmy after the Aussie rock legend, he says he knew no one at the club when he joined. But a recent influx of Sunshine Coast talent in Rod West (rejoined), Colt Peter Delaivuna (Maroochydore) and rookie Shane Anderson (Nambour), as well as his team-mates, meant he did not feel pangs for home.
As it is, his parents travel from Buderim every weekend to watch him play, except for the long haul to Townsville for the Young Guns clash.
NO one could accuse Dolphin Nick Walker of not having patience.