RUGBY League returns to its spiritual home, Lang Park (aka Suncorp Stadium) this weekend and the Queensland Cup will be there with the Toowoomba Clydesdales and Burleigh Bears playing the main curtain-raiser to the Broncos ? Knights NRL clash. There is a lot riding on this clash with Toowoomba in fifth spot ? on percentages from ? you guessed it ? Burleigh.
Burleigh are coming off a good win over Easts in last weekend?s ABC televised clash while Toowoomba hope to rebound after a narrow loss to Tweed Seagulls.
The weekend of Queensland Cup action kicks off with the ABC televised clash between Ipswich and Easts at Bendigo Bank Oval at 2pm on Saturday with Ipswich dropping back to third spot courtesy of their loss to Wynnum last weekend.
Easts are experiencing their worst Queensland Cup on record and they will struggle to win at the home of the Jets, but of course there is the ABC match curse ? no home team has won in front of the television cameras this year.
Wests play Norths at 3pm on Saturday at Purtell Park in a battle of two of the code?s traditional Brisbane clubs with Wests chasing their first win and Norths having lost seven in a row, prompting a call to arms from Norths coach, Gary Grienke ? a former Wests coach ? in the Northside press this week.
North Queensland Young Guns will continue their policy of taking games outside Townsville by playing the Central Comets at Moranbah.
This could be considered a home game by both sides with Moranbah playing in a North Queensland competition (Mackay and District) while the town itself is located in Central Queensland.
Both teams are coming off wins and North Queensland are only three points outside the top five. Both sides are feeder clubs for the Cowboys.
On Sunday there are two matches in opposition to the Suncorp Stadium clash ? Souths-Logan host Tweed Seagulls just across the river at Davies Park and from there the fans will be able to hear the roar from Suncorp Stadium.
Tweed will be looking for a win to maintain a share of the competition lead with Wynnum.
Down at Redcliffe in the battle of the bayside the Dolphins host Wynnum Seagulls with premiers, Redcliffe looking to leapfrog Wynnum on the premiership ladder with a home ground win. Both clubs are also leading contenders for the Spotless Services Club Championship.
BURLEIGH retained a share of fifth spot on the Queensland Cup ladder with a 26-16 win over Easts in a high quality ABC Television match at Langlands Park. The Tigers were first to score after 15 minutes when fullback Wade Liddell crossed after a Scott Thorburn bomb was not handled by the Bears. Five minutes later the scores were level at 6 all with Burleigh second row Stan Berryman crashing over after a set move.
THE two Seagulls teams in the Queensland Cup share the competition lead with Tweed in the most danger of slipping down the ladder this weekend.
Tweed Heads Seagulls will host the Ipswich Jets at Piggabeen on Saturday in the ABC television game, the first time Aunty?s camera have ventured south of the border.
Both teams are coming off losses ? Tweed in an upset to the Central Comets and Ipswich to the Burleigh Bears.
Tweed?s loss was the biggest shock of the round although Central are confident of winning more games than they lose in the run home to the finals.
While Tweed were losing the Wynnum Seagulls were hanging on for a thrilling 31-28 win over the North Queensland Young Guns at Kougari Oval.
That result elevated Wynnum to first place on percentages after they had gone into the round in fourth place.
That shows you how congested things are at the top and how difficult it is to predict the minor premiers.
Wynnum play Souths Logan at Davies Park on Saturday afternoon although Souths will be at full strength and rejuvenated after a bye.
Redcliffe, Ipswich and Toowoomba share third spot on 17 points with Redcliffe hosting the only Sunday match of the round ? against Burleigh at Dolphin Oval.
Burleigh are on 15 points and a win will have people talking about the Bears as possible minor premiers.
Toowoomba play bottom side Wests at Purtell Park on Saturday and no matter what team they field, the Clydesdales should account for the Panthers.
The final make-up of the Toowoomba side will hinge on fitness tests on 15 Broncos players involved in Wednesday night?s State of Origin clash and the colts curtain-raiser.
Toowoomba is the Broncos feeder club with the Brisbane side playing away to Canberra on Sunday in their NRL clash.
There are two Saturday night matches this weekend: Central host Norths at Browne Park, Rockhampton and North Queensland host Easts Tigers at the Townsville Sports Reserve.
Both the Comets and Norths would harbour some hope of making the finals, particularly as Norths have a game up their sleeve. But the loser of this game will do it tough.
North Queensland and Easts are on 12 points, five points out of a finals berth, and like wise the loser here will do it tough to make the top five.
Next Saturday at Roma the Queensland Rangers will play New South Wales Country with the Queensland side chosen after the annual divisional carnival at Stadium Toowoomba last weekend. South West won the carnival.
LADIES and gentlemen. We have a top five and they will take some displacing. That?s a big statement after only nine rounds ? not quite halfway into the competition ? but which team from the current top five is going to fall over before the semi-finals. Not competition leaders and 2002 grand finalists Ipswich you would think. And the two Seagulls, Wynnum and Tweed, only one point behind on 14 points are displaying a consistency of skill and purpose which suggests they will be there when the whips are cracking.
Toowoomba share fourth spot with premiers, Redcliffe on 13 points and with the talent available to Toowoomba through their association with the Broncos it is hard to imagine them dropping off the pace.
That leaves Redcliffe and it is true they have dropped back to the field somewhat and they could be vulnerable. The Dolphins provided a host of players to the Brisbane representative side which defeated Sydney 48-24 on Wednesday night, and they are sure to provide a big contingent for the City ? Country match on July 5 and that could knock them around a bit.
Similarly Toowoomba will be hit hard at State of Origin time with players called up to the NRL because the Broncos provide so many players to the Queensland cause.
So which clubs outside the five can gate-crash the party?
Certainly not Wests and Souths Logan who are on the bottom of the ladder, with Souths Logan achieving their first win of the season last week ? against the Panthers.
And you would have to say Norths and Central face too big a task with both clubs on four points, nine adrift of the five.
That leaves just Burleigh, Easts and North Queensland.
Burleigh (11) have the biggest injury list in the club?s history and they will do it tough, but they do have depth as evidenced by the performance of their A grade and Colts teams in the South East Division?s Mixwell Cup.
Easts (10) are in the reckoning, but their performance against Toowoomba last weekend when they were beaten 56-26 suggests they will be there to make up the numbers if they reach the finals.
North Queensland are only on eight points, but strangely they shape as the team most likely to challenge for the title if they happen to make the finals.
Rarely, if ever, has a team been on the receiving end of so many narrow losses and the Young Guns are due for a change of luck, maybe starting with Saturday?s match against Souths Logan at Davies Park.
But Souths Logan, led by Papua New Guinea international, Bruce Mamando, cannot be underestimated and they are capable of an upset.
The weekend kicks off with the ABC televised clash between Easts and Burleigh at Langlands Park, with both sides coming off a loss.
In the other Saturday match Central host Wests at Browne Park, Rockhampton under floodlights.
On Sunday there are three 3pm matches.
At Kougari Oval Wynnum host Ipswich in what shapes as the match of the round.
But almost as attractive is the Tweed Heads v Toowoomba match at Piggabeen. And the other match ? between Redcliffe and Norths at Dolphin Oval ? isn?t half bad either.
So enjoy your weekend of football and those supporting teams in the bottom half of the ladder ? get out there and try to get your lads into the top flight.
TWEED Heads dispelled any doubts of their claim on a finals berth with a hard fought 32-26 win over last year?s grand finalists Ipswich at Piggabeen in the ABC Television match. Two early tries, both to winger Clint Rothery and second row Luke O?Dwyer from well placed kicks by five eight Kris Flint, gave the Seagulls a 10-0 lead after only ten minutes. Big Graham Mackay crashed over from dummy half to reduce the margin to 10-4 but a good try to fullback Nathan Cross saw Tweed lead 16-4 after twenty-five minutes.
WYNNUM maintained its number one spot on the Queensland Cup ladder but needed a late scoring spree to overcome Central Comets 30-24 in the ABC Television clash at Kougari Oval. An early penalty goal to hooker Jade Wogand and then a try from a dummy half dart saw the Comets lead 8-0 after fifteen minutes. Wynnum winger Josh Jepson scored a good try 5 minutes later to reduce the deficit to 8-6 but the Seagulls struggled to match the Comets commitment.
THE two Seagulls teams remain on top of the Queensland Cup ladder after 13 rounds with Tweed in most danger of being toppled this weekend.
Wynnum Seagulls kick off the weekend with the ABC televised clash against Central Comets at Kougari Oval and Wynnum should win against a team that has won just four times in 13 starts this season.
Admittedly one of those wins was against Tweed Seagulls at their citadel at Piggabeen, but it is hard to imagine a repeat performance this weekend.
Central are coming off a one point loss to Norths in Rockhampton with Norths Kiwi halfback, Marty Turner proving the difference with a field goal.
Norths play Tweed in a ?Big Sunday? of football this weekend and a top crowd should be on hand at Bishop Park particularly as the Broncos have a bye.
Also on Sunday Ipswich host Redcliffe at Bendigo Bank Oval, the 2002 grand finalists coming together for what should be a torrid match particularly as both sides have lost their last two clashes.
In the other Sunday match Burleigh Bears play Wests at Pizzey Park, Miami with Wests chasing their first win of the season.
If Burleigh win as expected it will take them to 19 points, putting them ahead of either Redcliffe or Ipswich who also go into this round on 17 points.
We have not forgotten about the other two Saturday matches. The first is at Langlands Park at 3pm between the Easts Tigers and Souths Logan Magpies and Easts (12) should keep in touch with the top five by toppling the Magpies.
At 6pm at Stadium Toowoomba the Clydesdales play the North Queensland Young Guns in what shapes as the best match of the weekend.
Toowoomba are in clear second place on 19 points, one behind Wynnum and Tweed Heads.
North Queensland are seventh, three points outside the top five, but they have a terrific for and against and except for bad luck would be much higher up the ladder.
Best wishes to the XXXX Queensland State of Origin team as they try to square the series in Sydney on Wednesday night.
The curtain-raiser is the inter-state under 17 clash and our young Maroons will be looking to gain revenge for last year?s loss at this level.
Also on Wednesday the Queensland under 15 Schoolboys side will play NSW at Moree.
Next Thursday an Australian Rugby League Board meeting will be held in Sydney. Keep an eye out in next Friday?s edition of The Courier-Mail for details of the meeting.
Don?t forget Radio TAB (1008 on the dial) has regular league segments, including those devoted to the Queensland Cup, on Mark Forbes? Breakfast Show between 6am and 8.30am Monday to Friday.
Former Wests and Redcliffe forward, Rob ?Bertie? Campbell looks after the Queensland Cup while The Courier-Mail?s Steve Ricketts has a segment on Wednesday and Friday at 7.10am.
THE Chairman of the QRL, Mr John McDonald and the General Manager Marketing of AAMI, Mr Don Casboult today announced that AAMI would become a Major Sponsor of the Queensland State of Origin Team for the next three years.
ROUND nine of the Queensland Cup is undoubtedly one of the most attractive of the season so far. There is something for everyone ? a grudge match in Ipswich; a wooden spoon battle at Purtell Park; the venture of the only New South Wales team into the deep north; a farewell to one ground and the battle for club championship supremacy on the Gold Coast.
The grudge match is between the Ipswich Jets and Norths Devils at Bendigo Bank Oval on Saturday night when former Ipswich coach, Gary Grienke returns to the scene of so many triumphs last season.
Queensland State of Origin legend, Trevor Gillmeister has charge of the Jets now and they are on top of the Queensland Cup ladder on 13 points while Norths are in ninth spot on four points, just ahead of Central Comets on percentages.
Still it promises to be a top match with Melbourne Storm coaching staff members likely to be on hand with the Storm playing the Broncos at ANZ Stadium the following day.
WYNNUM bounced back from its thrashing by Toowoomba to post a hard fought 26-8 win over Burleigh in the ABC Television clash at Pizzey Park. Seagulls centre Jimmy Ahmat was denied an early try by the video referee and then a try to Bears captain Dean Allen, as well as two Brent McConnell goals, saw Burleigh in front 8-0 after fifteen minutes. Ahmat was again prominent setting up a try for winger Josh Jepson in a movement that covered 90 metres to narrow the margin to 8-6. Good defence by both teams maintained this score line until the half-time break.