The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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IPSWICH JETS v NORTHS DEVILS
North Ipswich Reserve, Saturday, March 1 – 5pm
Referee: Liam Kennedy
Head to Head: Norths 22 Ipswich 11 Drawn 2
Twitter: #intrustsupercup #JETSvDEVILS
The first game of the 2014 Intrust Super Cup season brings together two teams which have undergone major transformations in the off-season. For the Jets, the new campaign represents a rebuilding year following the key losses of Ian Lacey, Donald Malone, Jarrod McInally, Nat Neale, Jacob Ling and Rowan Winterfield. Like Ipswich, the Devils will field a new-look squad with a number of young players stepping into the top grade this year. Norths also have a new coach and captain at the helm, with Mark Gliddon assuming the head coaching role and former Bronco Brendon Gibb replacing Matt Smith as skipper. The changing of the guard at both clubs points to an intriguing contest on Saturday at the North Ipswich Reserve. As many as four players are in line to make their Intrust Super Cup debuts for the Jets, who have already signalled their intention in the pre-season to play an attacking brand of football under coaches Ben and Shane Walker. Ipswich have not beaten Norths since May 2012, with Norths winning three and drawing one game in that time.
Tip: Ben “Dobbo” Dobbin (Triple M) says: I like Ipswich at home. They’re a really young team, but are full of country boys who are hard as nails! Ipswich by 8.
NORTHERN PRIDE v SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS
Barlow Park, Saturday, March 1 – 5.30pm
Referee: Michael Gordon
Head to Head: Sunshine Coast 6 Pride 5
Twitter: #intrustsupercup #PRIDEvSCF
A name change, new coach and injection of fresh young talent from the Sunshine Coast marks the start of an exciting era for the Falcons. Their round one match looms as a challenging initiation though, with Ivan Henjak’s team embarking on one of the toughest road trips in the competition. At one point last season, the Pride stretched their unbeaten run at Barlow Park to 13 games. Coach Henjak and his Falcons team are more focused on their own performance however, and will look to make an early impression under new skipper Ryan Hansen. Henjak last coached in this competition in 2000, and on Saturday evening the former Toowoomba and Brothers mentor will be striving for his 50th win in his 75th game. In other milestone news, explosive Pride centre Davin Crampton will notch his 50th match for the club. A Normanton Stingers junior, Crampton has been an outstanding performer in a variety of positions for the Pride. He has previously played in the back-row, but such is the Pride’s depth in the forwards, the Queensland Residents and NRL hopeful will start the season at centre. The other centre is the ever reliable Brett Anderson, who will this season share the captaincy with hooker Jason Roos. The two mainstays will bring stability to a team that features a host of exciting new faces, including Matthew Wright, Javid Bowen, Tyrone McCarthy, Cameron King and Latu Fifita.
Tip: Ben “Dobbo” Dobbin says: It will be a tough day at the office for Ivan Henjak but he’s definitely the right man for the job. Northern Pride by 20.
MACKAY CUTTERS v EASTS TIGERS
Stadium Mackay on Saturday, March 1 – 6pm
Referee: Peter Gough
Head to Head: Mackay 7 Easts 7
Twitter: #intrustsupercup #MCvTIGES
The grand final re-match promises to be yet another cracking contest between two sides who will again have high expectations in 2014. The teams met four times last season for two wins apiece – but it was the Cutters who got the one that counted with a 27-20 grand final victory. Although there is no premiership to be won in Mackay on Saturday, there is plenty to play for. Tigers centre Shane Neumann will turn out for his 100th Cup game, while Mackay forward Tyson Martin returns from a shoulder surgery to captain the Cutters for the first time. Martin takes the reins from Jardine Bobongie, who will play in the Mackay local competition this year. “I know how much captaining the side meant to local boys like Jar (Bobongie) and Ravs (Grant Rovelli),” Martin said. “Like me they are both proud locals and I have been very fortunate to be given this opportunity. From this point though I really need to let my footy do the talking and lead by example through my performance.” Fresh from his grand final heroics and Auckland Nines success with the Cowboys, livewire hooker Anthony Mitchell is back in the Cutters’ colours. The Easts team features nine players from last year’s grand final team and some hot young Melbourne Storm talent, including Queensland U20s centre Hymel Hunt and NSW U20s star Matthew Lodge.
Tip: Ben “Dobbo” Dobbin says: Mackay lose some strike power without Jason Taumalolo, but they still have enough talent and depth to win. They’ll thrive in the humidity as well. Enjoy the sweat boys! Mackay by 6.
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS v PNG HUNTERS
Dolphin Oval on Sunday, March 2 – 2pm*(Live on Channel 9)
Referee: Michael Wise
Head to Head: First Game
Twitter: #intrustsupercup #PHINSvPNG #welcomePNG
The Hunters will have the backing of millions of PNG fans back home and many other admirers around the rugby league world when they take the field for Sunday’s historic Intrust Super Cup match. That support will be crucial for the competition newcomers against a strong Redcliffe Dolphins team which is traditionally hard to beat at home. The Dolphins home record dipped a little last season with just five wins from 11 outings at Dolphin Oval. New coach Troy Lindsay will be eager to get their 2014 campaign off to a flyer with a strong first up performance against the visiting Hunters. The Dolphins have announced Marty Hatfield and Jon Green as co-captains following the retirement of Petero Civoniceva. Steering the Hunters fortunes this year will be talented playmaker Israel Eliab, who led the Hunters to an impressive pre-season trial win over the Northern Pride. Following Sunday’s match, the Hunters will turn their focus to their first match on home soil against the Mackay Cutters, with tickets for the Kokopo match to go on sale in PNG on Monday morning.
BURLEIGH BEARS v CENTRAL QUEENSLAND CAPRAS
Pizzey Park on Sunday, March 2 – 2pm
Referee: Nick Morel
Head to Head: Burleigh 28 Central 6
Twitter: #intrustsupercup #BEARSvCQC
The Bears have assembled a formidable squad in the off-season, one which has many league watchers predicting a change of fortune for the Gold Coast club this year. New recruits include former NRL duo Matt Keating (Parramatta) and Matt Bell (Wests Tigers) whose experience will help guide the younger players in the team. This weekend the Bears will host the Central Queensland Capras, who have been steadily improving in recent years and have a few well-credentialed recruits of their own. Fresh from representing Wales in the most recent Rugby League World Cup – Rhys Williams will play on the wing for his new side, while another player with international experience, French forward Sebastien Martins, will start from the bench. Burleigh will be eager to break a recent run of outs, having finished the 2013 season with seven losses and a draw, pushing them to their longest ever non-winning streak. They have also lost their past six games at home; as well as losing four of the past five encounters against their opponents the Capras.
Tip: Ben “Dobbo” Dobbin says: Capras coach Jason Hetherington is building something special in CQ. They’ll be out to impress early. Central Queensland by 4.
WYNNUM MANLY SEAGULLS v TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS
BMD Kougari Oval on Sunday, March 2 – 3pm
Referee: Tim Rutherford
Head to Head: Tweed 14 Wynnum 13
Twitter: #intrustsupercup #WYNvTHS
The Wynnum Manly Seagulls will host their Tweed Heads namesakes in what has become a classic rivalry. For the past four years, these two teams have clashed an even number of times with the results shared each year. Both sides will go into this opening round having suffered significant losses in the off-season – with many years of experience moving on. Wynnum have been hit especially hard, with long-time skipper Luke Dalziel-Don, Jacob Fauid, Nathanael Barnes and Shea Moylan retiring. Tweed veteran Tim Maccan has also hung up his boots, while fullback Shaun Carney has moved north to the Devils. Former junior Ben Cronin returns to Wynnum in the halves, with two Mitchells
(Frei and Buckett) returning from the NRL to play with the Bayside club. Tweed fans will see a number of former NYC players make their debut for the club, but they will also have the experience of Kalifa Faifai Loa, with the centre hoping to press for an NRL place. Wynnum prop Tim Natusch will take over the captaincy reins for the season, while this match will see Tweed skipper Matt King move level with Shane O’Flanagan on 210 Cup games, equal eighth on the all-time list.
Tip: Ben “Dobbo” Dobbin says: Wynnum should be too strong at home and new fullback Daniel Ogden will be the star. Wynnum by 10.