ICYMI, on Thursday the @NRL - National Rugby League released the 2018 #NRLDraw.
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Super Intrust Cup Round 1 Preview
NORTHS DEVILS v MACKAY CUTTERS
Saturday, March 19 - 2pm* Live on ABC 1
Rival coaches Trevor Bailey (Norths) and Anthony Seibold (Mackay) will be desperate to kick-start their new posts with wins in this intriguing round 1 premiership opener. Both men know the Intrust Super Cup well after lengthy involvements in Queensland's premier competition.
Little separates the teams on paper, with the line-ups boasting a mix of NRL talent and emerging young guns. Norths are perhaps a little more settled with 11 players from last year's grand final team to turn out for the Devils in the first game of 2011. Former Broncos premiership-winning playmaker Shane Perry is back for another season in the Intrust Super Cup.
Mackay has plenty of experience in the halves as well, with former Cowboy Grant Rovelli named at pivot for the Bishop Park clash. Mackay will be keen to erase memories of last year's ill-fated preliminary final visit to the Nundah ground.
EASTS TIGERS v IPSWICH JETS
Saturday, March 19 - 3pm
The two bottom teams from 2010 meet in a clash that many pundits will be eager to see the outcome of. The Tigers' form in the trials has been particularly impressive and the widely held belief is that the Langlands Park club is finally ready to deliver after several lean years. New coach Troy McCarthy has wasted no time stamping his influence at the Tiger Den.
McCarthy, who boasts an incredible senior coaching record of four senior premierships and a further six grand final appearances in the last 10 years, has put reputations aside and selected his 17 on form. Several established players from previous years - including Kev Stephensen, Dean Shepherd, David Georgiou, Adam Breen and Junior Ahio - will start the season in the FOGS Cup.
New faces like McKanah Gibson, Geoff Holcombe and Matt Minto will be thrust into the spotlight while all eyes will be on centre Shane Neumann's return to the Queensland competition. Saturday's clash also marks the return of the well travelled Ipswich duo Trevor Exton and Brendon Lindsay, who have returned to the Jets after stints with the Sheffield Eagles. Jets coaches Ben and Shane Walker have gone for a mobile forward pack which includes new skipper Keiron Lander at lock.
CENTRAL COMETS v NORTHERN PRIDE
Saturday, March 19 - 6pm
A new chapter begins for the Northern Pride as the defending premiers begin on-field life without their general Chris Sheppard. The inspirational halfback called it quits after last year's stunning grand final win and now the spotlight falls on Dolphins signing Ryan Ghietti, an Innisfail junior. Ghietti links with five-eighth Clint Amos whose experience should be invaluable.
The Pride will be captained by former Cowboy Ty Williams, who is determined to deliver for his home region. The Comets have been boosted by the return of the versatile Nat Bowman. Coach Wayne Barnett will give Bowman the first crack at the fullback position. Local products Tyron Haynes, Dallas Williams, Guy Williams and Darren Mapp return for another season with the Comets but the Rockhampton club's fate could hinge on what newcomers Luke Dyer, John Clayton, Mark Applegarth and James Crombie can produce on a weekly basis.
SOUTHS LOGAN v TWEED HEADS
Sunday, March 20 - 3pm
Souths Logan Magpies coach Mark Beaumont has shown his faith in young fullback Wes Conlon by selecting the Ipswich livewire for the round one clash against the Seagulls. Conlon, who starred for Swifts in the Ipswich Rugby League in 2010, was recommended to the Magpies by Albert Talipeau, the current Swifts coach and former Souths Logan premiership-winning utility.
Conlon is part of a backline that includes Raiders contracted players Drury Low, James Stuart and Reece Robinson. The exciting Magpies contingent will go head to head with arguably the fastest backline in the competition. Again headed by noted flyer Shannon Walker, the Seagulls have no shortage of firepower.
The Seagulls bucked recent tradition and were quite active in the player market in the off-season, securing the services of Rod Griffin, Josh Starling, Aaron Cannings and Matt King. King returns to the Tweed after a stint with Souths Logan. Normally a hooker, King has been named at five-eighth for the Davies Park encounter.
WYNNUM MANLY v REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS
BMD Kougari Oval
Sunday, March 20 - 3pm
There is always something special about this traditional derby but Sunday's round one match has added appeal given the high calibre of personnel on show. Both clubs have strengthened their playing rosters with some smart additions. Veteran ABC commentator David Wright believes the Redcliffe Dolphins are the team to beat in 2011.
With classy recruits Justin Hunt, Nick Slyney and Dan Cross on the books, the Dolphins should be one of the big improvers. Cross, who joins the Dolphins from Parramatta, will partner Joe Bond in a new halves pairing. Bond is an electrifying runner of the football but he is coming off an injury plagued year with the Devils.
Wynnum Manly coach Paul Green this week named a formidable line-up boosted by the inclusion of Broncos NRL squad members Denan Kemp, Dane Carlaw, Mitchell Dodds and Kurtis Lingwoodock. It is arguably the strongest 17 the Seagulls have named in many seasons and an outfit that should draw a big crowd to BMD Kougari Oval.
BURLEIGH BEARS v SUNSHINE COAST
Sunday, March 20 - 3pm
Prolific try-scorer Anthony Don makes his Intrust Super Cup debut on the wing for the Burleigh Bears. While still a raw talent with a lot to learn, new Burleigh coach Paul Bramley believes Don - who scored five tries in one match for the Grafton Ghosts last year - can flourish in his new surrounds. Bramley's team will start red hot favourites to win their opening match of the season.
While the Bears look more than capable of breaking their finals hoodoo this year, the Sunshine Coast are looking to rebuild after losing their affiliation with the Manly NRL club. New Sunshine Coast coach Adam Mogg is so far relishing the challenge and the former Origin star is quietly confident that his team can upset the bigger name teams. Premiership-winning Gympie Devils halfback Nick Swan is one of several new faces from the region in the Sea Eagles outfit.