The Grand Final That Queensland Built?

THE QUEENSLAND Wizard Cup?s reputation as rugby league?s premier nursery will be furthered this Sunday, when the Brisbane Broncos take on the Melbourne Storm in the National Rugby League grand final.

Combined, the Broncos and Storm squads feature players with a total of just under 1000 games worth of experience in the Queensland State League.

Indeed 31 of the 38 players selected for the NRL decider owe at least part of their development to the Wizard Cup.

That is without counting Darren Lockyer, Shane Webcke, Brad Thorn and Karmichael Hunt, all of whom were QRL juniors, but either played Brisbane Rugby League before the Wizard Cup was born or jumped straight into the NRL system.

Incredibly 13 of those named ? seven for Brisbane, six for Melbourne ? have played in the QLD Wizard Cup as recently as this season.

At the head of that list is boom Melbourne forward Adam Blair, who featured in eight games for the Norths Devils in their 2006 campaign. Curiously the Devils finished the Wizard Cup season two places outside the finals.

For each of the players who have risen through the Wizard Cup there is a different tale of dedication, fortune or redemption, learning their trade against hardened veterans such as Darren Smith, Steve Renouf or Craig Greenhill.

Blair for example did not receive a solitary vote in the QANTAS Player of the Year in either 2005 or ?06. Admitting his focus needed attention, he has now begun to fulfil the potential he displayed as a schoolboy standout.

In comparison, Brisbane halfback Shane Perry has 151 Queensland Wizard Cup games to his name, having represented Pine Rivers Brothers, Logan City and Redcliffe. He played four matches for the premiership-winning Dolphins this season.

As a 20-year-old he was named QANTAS Player of the Year in 1998 with the now defunct Logan Scorpions. After opportunities with the Wests Magpies and Bulldogs down south, he returned north and until recently was a fulltime finance broker with QRL sponsor Wizard.

Current Broncos teammate David Stagg can lay claim to one premiership win against the Storm boys already, having been a part of a Redcliffe team which beat Norths 24-22 in the 2001 Colts (under 19s) competition.

The Norths team that day contained Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Jake Webster.

Other curious statistics include Darius Boyd, a Queensland Schoolboys representative last year, playing just one game of Wizard Cup for the Burleigh Bears before joining the Broncos.

Melbourne veteran David Kidwell also played a singular Wizard Cup game for the Wests Panthers back in 1998 while contracted to the Adelaide Rams.



Shane PERRY 151 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 4) Corey PARKER 43 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 2) David STAGG 42 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 1) Brent TATE 39 Wizard Cup games Sam THAIDAY 36 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 2) Dane CARLAW 34 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 3) Shaun BERRIGAN 34 Wizard Cup games Tame TUPOU 27 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 1) Justin HODGES 26 Wizard Cup games Casey McGUIRE 25 Wizard Cup games Ben HANNANT 18 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 2) Petero CIVONICEVA 6 Wizard Cup games Tonie CARROLL 2 Wizard Cup games Darius BOYD 1 Wizard Cup game


Nathan FRIEND 94 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 4) Cooper CRONK 61 Wizard Cup games Jeremy SMITH 54 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 4) Antonio KAUFUSI 50 Wizard Cup games Dallas JOHNSTON 45 Wizard Cup games Jake WEBSTER 43 Wizard Cup games Cameron SMITH 28 Wizard Cup games Adam BLAIR 24 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 8) Billy SLATER 23 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 1) Matt GEYER 17 Wizard Cup games Greg INGLIS 17 Wizard Cup games Ryan HOFFMAN 13 Wizard Cup games Matt KING 8 Wizard Cup games Jamie FEENEY 4 Wizard Cup games (2006 games: 4) Steve TURNER 4 Wizard Cup games Ben CROSS 1 Wizard Cup game (2006 games: 1) David KIDWELL 1 Wizard Cup game

*Injured Michael CROCKER played 3 games in the Wizard Cup for Redcliffe

# Statistics courtesy of Brad Tallon.