GROWING up as an avid supporter of the Broncos, I?ve been spoilt with premierships, constant success and having the opportunity to cheer on some of League?s greatest players.
I?VE been a Queensland supporter for as long as I can remember. Since 1992 I?ve watched State of Origin religiously. I recall cheering on Steve Renouf and Allan Langer, two of my early favourites; I remember the excitement I felt when my Granddad gave me a ball that he had persuaded Langer to sign, circa 1993; and I remember the euphoria of one classic sporting moment in particular- Mark Coyne?s try in the first game of the 1994 series. We all have favourite Origin memories; we all remember big hits, biff and brilliance, and we?ve all experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. In my case, however, it?s a bit different, because I?m not a Queenslander; I?m a born and bred Kiwi. And to make matters worse, my Grandma is from Sydney.
IMAGINE for a moment, that a sport has decided the future lies in abolishing its traditional clubs, deeply rooted in their communities, and replaced them with new teams. Nobody really cares about the new sides so a population, previously so passionate about that sport that in some ways it even defined their nationality, begins to lose interest and the game goes into a steep decline.
I don't know about you, but patience is not one of my strong points.
SOUTHERN Orcas chairman Andrew Chalmers vows the Wellington rugby league franchise has not given up of joining the NRL despite being pipped by the Gold Coast for a spot in the competition for 2007.
SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES 22 defeat NORTHS DEVILS 20
TWEED Heads Seagulls 36 defeat Wynnum Seagulls 10
THE pipeline of players from the Sunshine Coast to the Peninsula shows no sign of abating.
Matt Mapes is the latest recruit to follow that path, although he originally played with the Broncos from when he was 16.
Now 25, Mapes has not allowed the stiff competition for second-row spots at the Dolphins put him off. In fact, he has relished the challenge and recently won two players' player awards.
"I'm enjoying my time at the Dolphins," the quietly spoken Mapes said.
Mapes spent the past two seasons with the Nambour Crushers, who won the 2003-04 Sunshine Coast premierships.
"I played the two seasons with the Crushers but missed the grand final last year with a rib cartilage injury, which was pretty disappointing. Dan Stains coached the side last year and has the job again this year.
"Craig Polla-Mounter, the former Canterbury half, also played in the side and I learnt a bit from those two.
"James Hinchey watched a couple of games and it went from there."
Mapes turned out in Redcliffe's A grade for the opening two fixtures before his sheer form pitchforked him into the Premier League.
His strong defence and clever offloads have ensured his spot in Anthony Griffin's side ever since.
At 190 centimetres and 97 kilograms, Mapes is the ideal build for second-row, his preferred position.
"It's the spot I like," he said. "I've found the Redcliffe set-up very professional and there's been no worries since I moved down in February. I didn't really know anyone at the club except Jason Campbell, who came from Nambour to play with the Colts.
"It's good to have Troy Lindsay and Adam Starr up front with the Dolphins because they give a lot of experience."
Mapes said the away win over Tweed Heads Seagulls was gratifying as his side won the second half.
"To come from behind was a struggle but it was a good sign," he said. "We're working our way up the table but there's plenty of work still to do."
Mapes is no stranger to Brisbane, having played with Wests Arana Hills as a youngster and joining the Broncos organisation when he was 16.
An electrician, he lives at Ferny Grove and works for a mate. But it was his trade which almost forced him out of football despite reaching the Clydesdales level.
Several years ago he found the task of combining work and virtual fulltime training with the Broncos too much and gave the code away.
"I lost interest," he confessed. "I gave league away as it was interfering with work. I was doing my apprenticeship and starting work at 5.30 and not getting home until 9 o'clock some nights.
"I gave it away for a few years before getting back into it at Nambour."
He spent from 1996 to 1999 with the Red Hill giants, much of it with team-mates such as Dane Carlaw, Chris Walker and Craig Frawley, ironically two of whom are former Redcliffe Colts.
"I haven't really given going back to the NRL set-up any thought," he said. "I'll take it as it comes. I'm just happy to play every game in Premier League this season."
WINNING start for Wigan boss Millward
CRONULLA prop Jason Stevens will miss this weekend's NRL clash with North Queensland after reversing his initial not guilty plea to a knee lifting charge.
Aussie Stadium is set to explode on Friday night when the resurgent Roosters tackle the high-flying Sea Eagles in a clash set to revive memories of one of rugby league?s great rivalries.
SONNY Bill Williams will make his return for the Mitsubishi Electric Bulldogs this Saturday. Having been plagued by early season injuries Williams is fully recovered and eager to take on the Bunnies at the Sydney Showground.
A former leading Australian referee claims National Rugby League officials have been too soft on a spate of high tackles blighting recent rounds of the competition.
SYDNEY Roosters face an uphill battle retaining Maroon State of Origin forward Michael Crocker with at least three rival NRL clubs chasing his signature for next season.
PENRITH has given star five-eighth Preston Campbell permission to negotiate a deal with the new Gold Coast NRL franchise.