PREMIERS: Dalby Diehards celebrate their maiden premiership.
PREMIERS: Dalby Diehards celebrate their maiden premiership. Michael Doyle

2018 TRL season preview

Dalby Diehards
Dalby Diehards Contributed



13 wins, 3 loses, Premiers


DESPITE a few injuries during the middle part of the year, Dalby were a different animal in the business end of 2017, as they put their rivals to the sword when it counted.

Coach Derek Brady makes the transition from assistant to the head coaching role, and his prior knowledge of the team will only benefit them as they look to go back-to-back.

"Last year we had a really good pre-season. We worked really hard and focused on fitness from late November,” Brady said.

"We went through the first few rounds undefeated, lost a few, as well as players to injury, then had everyone back on deck towards the end of the season.

"The key to last year was our fitness and working for each other.”

He said his players knew they would have a target on their back, but backed his troops to respond.

"We've got to have a change in attitude. Everyone wants to knock us off. Individuals will have to step up their roles,” he said.

"We're down a few players who played critical roles last year, so we need a couple of the younger guys to step up to a senior role.

"I'm hoping the younger guys with another year of experience, will take their game to a different level.”


"I'm expecting big things from Chris Wilkes. He's been around for a number of years, and will be taking a different role in the front row this year. His trial performances have been good, he trains hard, and is one to watch out for,” Brady said.


The loss of captain Colin Green, as well as players like Eli Wickham will hurt.

In saying that a lot of the spine and structures will remain, and on that basis alone, you have to respect the Diehards.



Brothers Leprechauns
Brothers Leprechauns Peta Fraser



2-14, 9th


IT hasn't been an easy pre-season for the Brothers club heading into 2018.

With a publicised plea for more players, through to training ground unavailability, not much has gone to plan for the Toowoomba-based side.

Coach Chris McEwan said his team had been working on skills, however there had been setbacks.

"We've been working on a lot of skill development. It's unfortunate with the last 5-6 weeks in that we haven't had access to a field or too many trials,” McEwan said.

"It's very unknown. We don't know much about the players as we haven't had the chance to work long with them.”

On moving forward, McEwan said it was important for the young players in the side to play to the best of their abilities, particularly when coming up against the stronger teams in the competition.

"The big thing is it's a young squad. We'll give them simple tasks to perform without putting too much pressure on them,” he said.

"One area to improve on last year is defence. We have players in foreign positions, so we want to improve every week.”


"Sam Betros has hopefully matured and can take some ownership of the side. We also have two young blokes, Blake Fletcher and Angus Ramsay, that we hope we can see develop and have a good year,” McEwan said.


It is going to be a tough year for Brothers. Their list doesn't have the star power of other teams which will hurt them throughout the season.

I hope their situation is similar to that of Oakey's in the sense they can derive benefits from 2018 to come back stronger than ever the following year.



Gatton Hawks
Gatton Hawks Contributed



8-8, 7th


LAST year was a mixed bag for the Hawks, as they narrowly missed out on a finals berth after going down in a playoff.

They showed plenty of promise, defeating premiers Dalby, however few close contests ultimately brought them undone.

Coach Shaun Hobson said they weren't looking back on last year, instead looking ahead to playing their game each week.

"We're focused on being competitive week in, week out,” Hobson said.

"We want to play for each other, and being the best version of ourselves is what we're trying to achieve.”

Hobson said coming in with a clean slate would prove beneficial for the team, and he wanted consistency in their performances to be a cornerstone of Gatton football for 2018.

"I wasn't there last year but have seen some footage and heard some stories,” he said.

"Consistency and being competitive each week is what we're looking for. There isn't an easy win in the Toowoomba competition. Every game is a challenge.


"I doubt an individual will explode, as team performances will be the cornerstone of our season, but Austin Jennings is relatively quick, and if we can get him some ball in good areas, he will go quickly,” Hobson said.


Gatton are a hard team to catch.

They showed a heap of promise last year, and even managed to knock off the premiers, but other games left you scratching your head as you wonder what could've been.

They will win their fair share of matches this season, and have recruited well, adding to the depth of the side.

If they can stay injury free, they might be able to sneak into the finals, but I think they may just fall short when the whips are cracking.



Goondiwindi Boars
Goondiwindi Boars Contributed



2-14, 11th


LAST year is best forgotten when looking at the prospects of the Boars heading into 2018.

On occasions, Goondiwindi was much more competitive than their 2-14 record suggests, but during other games it wasn't pretty.

The Boars haven't sat around on their hands and accepted another season like it though, recruiting incredibly well in the off-season to ensure that they are not only competitive, but a finals contender.

Coach Scott Schultz said the addition of players in vital roles was of benefit, as was a strong pre-season on the training paddock.

"Our fitness has been a priority,” he said.

"We've recruited a few players in key positions so we have bolstered a bit of quality there.

"They give us some consistency in these key positions, as well as experience, helping to get us around the field.”

Schultz said recreating a fortress at home was important for the success of the team.

"We've got Matt Gardner coming over from the Super League in England, so we're hoping he will step up and lead the way,” he said.

"We've certainly got to be better at home. If we can win a majority and get a a few away wins, we can finish mid-table or somewhere near there.”


"Will Carter will bring a lot for us at the back. Young Natane Masima has certainly got some skill, and Brandon McGrady is back, so hopefully he'll have a big year,” Schultz said.


In terms of recruitment for the upcoming season, Goondiwindi's ranks among the best.

They have added a number of talented players to their squad as they look to make 2017 a distant memory.

Goondiwindi is a long way to travel for a number of clubs in Toowoomba and beyond, so creating an environment that is tough to win at is a must.

I think they fall short of the finals, but they are building something special near the border.



Highfields Eagles
Highfields Eagles Contributed



11-5, 6th


CONSISTENCY is the money term in this year's TRL competition, and coach Gus McKellar said it applied to his team.

"It's important and is our biggest goal to build on our consistency,” McKellar said. "Our best was very good and our worst was very poor.

"It's more of this year really challenging them to not pull the trigger too early.

"We can travel well, get a bit excited, overplay our hand and then it all seems to turned pear-shaped.

"We need to be willing to go deep into games and halves to win if we need to.”

McKellar isn't dwelling on the heartbreaking way his side went out in 2017, choosing to focus instead on a high-placed finish.

"Game could've gone either way, lost five eighth, our captain, one front rower in last fixture, didn't happen,” he said.

"We want to try and put ourselves in a better position than not having to play knockout football.”


"Blokes that have been here for the last few years like Nick Bainbrdige. Sean Loxley has played at Cup level, and our lock Sam Bielefeld is fresh after a year off,” McKellar said.

"He has aimed a bit of experience from next level should only help improve us.


Highfields are going to be in the finals mix again.

Coach McKellar said they needed to make it happen, and they had the talent to do so.

They welcome Dale Madden into the fold after playing with the Storm U20s side last year, which is a big addition. Last year the side lost just two games at home, including beating both grand finalists.

If they can repeat that dosage again, look for them to make a finals run.



Oakey Bears
Oakey Bears Contributed



2-14, 10th


THIS time last year Oakey was just grateful to be in the TRL, and now they are looking to make an impact where it counts - on the field.

Coach Tom Friend said he was pleased with how his team applied themselves in the off-season, as they looked to improve on a tough 2017.

"We have been gelling well and things have been running smoothly,” Friend said.

"We had a good first-up trial and training has been good. We had a loss at Chinchilla but they have a good side and we had eight players that didn't travel.

"It gave us a chance to look at what we've got and haven't got. We have speed in our backline and a pretty handy sort of forward pack.

"I think we'll be competitive. I'm pretty sure we'll be middle of the pack or above.”

The signing of former Eel and Warrior Mark Tookey has been a big one for the club, and Friend said his impact stretched beyond football.

"He's very good. Playing wise, his best days are probably behind him, but he can see things happening and keeps the boys in tact,” he said.

"No one panics, and they respect him.”


"In our two trials, Corey Mullins was playing well up front. He has come up from Gatton after not playing last year. We have two outstanding players in Josh Robertson and Dylan Adamson, who have been rotating between fullback and centre,” Friend said.


Oakey has taken a massive step towards football redemption.

Issues that plagued them previously seem to be past them, as they look to work their way back into finals contention.

This year might be a bit soon for them, but you have to love how the side is trekking for the future.



Pittsworth Danes
Pittsworth Danes Contributed



12-4, grand finalists


COACH Ian Brackstone said the extra effort was a factor for his troops, who had to play each week of the finals.

"I think it told in hindsight,” Brackstone said.

"Dalby is a very good team, and losing Tom O'Sullivan and Cam Miller didn't help us.

"It wasn't the most enjoyable grand final day, but I was still proud.”

Brackstone said this season looked to be one of the closest yet, as he aimed to have his side ready for round one.

"We've been trying to get some combinations as we have a few new players,” he said.

"Unfortunately we have had only one trial early in February, and Noosa fell through due to weather.

"I think it's going to be a close competition. Most teams are stronger and every win is important.

"There might be one or two teams that clear out, but third to eighth will be close.”


"I'll be looking forward to watching Kurtis Shayler. He played with us until 2016 before going to the Cronulla Sharks 20s,” Brackstone said.


It was a tough ask for Pittsworth to back up week after week in the finals last year, so they will be hoping for a top-two finish this time around.

The addition of Shayler is massive, as well as the return of Cam Miller from injury.

It might take them a few weeks to get into the swing of things, but if they can land a prominent spot in the finals, other teams need to watch their tails.



Southern Suburbs Tigers
Southern Suburbs Tigers Contributed



8-8, 6th


SOUTHS had a tumultuous and very public battle as they struggled for numbers heading into the season, but their future has been secured.

They have recruited coach Leo Dynevor, formerly with the Wests Magpies, and he said he was looking forward to leading the charge.

"We were coming into the season behind the eight-ball and looking very shaky at the start of the season numbers wise,” Dynevor said.

"We've certainly got some players coming back to the club, and now it is flourishing with players, which is comforting to say the least.

"I'm looking forward to the season. I'm new here, and living in Brisbane and will travel up.”

Dynevor said he wanted his side to play an exciting brand of football as opposed to keeping it restricted to the forwards.

"I like to play expansive football. I'm not one to bash it up the middle,” he said.

"We have a few guys who lead well and can move the ball a lot more.

"I'm not sure what other teams do. I just know what I can do.”


"Dwayne Duncan can showcase a lot of class as he did last year. Jacob Whittaker is a leader and looks very fit and keen,” Dynevor said.


It got scary at times for the Tigers in the pre-season, with it looking at one stage like there was a serious chance of them not competing this year.

Thankfully they remain after a dedicated push from past players and the community.

After making the finals last year, it's hard to see them getting close to that feat in 2018, but they can use this season as a way to rebuild their future.



Valleys Roosters
Valleys Roosters Contributed



14-2, minor premiers


IT ALL went to plan for Valleys in 2017 until the finals came around.

Coach Brett Seymour admitted it was a tough way to depart the season, but he hoped his young side could fire.

"We haven't focused too much on that finish. We have a young side, and obviously the way we went out was not how we predicted or envisaged,” Seymour said.

"We did have lessons to learn and a lot of them easy to tell.

"We were probably close to the best team during year, but it doesn't matter unless you're doing it at the end of year.”

Despite last year's finish, Seymour said the side had come together well to focus on the task at hand.

"We know we can score points, so we want to focus on defence, and having a bit of steel and resolve about us,” he said.

"When things don't go our way, we need to dig our toes and heels in and weather the storm.

"On paper there are a few clubs that have really added some starch.

"Some experience has been added with some try-scoring ability as well, so we know we're in for a bit more of a challenge this year.”


"We have a couple of new guys. Jason Sharpe has looked really good as a front rower and middle. Hugh Sedger has been playing a bit of Cup football which is a nice added bonus to us. He's an ex-junior and looks promising. We need our kids to play well when the pressure is on, and show us we can finish year off if we put everything together,” Seymour said.


Valleys were almost unbeatable in the regular season last year, but weren't able to put it together when it mattered.

A finish to the season they had can go one of two ways in 2018: it can crush them, or it can make them.

I think they will again be thereabouts, but the retirement of Brett Seymour from the playing ranks hurts them.



Warwick Cowboys
Warwick Cowboys Contributed



7-9, 8th


LAST year didn't go to plan for the Cowboys, after injuries hit and some ordinary performances cruelled their finals hopes.

They have made a point of turning around their fortunes, recruiting a number of quality players to the side, including former NRL coach of the year Phil Economidis.

The new addition to the ranks said they had moved past last year's tough loss to Highfields in the final round last year, costing them a playoff berth.

"It's a new team with new goals,” Economidis said.

"I watched that game last year and I think we're a bit stronger this year, but so are most clubs, so we needed to be.”

Buying back the farm has been a focus during the off-season, and Economidis said he was pleased with the results they have been able to enjoy.

"Dan Murphy was an important signing,” he said.

"He was injured in the representative match and will probably be right for the Dalby game.

"We just focused on recruiting blokes from the area, bringing the farm back. If they were available, we chased them.

"It's important to get those quality players in key positions to develop the younger talent around them.”


"It's great to get Gary Ellery back this year. He's been out a couple of years, but certainly impressed in the first trial. I couldn't be happier with Mitch Watson, Kai Etherington and Coen Martin-Brown who have come up from the 18s. Young Harry Sullivan has come back to the fray, and he's exciting young player,” Economidis said.


This side has the right mix of experience and youth.

I believe they have had the best recruitment drive of the upcoming season, and their depth will be the envy of a lot of teams.

Their top 17 lines up with any in the competition, and the appointment of Economidis is a big positive.



Wattles Warriors
Wattles Warriors Contributed



9-7, 4th


THE run of Wattles took its toll in the concluding stages of the competition last year, as the side left everybody in their wake to finish the regular season.

This year they have made a big play, recruiting Travis Burns as a player-coach.

Burns said coming in fresh this season was a good start.

"It's good to come in without much of an idea. I know they came home with a wet sail after losing a few games early,” Burns said.

"We want to start the year well.”

Burns said he recognised the TRL wasn't a walk in the park, and knew the importance of coming out of the blocks.

"It's a tough competition,” he said.

"If you can stay injury free and win early games, you have a good shot to be in finals.

"We have a strong squad, but so do a lot of others.

"If you don't turn up on the day, you're going to get beaten.”


"The Duggans (Matt and Ryan) are the normal suspects. Jake Hargreaves is a centre who has had a good pre-season. Will O'Grady played for the Mustangs, and I think he can go to the next level, so hopefully we can develop him and he can move further with his footy,” Burns said.


There's a lot to like about Wattles heading into 2018.

They have a pack that can work through the middle and lay a platform for the likes of Matt Duggan and Travis Burns to run rampant and set up their speedy outside backs.

It's important for them to gel as a side early in the season, and if they do, they are going to be awfully hard to beat in the finals.



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