New playmaker role for Wattles team coach
RUGBY LEAGUE: Toowoomba Rugby League A-grade minor premiers Wattles Warriors have lost star halfback Matt Duggan to suspension, throwing into disarray his team's bid for a fifth premiership.
Wattles will clash with Highfields Eagles at Glenholme Park at 3pm tomorrow in the preliminary final to decide which team will meet the Valleys Roosters in the TRL grand final on September 2.
Duggan, a Queensland Rangers halfback in 2017 and a multiple TRL Player of the Year award winner, has been a key component in Wattles' success during a stellar season for the club.
After being charged with an illegal throw in a tackle in last week's grand final qualifier loss to Valleys, Duggan received a two-week suspension.
An appeal by the Wattles Club was heard on Thursday evening, resulting in Duggan's suspension being increased to three matches - ruling him out of the game until next season.
Coach Travis Burns expressed his disappointment about the decision, Duggan having had a clean judiciary record across his decade playing top-grade league.
"Matt is shattered and so is the rest of the A-grade team and club,” Burns said.
"If anything though, losing Matt has inspired the players to lift to another level on Sunday.”
For Burns and his team, Sunday is another day and the focus will be on overcoming Highfields and booking a seat in Wattles' third A-grade grand final in the past five years.
"It's certainly not the stage of the season to be reshuffling your halves,” Burns said.
"We have had Highfield's measure in our two fixture clashes this year.
"But it will certainly be a tough contest: Highfields walloped Dalby 42-0 last week and will be full of confidence.”
The Wattles side is injury free and has added giant representative forward Will O'Gradey to its line-up.
Burns will take on an extra burden in his playmaker role with the absence of Duggan and will count on his big men - forwards Michael Pearson, Dylan Wilson and Dale Perkins along with O'Gradey - to roll forward and enhance opportunities for the outside backs.
The Warwick Cowboys' second-division side has qualified for next weekend's grand final and coach Scott Fisher plans to hold a training session tomorrow at grand final time.