Irrespective of Sunday’s semi-final results at Piggabeen Sports Complex, 2019 will go down as arguable the best in the history of the Tweed Heads Seagulls outside of their double premiership year of 2007.
This is obvious through the achievement of having the three Sunday grades all qualify for the finals, the launching of a women’s team that provided its first State of Origin player and the representative conquests of several players that have come through the Seagulls’ pathway aimed at the NRL.
At a time when the Gold Coast Titans’ NRL future has been questioned with the team finishing with the wooden spoon, the progress of the sport on the Gold Coast, Tweed and Northern Rivers in the past year is unquestionable, with the Ben Campbell Building Group Seagulls playing a prominent role.
It is the first season that both the Titans’ feeder teams, the Seagulls and Burleigh Bears, have made the Intrust Super Cup semi-finals. Both clubs are represented in this weekend’s Hastings Deering Colts (under-20s) semi-finals as well. And the Seagulls’ under-18s Mal Meninga Cup team took all before them and won the grand final and national championships.
Of Tim Maccan’s under-18s squad, made up almost exclusively of players from Tweed, Northern Rivers or the southern Gold Coast, seven were chosen in the Queensland under-18s team – Xavier Coates, Reece Walsh, Juwan Compain, Brendan Piakura, Carsil Vaikai Coates is an incredible story. In the one season he went from the under-18s to play two ISC games, three in the NRL for the Broncos and a Test for Papua New Guinea.
Coates, Walsh and Piakura are contracted to the Broncos while Compain, Sexton, Vaikai, Caleb Hodges, Solomon Torrens, Ediq Ambrosyev, Ben Liyou, Noah Gafa, Jake Martin, Jaiden West and Jed Edwards are on the Titans’ books.
ISC hooker Christian Hazard played for Queensland Residents and Titans-contracted centre Treymain Spry for Queensland under-20s Origin. Jessika Elliston was the Queensland women’s Origin team member.
“The club really has progressed when you look overall at the team and individual achievements this year and we want to keep progressing,” said CEO Paul Stephenson who has been working hard this week in progress for the semi-final double-header at Piggabeen on Sunday. The ISC team takes on Redcliffe Dolphins and the Colts play Mackay Cutters.
“And it’s not just at ISC and rep level. We’re also proud that we have recruited quite a few players into our squad other areas and, with us deciding not to field a Gold Coast league side, they have filtered into the Gold Coast A-grade competition and provided a real benefit there.
“Guys who have played ISC like Stu Mason (Currumbin), Luke Jurd (Currumbin), Kody Parsons (Tugun), Rory Lillis (Tugun), Lee Turner (Southport), Bailey Faull (Bilambil), Jack Machin (Runaway Bay) have strengthened their clubs and the local competition and we hope to spread our players across more clubs next year.
“Then we look at the incredible feats of Xavier Coates who was in our 18s for two seasons – to go up to ISC level, then become an international for PNG then play in the NRL while still 18 is an incredible achievement.
“Two have all three senior teams in the finals is a great step forward for us and off the field we’ve welcomed a new board member in Matt Burgess and hope to have the first stage in the improvement of facilities at Piggabeen complete for next season too.”
A name familiar in Tweed district league and Titans history, Murwillumbah-raised Anthony Laffranchi who went onto win a premiership with Wests Tigers and become an inaugural Titan, this week paid tribute to the role the Seagulls have played in establishing a genuine pathway for elite players.
The Titans football operations manager says the NRL’s relationship with feeder clubs Tweed and Burleigh has become more important, as is its association with Northern Rivers rugby league, and the big improvement of the Seagulls in 2019 is a bonus for not just the Titans but the broader rugby league environment.
“With there no longer being a national youth competition means the Queensland Cup clubs have become more important in providing a pathway for us and it’s great to see the improvement of the Seagulls and the continued strength of the Burleigh Bears,” said Laffranchi.
“We’ve been fortunate this season to have the Seagulls under-18s Mal Meninga Cup team win the national championships and the Northern Rivers Andrew Johns Cup under-16s be successful.
“Tweed has, and will continue, to be a good pathway for a lot of goods kids in the Northern Rivers and around the border.
“This season we’ve had Seagulls players like Juwan Compain come from under-20s play Intrust Super Cup at age 18 and Ioane Seuili play a whole season of ISC with the Seagulls at 19 before he goes into an NRL contract with us. That experience will be invaluable for him, as is has been for Treymain Spry at the age of 19.
“It’s great to see a natural and strong attachment developing between local players and the Titans as their local NRL club.
“The Seagulls, plus the Bears, play a big role in that with the funnelling of players through the system hopefully into the NRL.
“We are working closely together, as we are with the Country Rugby League and Northern Rivers, with co-resourcing, co-recruiting and working together with pathways for the kids and the success will really bear fruit in the next couple of years.”
In 2007 the Seagulls were at their best, winning the Queensland Cup first grade title and the FOGS Colts under-20s.