The Ben Campbell Building Group Tweed Heads Seagulls have been strengthened by extra ‘Titans Power’ as they prepare to back up their first up victory when they host bogy team Townsville Blackhawks at Piggabeen Sports Complex on Sunday.
Established NRL players Mitch Rein and Keegan Hipgrave drop back to the Seagulls ranks for the Channel 9 televised match (12.10pm Qld time) against an Aaron Payne-coached Blackhawks side that Tweed has never beaten in seven encounters.
Rein played every NRL match for the Titans last season but, with coach Garth Brennan has decided to use AJ Brimson as a utility off the bench and only one specialist hooker in Nathan Peats, the livewire No. 9 is keen to get good game time with the Seagulls.
Hipgrave (pictured making a tackle for the Gullies in 2017) missed both the Titans’ pre-season trials because of a hamstring injury picked up in training and will have his first run in match conditions of 2019 in the colours he made such an impression in as a 19-year-old in 2017.
Ben Woolf’s side will be without prop John Palavi who has been suspended for one match after taking an early plead for a shoulder charge during the 10-0 round one victory over PNG Hunters. Shane Gillham, who impressed off the bench in the season opener and has slimmed down enormously from previous seasons, will start in his place.
Last Sunday’s shut-out of the Hunters was the first time the Seagulls have kept an Intrust Super Cup opponent scoreless since round seven of 2015, against Souths Logan Magpies.
The Gulls will need a similar defensive attitude against the Blackhawks who were impressive in round one, winning 34-6 against Ipswich after leading 10-0 at half-time.
Former Seagulls (and Titans) winger Kalifa Fiafai-Loa crossed for two tries and will be a real danger man on the left-hand side, outside of centre Shaun Hudson who was Woolfe’s under-20s captain at the Titans in 2015.
The early kick-off gives footy fans plenty of time to head to Cbus Super Stadium at Robina in time for the 5.10pm Titans v Raiders clash.
The Mal Meninga Cup will be played at 10.30am and the Hastings Deering Colts clash against the Blackhawks will kick-off at 2pm, after the ISC clash.