By HARRY CLARKE
IN A major coup for country rugby league that will see the highest standard of footy played out west in living memory, both Chinchilla and Quilpie will host prestigious Queensland Intrust Super Cup games on Saturday, July 17.
Two of Queensland’s most iconic rugby league clubs will clash at Chinchilla’s Bulldog Park, as the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls front up against the Burleigh Bears, while the game in Quilpie will be between the equally well renowned Ipswich Jets and Redcliffe Dolphins.
Thousands are expected to attend the Chinchilla game, which will be a rematch from the Q-Cup grand final in 2019, won by Burleigh.
Bulldog Park – as fine a country rugby league ground as any – will be in full flight as spectators travel from across the region to watch Queensland’s top tier of rugby league played in their own back yard.
Live music, additional bars and several food stands will be set up on the day. The entry fee for spectators will be $10 for adults and $5 for children.
The football program arranged will undoubtedly lift the nerves of local players, as they will also play in front of the huge crowd.
The Intrust Super Cup game (kicking off at 2.15pm) will be a curtain raiser for the local A-grade derby between the Chinchilla Bulldogs and the undefeated Wallumbulla-Surat Red Bulls starting at 4pm. Under-18s and Reserve-grade kickoff at 11.30am and 12.45pm respectively.
And although the two Intrust Super Cup teams will be travelling hundreds of kilometres for their game, an element of home ground advantage might still be at play.
The Wynnum-Manly Seagulls boast two star players who originally hail from the local Western Downs region. Captain and halfback Sam Scarlett grew up in Wandoan, playing his junior years with the local Wildcats and later the Chinchilla Bulldogs.
Seasoned back rower Luke Bateman notched up 71 games in the NRL between 2015 and 2020 when he played for the Canberra Raiders. Having resigned from the Raiders and taken a step away from first grade this year, Bateman is now playing for the Wynnum.
He and Scarlett will be up against another Western Downs product, Beau Fermor from Dalby, who now plays for the Burleigh Bears and has made 13 NRL appearances for the Gold Coast Titans.
Meanwhile at Quilpie, the Jets and Dolphins clash will be a return home for Ipswich Jets coach and 2015 premiership-winning captain Keiron Lander, who played his junior days with the Quilpie Magpies.
With selection and injuries still pending in the lead-up to July 17, there’s no guarantee that all, or even any, of the local footy stars will be playing on the day.
But Sam Scarlett told the Caller he sincerely hoped he, Bateman and Fermor would be available to pull on their Intrust Super Cup guernseys and play before footy fans in their home district.
WATCH: Sam Scarlett’s huge defence for the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls
“All the boys really like country round. In other years we’ve been to Julia Creek and Normanton, but it’s going to be awesome coming to Chinchilla given that I’m from that area,” Scarlett said.
“We’ve always had a good rivalry with Burleigh so it should be a good game. They’re always strong and they’ve got bragging rights at the moment, after the 2019 final.
“The country round is a great idea. Chinchilla’s a big rugby league community and Bulldog Park’s a great ground. The supporters get pretty vocal there, so hopefully they’ll be going for us.”
Ensuring the lead-up to July 17 will be a footy extravaganza, Queensland Rugby League will be running clinics during the week with local school kids, while on the Friday afternoon the Burleigh Bears will carry out their captain’s run at Bulldog Park.
Chinchilla Bulldogs spokesperson Lee Irwin said QRL’s decision to include Chinchilla in this year’s country round was a major coup for the town.
“I can’t recall anything like this ever happening out here, and everyone we’ve spoken to around town are very excited about what’s going to be a great weekend,” Irwin said.
“Wynnum-Manly are the top team in the Intrust Super Cup and Burleigh are strong too, so no doubt there’ll be some really high quality football on display.
“The local derby should be a good game too. Wallumbilla are undefeated and our team has showed some good form. Our players should lift on the day, in front of a home crowd, so it should be really good.
“The Q-Cup players are staying for two nights and we expect there’ll be plenty of spectators coming to stay in Chinchilla that weekend, so hopefully it will be a bit of a financial boost for motels and venues around town.”