A DREAM almost two decades in the making has been realised for the Western Clydesdales, with Queensland Rugby League approving the club’s bid to join the HostPlus Cup next year.

It will be the first time in 17 years south-west Queensland has been represented at the state’s top level, opening up new and exciting opportunities for the region’s rising rugby league talent.

Board Chairman Tony Coonan said the Clydesdales was a great brand which had now combined with the west, and its inclusion in the HostPlus Cup would be a huge boost for local rugby league.

“We will be the only team west of the Great Dividing Range and we’re picking up all that talent out there and so therefore it’s the Western Clydesdales, with a great brand and a region.

“We’ve just seen incredible talent over here. I don’t know how many in the south-west, up to a dozen ex-internationals but Toowoomba alone, 50 that have played for Australia.

“Ever since we changed the name back to Clydesdales, there’s been a renewed interest.”

Rex Zeeman and Doug Muir can’t wipe the smiles off their faces

Doug Muir played for what was the Toowoomba Clydesdales from 1970-74 and said today’s announcement was enormous for him.

“I was always a very shattered man that we never had a Clydesdales team in the Queensland Cup for a long time,” Muir said.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time and to stand here this morning, and know we’re in the QCup, it’s overwhelmingly satisfying.”

Tony Coonan said it would mean a complete pathway for local players, after years of watching the best talent leave the region.

“Currently we’ve got U-16s, U-18s, U-21s, we’ve got U-19s women but still the kids are leaving early and earlier all the time to pursue their dreams of playing HostPlus Cup, and then moving onto the NRL. So our best kids are going to stay,” Coonan said.

The Western Mustangs Under 21s after winning the 2021 Tom Gorman Challenge

Toowoomba Academy Coach Blake Mara said being able to stay local for longer had huge benefits for young players.

“I think it’s crucial,” Mara said.

“Being young, there’s lots of things going on in your life and it’s really important with any sport, or anything you do, that you have your life in check outside of that as well.

“So being around your family and friends can only be positive for that, so it’s really exciting to get this news today.”

The Western Clydesdales need to build a 34-man-squad for next year’s competition.

Tony Coonan admitted it would be unrealistic to think all of the 30-odd players from the region who were currently playing with HostPlus Cup sides would come back, but said “to have a flavour of that would be great”.

The Western Clydesdales board reviewed the bid in the wake of the pandemic hitting in 2020 and have since developed what they’re calling a “sustainable business plan”.

Earlier this year the club also secured a partnership with NRL club Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to support the case for inclusion.


Tony Coonan said the next step was getting money – securing sponsorship for next year and stitching up long-term sponsorship deals, as well as building long-term and sustainable funding models.

“We can’t just keep on relying on sponsorship and grants, we’ve got to get a source of income that’s non-rugby league,” Coonan said.

“The best example in rugby league is the Redcliffe Dolphins and then the Dolphin’s bid, so you may as well aim for the top.

“The Dolphins have got a leagues club, they own all the land around them, they own a shopping centre, they own units.

“It’s non-rugby league income and I know that sounds like a pretty wild dream at the moment for us, but we’ve got to aim for there.”

Doug Muir said he was hopeful the wider community would get behind the Western Clydesdales, particularly when home games start next year.

“I really believe in this area – in the Western corridor – there’s a lot of supporters of the Clydesdales brand,” Muir said.

“The fact the moment has arrived, we are just calling to arms all the community to actually help support what we do and turn up to the games and support us whichever way they can.”

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