Back from two years on the sidelines, Cory Bond has rediscovered his passion for league and looks set to feature as a spearhead for the Tweed Heads Seagulls.
On the weekend the artful hooker left Brisbane Norths both shaken and stirred as he led the �Gulls to a 50-10 win over the Devils at Runaway Bay.
Bond�s speed and intelligence from dummy-half impressed not only Tweed officials, but also former Queensland coach Mark Murray, who was present as Norths� chief executive.
�He had a very good game I thought and once they got a roll on, they were pretty hard to stop,� Murray said.
Seagulls CEO Tom Searle assessed Bond�s game as �tremendous�, but was quick to point out that incumbent Matt King had fair claim on the number nine as well.
Only a few seasons ago Bond was adjudged Carbine Colt of the Year when playing for Wynnum, but quit football altogether soon after.
Most pleasing for Tweed was the depth through all grades, with the Coast club knocking over Norths 30-10 in reserve grade and 34-10 in an under-18s game.
Norths spread themselves thin by playing five matches on the weekend, starting with Saturday�s Queensland Cup trial against Toowoomba and a colts trial against Wests.
The Devils lost 24-22 to Toowoomba in a fantastic exhibition match and also fell 38-14 to the Panthers� under-19s.
Murray said the club intentionally fielded its strongest squad against Toowoomba and only two players � Chad Leach and Quentin Laulu-Togagae � backed up to face Tweed. _________
Rival Toowoomba Rugby League clubs would have been shocked to see former NRL star Ben Walker turn out for Brothers at the weekend, but they need not worry.
Walker played for Brothers in their 26-20 trial win against Wattles at Glenholme Park on Saturday night, but he remains undecided about his playing future.
The former Broncos, Manly and Leeds star said playing in Saturday night�s game was merely a spur of the moment decision, aimed at testing his knee.
Walker underwent a knee reconstruction 16 months ago, which saw him miss the 2004 NRL season. He hasn�t played since.
"I saw Brothers were playing and I rang Mark (Barrett) at about 4.30 to see if I could have a run," Walker said.
"I haven�t done anything, other than a bit of triathlon training, since I had the knee reconstruction and I just wanted to have a run to see how it would get through.
"I�m not sure where I�ll play or if I�ll play, I just wanted to see how my knee was before I made a decision on what I�m going to do."
Walker said he had held talks with Sydney clubs Souths and Sydney Roosters prior to Christmas, but had not gone any further because he had not made a firm decision on his future.
Younger brothers Shane and Chris play for Souths and the Roosters respectively.
He said if he decided to return to the field, it was likely he would try to secure an NRL contract.
"I really don�t know what I�m going to do, but I�ll have a yarn with my family and decide if I want to go back and play again," he said.
"Obviously when you play NRL you don�t really want to play anywhere else, but it�s really just up to me to decide if I want to play again." _________________ Speed machine Malcolm Darkin has pressed his claims for future Queensland Cup selection after leading the QR Comets Development Squad to back-to-back Bundaberg Brothers Invitational Tournament titles yesterday.
The tryscoring sensation showcased his natural ability in the QR Comets Development Squad�s nail-biting 16-12 grand final win over Sunshine Coast A-grade premiers the Nambour Crushers � a team coached by former international Dan Stains.
Hooker Ben Curran, five-eighth Adam Geddes, fullback Mitch Wyatte and Darkin crossed for important tries after scores were locked 8-8 at halftime.
The QR Comets Development Squad arrived in the finals after strong wins over Bundaberg Brothers (12-0), Bundaberg Wests (12-4), Across The Waves (28-0) and Nambour (28-0).
After an upset defeat at the hands of Cudgen (40), the Comets then overcame the tournament hosts (16-4) in the semi-final. Coach Paul MacRae said the trip was a chance for his young charges to play against seasoned campaigners.
"It was a tough hit-out for the guys,�� said MacRae, who will prepare his side for this weekend�s trial against Fitzroy-Gracemere in the curtainraiser to the Comets� final pre-season hit-out against NRL powerhouse Canberra.
MacRae praised Darkin and Curran for their standout performances at the two-day carnival.
Canberra coach Matthew Elliot will announce his squad today for Saturday night�s clash against the Comets at Rockhampton�s Browne Park.
Raiders captain Simon Woolford, Jason Croker and Tyron Smith are expected to play. ____________________ Souths Logan coach Phil Economidis has joined the chorus of praise for young Magpie Bob Blair.
A shining light in a tough season for Souths Logan in 2004, Blair was again at the forefront as the black-and-whites pushed Redcliffe in Saturday�s trial at Dolphin Oval.
Capable of playing in a number of positions, skilful with the ball and a hard hitter in defence, the Wide Bay product has attracted plaudits from friend and foe alike since landing in the Queensland Cup.
Already, after just one full game in front of former ARL Coach of the Year Economidis, he has made a significant impression.
�Bob Blair should definitely be in the NRL,� Economidis said.
�I know there are quite a few other people who think the same thing.
�He was trailed for one week down at Canberra before I came, but to my knowledge he hasn�t been given a chance anywhere else.�
Blair couldn�t save the Magpies from a 34-22 loss at the peninsula on the weekend, but the underdogs gave a strong account of themselves nonetheless.
Behind 16-0 early, Souths Logan fought tooth and nail against a Redcliffe team that always managed a reply.
Lured from Wynnum, Greg Bourke scored two tries and four goals for the Dolphins, while former Souths Logan coach Anthony Griffin savored his second straight victory.
His counterpart Economidis seems to be riding a similar crest of enthusiasm, having returned from the wilderness figuratively speaking.
�I guess after the Gold Coast Chargers folded I became a touch bitter,� he said.
�Really I should have come back to the Queensland Cup straight away instead of going to France and some of those other places.
�The standard of football is amazing and the growing professionalism can only be good. It�s definitely the second tier for rugby league here.
�And you know, I�m not going to give any long shots, make predictions or place pressure on the boys, but I think Souths Logan will surprise a few people this season.�
Economidis has already tasted success at the helm, helping Souths Black to the winners� podium at the AB Norris Cup Nines tournament. ____________________ The Gold Coast may have to wait for its very own NRL team, but Toowoomba and Norths showed on the weekend why more and more fans are gaining interest in the Queensland Cup.
Serving up a thrilling 24-22 scoreline at Carrara Stadium, the Clydesdales and Devils exhibited the stars of tomorrow prior to the Brisbane Broncos v Melbourn Storm clash.
Before a large and appreciative crowd, the Clydesdales didn�t secure the win until the death, with a string of penalties falling in their favour.
Both teams muscled up and the intensity of competition was somewhat foreign for the month of February.
Aside from the quality of the encounter, the other talking point from the game was the size of Toowoomba�s and Norths� South Sea Islander recruits, undoubtedly built for strength and speed.
Indeed more than a few patrons left the ground discussing the undercard rather than the main fight, won 24-10 by the Storm.
Interestingly, all of the scorers in the Brisbane-Melbourne game had at some stage played Queensland Cup, aside from Leon Bott who is still likely to wear blue and red while he becomes accustomed to the game.
From Toowoomba, rookie Tu Umaga-Marshall is on report for a high tackle. ________________ Michael Luck and Daniel Strickland have helped the North Queensland Young Guns destroy a Mackay Invitational side 50-8 at the Mackay Showgrounds.
Young Guns coach Grant Bell said he would have been �disappointed� had the seasoned NRL forwards not stood up to the plate in the curtain-raiser to the Cowboys-Cronulla game in the Sugar City.
But he had little reason to worry, as Luck and Strickland combined with lock Jacob Lillyman to stifle the locals and set the platform for victory.
�I would have expected with the experience of some of our forwards and their collective footy knowledge that we would control the game,� Bell said.
�As it turned out our guys were pretty good. We were better in a number of areas compared to our first two trials, particularly control of possession and use of the ball.
�It was the first time this year we had both our teams playing at the same place and the players realised it was a good opportunity for them to show what they can do.
�The coaching staff were allowed to draw some comparisons on how players were traveling.�
While first praise from Bell went to his back row, props Jaiman Lowe and Matt Scott were not far behind.
Fullback Jason Barsley was awarded the official man-of-the-match and winger Rory Bromley also showed promise.
Starting off the bench, Clint Amos was a constant danger in attack and darted through for a handful of tries.
Shane Muspratt began the game at hooker, but later moved to five-eighth. ________________________
For the second time in succession Burleigh has visited Kougari Oval, only to come away with a draw against the Wynnum Seagulls.
Prior to Saturday�s 18-all draw between the Bears and Baysiders, the last visit by Burleigh was in round one of the 2004 season.
On that date Burleigh came from behind for a 16-all draw, a mediocre start to what would later become a premiership campaign.
This weekend�s encounter was similar in script � the Bears again coming from behind � but coach Rick Stone believed little could be read into the result.
�It was a game where both teams were close to full strength, but didn�t really show a full hand,� he said.
�I spoke to (Wynnum coach) Neil Wharton after the game and I think he�s in the same position as me. We�ll be looking for improvement, certainly in terms of congruity and fluency.�
The Bears and Seagulls have only a few weeks before meeting again.
Once again, they are penciled down for round one of fixtures, albeit with Pizzey Park as the venue.
Stone said he expected less conservatism from the Seagulls when points were up for grabs, and already he has formed ideas on where his opponents will be dangerous.
�Their forwards can do some damage in attack,� Stone said.
�We�ll have to try and control their big men�they got a couple of nice offloads away on Saturday.�
Of course, in Peter Penaia and Grant Wooden the Seagulls have two players very capable of drawing multiple defenders before getting the pass away.
Both had their moments in the Kougari deadlock, while half Jace Van Dijk grew in composure at the helm of his new team.
For Burleigh flyer Trent Purdon scored a hat-trick, including the last two tries of the match.
Jeremy Lateo was a revelation in attack off the bench, Josh McCartney showed promise as the Bears� new playmaker and Phil Ramage crept closer to a full-time Queensland Cup role.
Burleigh played without Aseri Laing, David Hicks and Faron Anderson because of injury and may be missing James Griffiths (back), Ryan Gundry (neck) and Adam Hayden (knee) for next week�s trial against Tweed Heads.
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