Cowboys are primed

Warwick Cowboys up against Wattle Warriors in 2023. Picture: Chris Munro

By Tania Phillips and Glyn Rees

Warwick Cowboys will be hoping to build on last year’s performance, making the semi finals, when they start their Toowoomba Rugby League 2024 season at Newton on Saturday night.

Coach Col Speed said his side had been training since the last two weeks of November in preparation for the season and everyone was looking to finally getting back on the paddock.

“You can train until the cows come home but it’s better when you have a game, the pot at the end of the rainbow to train for,” he said.

“The boys have been really good, it’s been a long preseason but they’ve adapted really well and come out the other side and we will be a lot better for it.

“We have had two trials, we’ve been happy with certain sections of our trials. Last week (against near neighbours and rivals Wattles) we were very disappointed in that performance but we will regroup and get better for this weekend.

“I think we trialled a couple of combinations in the game – some worked and some didn’t but that’s what trials are for.”

This weekend’s opponents Newtown were second last in the 2023 season but Speed believes they will be a lot better and stronger this year.

He said it wasn’t a game they would be taking lightly.

“They’ve got a new coach and their coaches son is playing – he plays halfback and he’s a really good touch player, I haven’t seen him play league before but apparently he’s a pretty good half back,” Speed said.

“They’ve got another halfback from the Western Clydesdales who is dual registered with them as well so he’s pretty handy. They’ve picked up a few recruits – I’m not sure of their ability yet but they’ve got a really good fullback, and we expect them to come to play footy.”

Newtown won a hard-fought trial on 24 March against Rosewood 12-6 in wet conditions and with the club also using the game is an Old Boys reunion day they will have plenty to play for and plenty of support.

Speed said his side was strong in defence last year and this year they would be looking to improve their attack, their attacking options and decision making.

He said they needed to be patient and build pressure rather than score in the first set of six.

“We need to build pressure and maintain pressure,” the coach said.

The main game, at the Jack Martin Centre, kicks off at 6pm with the reserves playing from 4.30pm. With Newtown not having a 19s, the Cowboys youngsters will have to wait until next week’s clash with Wattles to start their season.

Meanwhile the Allora-Clifton based Wattles Warriors launch their 58th year in the Toowoomba Rugby League competition on Sunday when they run on against the Oakey Bears at Platz Oval.

The Travis Burns coached Wattles A Grade side finished 4th in the 2023 premiership, but an enthusiastic band of Bears under coach Wes Amau are looking forward to an intense battle on the Warriors home turf.

Oakey recently matched up against Brothers for the pre-season Mark Barrett Shield, Brothers snaring the honours in a closely fought 22 – 18 win.

Wattles two match pre-season has seen them head into the new fixture season with an unblemished record after a 24 – 14 success over Pittsworth and last week’s 22 – 12 Barrett Family Shield victory over the Warwick Cowboys.

Burns’ Warriors looked a well-oiled unit against the Cowboys, and while the coach is inclined to stick with his tested Barrett Shield line-up, former Queensland Rangers half and six-time club Player of the Year Matt Duggan will ease back into his favoured number seven jumper for Sunday’s clash.

Duggan wore Wattles colours from 2013 until the club’s Grand Final success of 2022, before linking up with the Western Clydesdales in the state wide Hostplus Cup last year.

Both he and returning star fullback Jackson Green will add another dimension to the Warriors attacking arsenal.

Reserve Grade

The Wattles reserve grade side my have finished behind Warwick 6 – 12 in their recent trial, but coach Tony Morris has full confidence in his Warriors outfit’s ability to perform against Oakey.

Coach Morris is looking forward to the inclusion of 2023 first grade play maker Tom Morris, and seeing more of newcomer and flying finisher Isaac Leach.

Wattles Cameron Hamblin coached ‘Black Toyota’ Under 19 team will sit the first fixture round out given the Oakey Bears won’t be fielding a team in that age group this season.

Wattles Warriors will take on Oakey Bears at Platz Oval, Clifton: A Grade, 2.30 pm, reserve grade 1pm on Sunday.

In other games: Saturday: Gatton take on Goodiwindi at Cahill Park, Highfields play Toowoomba Valleys at Kuhls Road Oval. Sunday: Dalby play Pittsworth at Dalby and Southern Suburbs play Brothers at Gold Park.