The Cyril Connell Challenge will begin this weekend and the legacy of the man the competition is named after will be fondly remembered by Brisbane Tigers coach Lote Tuqiri.
Cyril Connell played 21 games for Queensland and two games for Australia, but it was off the field that the former maths teacher at Brisbane State High and director of secondary education for Queensland excelled.
Connell was able to turn to his network of contacts, his driving skills and fondness for pie eating to successfully scan Queensland in search of talent, finding rising stars for the Brisbane Broncos for 19 years. There wasn’t a league playing boy in the state that didn’t know his name, including former Bronco Tuqiri.
On Saturday, two traditional foes will resume hostilities with the Tigers facing off against the Redcliffe Dolphins.
“Cyril Connell and Phil Hall brought me to the Broncos, I am very proud to be involved with the competition,” Tuqiri said of coaching in the Cyril Connell Challenge.
“I would like to think that Cyril will be looking down on Saturday doing his crossword and eating a pie.
“I can’t wait to start coaching. I am very excited for the players.
“We have done the hard work and played some trials and now we have to hit the ground running and gain momentum.
“I am ready to see Markatato Nosa, our half; I think he’s shown in the trial games that he’s ready to have big season.
“I want to see minimal errors and control the ruck.”
Redcliffe coach Chris Little is ready to face another Cyril Connell Challenge season with the club, having guided the Dolphins to an undefeated season last year.
“This season, we have great structures and system in place that are flowing down from the Hostplus Cup to our Cyril Connell side and that’s been a real positive,” Little said.
“Wayne Bennett (The Dolphins NRL coach) has been hands-on and involved and that’s been great.
“Scott Murray, the Hostplus Cup coach, has been involved, so every team is on the same page.”
With plenty of young talent in his side, Little was counting on players with more experience to share their knowledge with the rest of the team.
“I am looking forward to watching Prestyn Laine-Sietu and Tauave Leofa; both are players are in their second year of Cyril Connell, so they can build on last season and will be better for their second year,” Little said.
There are two more games taking place in Round 1 of the competition, with Tweed Seagulls hosting Burleigh Bears to launch the season.
The Seagulls were also undefeated in 2021, and will be aiming to make sure they maintain a high standard of play again in 2022.
Local rivals the Bears will have goals of their own and will be looking forward to taking on the Seagulls and making sure they start the year with a win at Tugun on Saturday.
The remaining game of the opening weekend of action will pit Norths Devils against Wynnum Manly Seagulls.
Both teams will be aiming to build on their results from last season which saw the Seagulls post one win, while the Devils were unable to claim a victory despite their best efforts.
With fresh intent to start the new season, both teams will be hoping the hard work they have been doing in the pre-season will pa dividends on the field.