North Queensland Rugby community come together ahead of Reds season opener in Townsville

Fri, Feb 24, 2023, 11:31 PM
by Queensland Rugby Media Unit
Tom Christie in action for Queensland Country Heelers in Narrabri.
Tom Christie in action for Queensland Country Heelers in Narrabri.

While the Queensland Reds prepare to face the Hurricanes in their Round 1 Super Rugby Pacific opener at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium this Saturday night, the weekend will also see the North Queensland Rugby community come together with Cairns, Mackay and Townsville teams prepared for a day of matches.

Headlined by the senior men’s clash between 2022 Far North Queensland and Townsville premiers, James Cook University (JCU) Mariners and Brothers Townsville, both junior club and school teams from each region will square off.

The Mariners and Brothers will play for the Grigg-Cockbain Cup, named after two North Queensland products, Peter Grigg and Matt Cockbain, who went on to represent both Queensland and the Wallabies.

Greig, who grew up in Mareeba, then made the move to Townsville where he starred in the senior competition with Teachers Wests and Ross River Redskins. Cockbain, grew up in Innisfail before forging both his state and International career.

“It’s an exciting weekend ahead for Rugby in North Queensland,” said Tom Christie, Queensland Rugby Union’s Regional Manager in North Queensland, who will also form part of the JCU line-up.

“To have the Reds bring their Round 1 Super Rugby clash to the North is great for the Rugby community up here.

“From a Cairns perspective I know the game has been well received and I know we have school teams as well as junior and senior clubs making the trek down to Townsville for the weekend.

“While FNQ and Townsville play each other in representative Rugby, the chance for clubs to play outside their own competition is rare so this is a great opportunity for teams from these regions this weekend to come together for some great games of Rugby.”

Christie is one of a number of players in the JCU line-up who have also played Queensland Premier Rugby, but having grown up in Warwick on Queensland’s Southern Darling Downs, Christie is enjoying the chance to reengage with Country Rugby, having also been part of the Queensland Country Heelers recent win over NSW Country in Narrabri as part of the Santos Festival of Rugby.

“It’s the most organic form of Rugby you can play.

“A lot of the Premier Rugby clubs in Brisbane have six-seven senior teams so if someone is missing on game day there are plenty of players ready for their chance to step up.

“In Country Rugby, where clubs might only have one-or-two senior teams, the connections you have with each other are naturally tighter in a smaller group and you really rely on each other.”

Joining Christie in the JCU line-up is former University of Queensland captain Jack de Guingand, a doctor by trade now based in Cairns, who has won a Dewar Shield in Melbourne, the Shute Shield in Sydney and a number of Hospital Cups in Brisbane.

Having won the Far North Queensland title with JCU last year, Christie jokes that the Grigg-Cockbain Cup is the one trophy de Guingand hasn’t won because he simply hasn’t played for it yet.

“This cup is the only thing Jack hasn’t won in Australia Club Rugby and that is simply because he hasn’t had the opportunity to play for it yet,” he said.

“Jokes aside Jack is an exceptional player and he has brought a lot of Rugby IQ to Far North Queensland and he is a great role model within the Rugby community.”

Presenting the Grigg-Cockbain Cup tomorrow will be Queensland Country board member Murray Harley, who this weekend was recognised for his long-standing service to his former club Townsville Brothers, as well as Country Rugby throughout the state, with life membership.

Matches at Townsville and District Rugby Union will kick off at 12:00pm, seeing junior boys and girls teams from Cairns, Mackay and Townsville go head-to-head. For mor information, head to the Townsville & District Rugby Union Facebook page.