Matt Harris, Queensland Correspondent
Kalifa Faifai Loa has been given one final chance to press for selection in the Gold Coast Titans team for Round 1 after being named in the centres for Tweed Heads Seagulls in the opening round of the Intrust Super Cup this weekend.
The opening round of 2014 marks an exciting new chapter in the Intrust Super Cup with the PNG Hunters to make their debut against the Redcliffe Dolphins in Redcliffe. The Hunters have been impressive in pre-season trial matches to date and the entire competition will be on tenterhooks seeing how they perform first up away from home.
For fringe NRL players such as Faifai Loa, this weekend’s matches also act as a final opportunity to impress in the lead-up to Round 1 of the NRL Telstra Premiership.
Since arriving on the Gold Coast Faifai Loa has impressed players and coaching staff alike with his work ethic and remains in contention for a centre spot as coach John Cartwright juggles five players vying for two positions.
Siuatonga Likiliki is another endeavouring to force his way into Cartwright's 17 for Round 1, named in the centres for Burleigh Bears in their clash with Central Queensland Capras at Pizzey Park on Sunday.
Another player looking to impress is former Parramatta Eel Matt Keating, brother of the Bulldogs’ Kris Keating, who will line up in his preferred role at hooker for the Burleigh Bears.
Keating will be hoping to find himself on Titans’ coach John Cartwright’s radar after being told he was not wanted at the Eels for season 2014 by then coach Ricky Stuart and could be the beneficiary of an injury crisis in the Titans' hooking ranks.
Then there are the fringe Broncos, with Liam Georgetown, Aaron Whitchurch, David Hala (Redcliffe Dolphins) and Francis Molo (Norths Devils) all looking to begin their seasons strongly to increase their chances of seeing NRL football during the State of Origin period where the Broncos are notoriously short on troops.
The PNG Hunters have named four players who featured for the Kumuls in the 2013 World Cup, five-eighth Israel Eliab will captain the side which also features Roger Laka (halfback), Joe Bruno (prop) and lock Sebastien Pandia.
Let’s not forget the coaches, with the main talking point in the coaching arena the return of former Broncos coach Ivan Henjak, who will be looking to improve the fortunes of the Sunshine Coast Falcons, who finished in bottom place last season with only two victories.
There are also a handful of ex-NRL players at the helm of ISC teams, with former Broncos Ben and Shane Walker (Ipswich Jets), Bulldogs hooker Jason Hetherington (Central Queensland Capras) and former Cowboys centre Josh Hannay making his coaching debut at the helm of the Souths Logan Magpies.
For the complete list of Intrust Super Cup Round 1 teams click here.