Intrust Super Cup trials kick off
Central Queensland Capras coach Jason Hetherington is confident that he has the depth in 2014 to cover the loss of French prop Sebastien Martins should he earn a full-time contract with the Brisbane Broncos.
Due to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Dylan in north Queensland, the Capras opening trial of the year against Mackay on Sunday has been moved from Mackay to Rockhampton and Hetherington is eager to see how his squad of 41 shapes up ahead of Round 1.
Martins was a new signing for the Capras in the off-season but has spent the majority of the pre-season training with the Broncos as part of an arrangement between the clubs that has also seen fellow front-rowers Arlin Paki and Sam Pierce further their education at Red Hill over the summer.
While Paki and Pierce have both returned to Rockhampton, Martins remains in the hunt for a Broncos contract but Hetherington believes the long-term benefits to the Capras will be significant.
"Arlin will go back down for the [Broncos'] trial against the Cowboys at Redcliffe [on February 8] so that's good for our program and good for the boys," Hetherington told NRL.com.
"Sammy Pierce did the six-week pre-season and he's a young fella who has learned a lot. He's come back in good shape and confident and speaking well. His talk's good for a young bloke and his confidence levels are real high which is good, it helps us.
"Seb's been four or five years in a full-time program with the Catalans Dragons and he's just come to Australia for an opportunity; I was willing to give him one. I had a word to 'Hook' (Broncos coach Anthony Griffin) and they've had a real good look at him and they're real impressed with him.
"If he's in their 18, that's what I want for him and for our program. Two scenarios, one the Broncs sign him and keep him down there and we get him back on the weekends or they send him up here, he lives up here, he plays with us and they take him when they need him.
"I feel really proud to give them that opportunity, that's what I'm here for."
Without a direct association with an NRL club, trials take on greater importance for the Capras as Hetherington deals with a high turnover of players and the likelihood that he will need to call on a greater number of players during the course of the season.
"To try and get that consistent squad together week in and week out is certainly pretty hard. It still is, due to work commitments," the former Queensland Origin and Australia hooker said.
"We rely on a lot of passion and commitment. We play with a lot of passion and pride and commitment but on a consistent basis, it certainly makes it tougher.
"I've got to do a lot of planning and you've got to have a plan B if guys get called out for work out of town so it's always going to be a bit of a challenge. Until we can get an NRL side in 'Rocky' or in central Queensland, that's just how it's going to be."
With the Intrust Super Cup season to kick off on March 1, six sides are ramping up their preparations with trials throughout Queensland this weekend. The Ipswich Jets are hosting 2013 runners-up Easts Tigers at Laidley, the Northern Pride will play the Cowboys' Holden Cup team in Cairns, Burleigh play the recently renamed Sunshine Coast Falcons at Mudgeeraba and on Sunday the Tweed Heads Seagulls play the Titans under-20s in a trial at Cudgen.
Intrust Super Cup trials
Saturday, February 1
Ipswich Jets v Easts Tigers (Laidley Recreation Ground, Laidley, 5.30pm)
Northern Pride v Cowboys NYC (Stan Williams Park, Cairns, 4pm)
Burleigh Bears v Sunshine Coast Falcons (Firth Park, Mudgeeraba, 6pm)
Sunday, February 2
CQ Capras v Mackay Cutters (Browne Park, Rockhampton, 3pm)
Tweed Heads v Titans NYC (Cudgen, 6.30pm)
Click here for full details of this weekend's Intrust Super Cup trials