Titans players set for friendly fire
Mate against mate will stretch beyond the Origin arena on Sunday when Titans team-mates face off in another fiery local derby between Tweed Heads and Burleigh in Round 17 of the Intrust Super Cup.
Training alongside each other for the majority of the week 11 months of the year, players such as Kalifa Faifai Loa, Jamal Fogarty, Tom Kingston, Cody Nelson and Sam Irwin (Tweed Heads) will put friendships to one side for 80 minutes when they face the Burleigh contingent of Mark Ioane, Steve Michaels, Anthony Don, Matt Beddow and Siuatonga Likiliki.
These two sides clashed in Round 10's Rivalry Round and on that occasion the high-flying Seagulls handed out a 28-0 drubbing against the Bears on their home turf at Pizzey Park.
In somewhat of a rivalry round redux, Sunday's match between the Seagulls and Bears is one of two matches featuring teams who enjoy a healthy and long-standing competiveness. The other contest will see the Northern Pride host the Central Queensland Capras at Barlow Park in Cairns.
However, based on their current positions on the ladder, the Gold Coast clash is where the real fireworks will take place as a string of Titans-based players lock horns at Piggabeen Sports Complex.
For fringe Gold Coast Titan and Burleigh prop Mark Ioane, who has played a total of 10 NRL games, the Gold Coast derby offers a chance to ignite intra-club hostilities and provide a competitive platform to help players leap back into the NRL arena.
Adding extra spice to the clash is that Tweed Heads are currently on an eight-match winning streak, while Burleigh has won three-straight and have scored 110 points in their past two matches, which has New Zealand-born Ioane excited at the prospect of an enthralling game on Sunday afternoon.
"We all look forward to it. I've only been here two years but the feedback from the boys that have been here for a while is that Burleigh and Tweed is a big game," Ioane told NRL.com.
"We're excited. We're not team-mates when we're on the field, we're enemies. We get into each other and stuff. We were just talking about it at training that we were going to give it to each other so that's only normal."
Burleigh and Tweed usually only meet twice a season, but according to Ioane, some of his Titans team-mates treat the match with an Origin-like intensity that throws NRL club loyalties aside in the days leading up to kick-off.
"Probably Beau Henry [gets fired-up the most], but unfortunately he's not playing this weekend for Tweed, he's out injured," he said.
"Kalifa [Faifai Loa] is one of the ones that has been giving it to us at training. Sammy Irwin is a more quiet, laidback guy so he doesn't say too much and Tommy Kingston, who is doing real well for them, he doesn't say too much either – he's just waiting for the game I guess.
"[The Tweed boys] keep giving it to us that they've won eight in a row at training, we just keep hearing about it every day, we never hear the end of it."
One disappointing aspect of Sunday's anticipated derby is the 2pm kick-off time, which clashes with the Titans' Round 15 NRL match against the Dragons at Robina, although Ioane is still expecting a frosty reception from the vocal Tweed Heads crowd.
"We know that the majority of the crowd will go and support the Titans, but we'll do our job and hopefully we can get a few out there to support us," he said.
"We know that we've got a few loyal fans there that are always at our games that will be there."
The remaining matches to conclude Round 17 see Wynnum Manly Seagulls travel up the Bruce Highway to take on the bottom-placed Sunshine Coast Falcons. Currently on a Queensland Rugby League record of 34 straight defeats, the Falcons copped a 60-6 hiding by the Bears last weekend, but always perform above expectation at their Stockland Stadium home which was evident in their heartbreaking 15-14 loss to the Pride a fortnight ago.
Ipswich Jets hosts the Norths Devils and will be looking to bounce back from three consecutive defeats which have them in danger of slipping outside the top five. The Devils, currently in eighth spot, also have an incentive to reverse their recent fortunes, coming off a 40-point hiding against Wynnum Manly.
Easts Tigers make the daunting trip to Papua New Guinea to take on the Hunters and if they can reverse their toothless display in last weekend's 44-20 loss to the Pride, they will leapfrog PNG on the table and move back into finals contention.
The final match of Round 17 is the Channel Nine game on Sunday featuring Souths Logan Magpies and Redcliffe Dolphins. Only one point separates these sides on the ISC ladder and a win is a must for both teams as they look to stay within striking distance of the top five with only six points currently separating second place from 10th.