Intrust Super Cup Country Week preview
The Intrust Super Cup is heading outback in Round 23 as the Queensland Rugby League celebrates ‘Get in the Game’ Country Week.
Locations from Dalby to Innisfail and Bundaberg to Blackall will host games as Queensland’s premier rugby league competition begins to heat up with finals fast approaching.
This season the QRL will support the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) with a percentage of gate takings from all venues to be donated to the non-for-profit organisation.
"We believe Country Week is one of the most important events on the QRL calendar," said QRL head of football Neil Wharton.
"We're well aware of just how vital rugby league in country areas is to the game's future and it's important that we provide as much support as possible to our regional clubs and their communities."
While the QRL's initiative aims to keep the RFDS in the air, both the ladder-leading Townsville Blackhawks and entertaining Ipswich Jets are looking to keep each other grounded in the opening game of the round in Charters Towers.
The Blackhawks-Jets clash is one of four games to be played across the state on Saturday, with a further three matches to be played on Sunday including the second-placed PNG Hunters hosting third-placed Wynnum Manly Seagulls at Port Moresby.
Ipswich won their first encounter against Townsville this season in Round 2 after jumping out to a 24-0 lead after 30 minutes, surviving a second-half comeback by the Blackhawks to win 36-24.
Bill Lewis Oval in Charters Towers will host its second Cup game after previously playing host to the North Queensland Young Guns team in 2005 which included current NRL stars Matt Scott, Scott Bolton and Gavin Cooper.
The Jets' Marmin Barba only requires one try to equal Don Malone's club record of 22 tries in a season while Blackhawks winger Zac Santo is the competition's leading try scorer with 23 tries.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the CQ Capras host Tweed Heads Seagulls at Bundaberg's Salter Oval; Easts Tigers and the Souths Logan Magpies clash at the Blackall Showgrounds and Norths Devils and Mackay Cutters meet at Dalby Leagues Ground.
Sunday's match-up between the PNG Hunters and Wynnum Manly Seagulls at Port Moresby is the only match of Country Week to be played outside of regional Queensland.
The last time Michael Marum's men played at Sir John Guise Stadium a sell-out crowd of 15,000 watched them defeat Souths Logan 34-12 in Round 14.
While both teams are entrenched in the top six, there is still plenty to play for on Sunday as the Hunters are level with Townsville in the race for the minor premiership.
Wynnum Manly could make a late run for a coveted top-two finish if they can upset the Hunters on their home soil.
Finishing first or second would ensure the Seagulls cannot be knocked out of the finals in Week One, although a more likely scenario for the bayside club is a third or four placed finish and a home semi-final.
Veteran Broncos forward David Stagg won’t be travelling to PNG, with former Brisbane under-20s skipper Stephen Coombe coming into the 17.
In Sunday's other matches, the Redcliffe Dolphins must beat defending premiers Northern Pride at Innisfail's Callendar Park to have any hope of keeping their finals ambitions alive, while Channel Nine's televised match will feature the Sunshine Coast Falcons and Burleigh Bears at Sullivan Oval in Stanthorpe with coverage beginning from 1.30pm.