Union games at Mariners' home
A SMORGASBORD of rugby union is on the menu for Fraser Coast fans to feast on in Hervey Bay today.
Three games, the first of a new season in the Whale City, will be contested at Urangan’s Walkers Road Sports Complex, the home of the Fraser Coast Mariners.
The main game of the day will give union fans here the chance to see some of the best players in the state showcase their talent when the Sunshine Coast Stingrays and the Darling Downs collide in the Queensland Rugby Union Country Championship.
The Stingrays play in the Premier League in Brisbane and are coached by former Wallaby prop Glenn Panoho.
In the lead-up to the main clash, the Fraser Coast Mariners will go head-to-head against a combined Bundaberg line-up before the colts from the Sunshine Coast Stingrays and the Darling Downs go head-to-head.
The Stingrays have been training for two and a half months now and Panoho said his players, who include former Fraser Coast Mariners representative, flanker Tom Beattie, were eager to get out on the field.
“They’ve done all the hard work in training and now they want to get out there and have a game,” Panoho, who earned 21 caps as a Wallaby between 1998 and 2003, said.
While Panoho admitted that he would love to start the season with a first-up win, he said it wasn’t as easy as that.
“This is the first hit-out of the season for us and we’ve a got some new faces in the line-up,” Panoho said.
“It will take a while for them to find their feet and for our new combinations to gel.
“We’ve looked good in training but it’s a whole new ball game in a match situation – we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
The Stingrays will be captained by hooker Ben Church, someone who has just returned from playing in England.
Panoho said Church had earned the honour of captaining the team.
“The more leaders we have the better and he’s been rewarded for a very good off-season,” Panoho said.
“He’s played overseas and that kind of experience is invaluable.”
Among the other new faces in the Stingrays line-up is Kiwi recruit Maurice Stone, a five-eighth and goal kicker who has represented New Zealand in touch football.
Hervey Bay’s Andrew Beattie, the Queensland Rugby Union Wide Bay development officer, said having the Stingrays and Darling Downs play here was simply great for the game.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for fans here to see some high quality rugby union in their own backyard so to speak – it doesn’t get any better than that.”