Before Round 1: Dissecting the RLM A-Grade draw
WESTS Tigers will not have to wait long to chase revenge for their 2019 Rugby League Mackay & District A-Grade grand final defeat.
In the 2020 fixture released this morning, the Tigers will travel to Les Stagg Oval to face their grand final conquerors the Whitsunday Brahmans in the opening round of the season.
We cast an early eye over the fixture and highlight some key takeaways ahead of March 28.
March 28 - Whitsunday v Wests at Les Stagg Oval
March 28 - Moranbah v Carltons at Darryl Burke Oval
March 29 - Magpies v Souths at Sologinkin Oval
March 29 - Sarina v Brothers at Ray Edwards Oval
Takeaways: The big one here is obviously the grand final rematch between the Brahmans and Tigers. Eyes will be on the Brahmans who have had a big overhaul in personnel since last season's success. The Tigers meanwhile have been quiet on the recruiting front, but knowing coach Craig Menkins they will have some tricks up their sleeve.
At Moranbah, the Miners and Carltons are two sides tipped to improve this season and their Round 1 meeting will be a good litmus test for exactly how competitive the two sides will be this season.
When Magpies and Souths played in Round 1 last year, the Sharks escaped with a last-gasp try down the right edge. The atmosphere was electric at Sologinkin Oval then, and expect it to be no different this time out.
At Sarina, the Crocs will debut a potent forward pack with plenty of ex-NRL and Super League talent. Will their stacked team on paper translate to on-field performance? What will Brothers offer up to open their campaign?
April 4 - Magpies v Moranbah at Sologinkin Oval
April 4 - Carltons v Sarina at MJRL
April 5 - Souths v Whitsunday at Shark Park
April 5 - Wests v Brothers at Tiger Park
Takeaways: With top talent fleshing out their ranks in the off-season, Moranbah is expected to contest for a finals place. But how will the Miners handle their first road trip of the season?
Conversely, Carltons will play their first home game of the 2020 season against a Sarina side desperate to be given more competition credibility.
If Souths want to make Shark Park the fortress it once was, a statement win over the reigning premiers would go a long way toward planting that flag in the ground - but can they do it? In 2019 they couldn't.
On the topic of fortresses, Tiger Park will undoubtedly be rocking on April 5 when Wests welcome Brothers for their first home game of the campaign. Two tough road games to open the season for the Fish. We will know a lot about their stock after two rounds gone.
April 18 - Carltons v Magpies at MJRL
April 18 - Moranbah v Whitsunday at Darryl Burke Oval
April 19 - Sarina v Wests at Ray Edwards Oval
April 19 - Brothers v Souths at Leprechaun Park
Takeaways: The Battle of Milton Street headlines Round 3, with Brothers and Souths duking it out at Leprechaun Park. But the juicy match-ups continue throughout.
By Round 3 the footy tragics will have a fair idea about how the Brahmans are building on their premiership campaign - but how will they handle a road trip to a much-improved Miners?
The same can be said for Wests when they travel to Ray Edwards Oval. If early expectations are true, the Crocs may enter Round 3 undefeated and this one could be a doozy.
April 25 - Sarina v Magpies at Ray Edwards Oval
April 25 - Souths v Carltons at Shark Park
April 26 - Wests v Moranbah at Tiger Park
April 26 - Brothers v Whitsunday at Leprechaun Park
Takeaways: Jardine Bobongie's return to Shark Park will have to wait until Round 4, but it should be worth it. One of the favourite sons of Mackay Rugby League returned to his roots in the off-season when he swapped the Sharks' blue for the Devils' red. His talents have been appreciated by many teams in the Mackay competition, but this being his most recent defection makes it the most interesting.
Brothers was arguably the most polarising team in 2019. Their best could beat anyone but their worst, was, well, bad. How they fare at home against the reigning premiers will go a long way toward telling us where Brothers sit in the hierarchy of teams.
May 9 - Moranbah v Sarina at Darryl Burke Oval
May 9 - Whitsunday v Carltons at Les Stagg Oval
May 10 - Magpies v Brothers at Sologinkin Oval
May 10 - Souths v Wests at Shark Park
Takeaways:Two proud townships keen to prove their worth will go head-to-head in what shapes as a belter at Darryl Burke Oval. Both have brought in former NRL players to their ranks and both will fancy their chances of a defining Round 5 win.
Carltons president Beau Hargrave told the Daily Mercury this week the Devils are on the road to a better place after enduring a tough few seasons. Just how much they have improved will be put to the test on arguably the hardest road trip in the competition, away to the Brahmans.
May 16 - Whitsunday v Magpies at Les Stagg Oval
May 16 - Brothers v Moranbah at Leprechaun Park
May 17 - Souths v Sarina at Shark Park
May 17 - Carltons v Wests at MJRL
Takeaways: Round 6 is about where people start making their knee jerk premiership predictions. It was at this point last season where the Brahmans looked untouchable - that was until Steve Jackson's Magpies knocked them off their perch in a 24-20 thriller. The two will meet in Round 6 2020 as well, though this time on the Brahmans' home turf.
May 30 - Moranbah v Souths at Darryl Burke Oval
May 30 - Sarina v Whitsunday at Ray Edwards Oval
May 31 - Wests v Magpies at Tiger Park
May 31 - Carltons v Wests at MJRL
Takeaways: 2019 premiership winner Ivan Petelo will face his former club for the first time in Round 7, when Sarina welcomes the Brahmans to Ray Edwards Oval. If the Crocs are to be a genuine threat in 2020, this will be the game to prove it.
June 6 - Wests v Whitsunday at Tiger Park
June 6 - Souths v Magpies at Shark Park
June 7 - Brothers v Sarina at Leprechaun Park
June 7 - Carltons v Moranbah at MJRL
Takeaways: The second meeting between the two 2019 grand finalists, this time at Wests' Tiger Park home, promises to be a thriller.
The Round 1 repeat fixture will give Rugby League Mackay pundits the best indication yet of where teams stack up entering the back half of the season.
June 13 - Brothers v Wests at Leprechaun Park
June 13 - Sarina v Carltons at Ray Edwards oval
June 14 - Moranbah v Magpies at Darryl Burke oval
June 14 - Whitsunday v Souths at Les Stagg Oval
Takeaways:If Souths want to be taken seriously as title contenders, a strong showing on the road to the Brahmans would go a long way to raising eyebrows around the competition. Ladder places pending, a win would not be vital, but a poor showing against the benchmark Brahmans would leave some asking questions.
June 27 - Magpies v Carltons at Sologinkin Oval
June 27 - Whitsunday v Moranbah at Les Stagg Oval
June 28 - Wests v Sarina at Tiger Park
June 28 - Souths v Brothers at Shark Park
Takeaways: Take two for the Battle of Milton Street, this time at Shark Park. Home field advantage proved the difference in 2019, when the Sharks and Fish took turns putting the other to the sword. For the sake of neutral fans, let us hope the contest is a little closer this time around.
July 4 - Carltons v Souths at MJRL
July 4 - Whitsunday v Brothers at Les Stagg Oval
July 5 - Moranbah v Wests at Darryl Burke Oval
July 5 - Magpies v Sarina at Sologinkin Oval
Takeaways: One might consider Round 11 to be the beginning of the run into finals, and wins at this time of the year hold a little extra weight. Though still worth two points, form in July more easily translates to form in August than anything clubs do at the start of the season. If the competition this year is as close as some anticipate, Round 11 could shape the finals format.
July 18 - Wests v Souths at Tiger Park
July 18 - Brothers v Magpies at Leprechaun Park
July 19 - Sarina v Moranbah at Ray Edwards Oval
July 19 - Carltons v Whitsunday at MJRL
Takeaways: Trap game for the Brahmans? Can the Sharks go on the road and leave Tiger Park with a pre-finals mental edge? Which of Sarina and Moranbah will stay finals relevant? And will the 2019 inconsistency demons which haunted Magpies and Brothers continue, or have the two proud clubs rectified their errors by this point of the campaign?
July 25 - Wests v Carltons at Tiger Park
July 25 - Moranbah v Brothers at Darryl Burke Oval
July 26 - Sarina v Souths at Ray Edwards Oval
July 26 - Magpies v Whitsunday at Sologinkin Oval
Takeaways: The Brahmans lowered their colours to Magpies at Sologinkin Oval last season - can the Magpies put in a repeat performance this time around? By Round 13 the formlines will have well and truly be settled, though as Steve Jackson's men proved in 2019, nothing is certain.
August 1 - Magpies v Wests at Sologinkin Oval
August 1 - Souths v Moranbah at Shark Park
August 2 - Brothers v Carltons at Leprechaun Park
August 2 - Whitsunday v Sarina at Les Stagg Oval
Takeaways: Casting this far ahead is a fool's errand, but so is dissecting an entire season through fixture alone. If the team the Crocs have built on paper can put it together on the field, then by Round 14 the August 2 trip to Les Stagg Oval could have significant finals ramifications.
The same can be said for the Sologinkin Oval meeting between Magpies and Wests.
ELIMINATION / QUALIFYING FINAL
August 9 at MJRL
August 16 at MJRL
August 23 at MJRL
August 30 at BB Print Stadium