By Kevin Braysher
A happy and stable off-season has the Essential Coffee Burleigh Bears primed for the start of their Intrust Super Cup title defence.
Burleigh will enter the 2020 season on March 15 as the defending champions with the majority of the championship winning team back in Bears colours for another year.
Rick Stone’s return to the role of coach has been a smooth transition, with the two-time premiership winning mentor praising the professionalism and leadership of his squad.
“These boys have been terrific to work with,” he said. “Their structures and footy principals are sound, so it’s been really enjoyable working with them.
“We’ve got some good young up-and-coming players and some really good leaders within the group who make sure that they’re not comfortable just staying where they’re at and they want to continue to improve.”
The vast majority of the 2019 premiership winning side ran out for Burleigh’s 18-16 trial win over the Gold Coast Titans at Pizzey Park.
Grand final man of the match Kurtis Rowe scored a double, while skipper Luke Page also went over for a try of his own.
Page will again lead the Bears in 2020, with Jamal Fogarty and Pat Politoni in charge of steering the team around the park.
“It’s a unique leadership combination; Luke Page is our captain and our inspirational leader, while Jamal Fogarty and Pat Politoni are the guys who pull all the strings and manage the team on the park,” Stone said.
“I think everybody loves the way Pagey plays and how he gets the boys to follow him, which is great. His style is terrific, and he probably had one of the best seasons of his career last year. He didn’t get back until January, but he came back jumping around, enthusiastic and ready to play footy again.
“When we start talking about a bit of game planning and figuring out what we’re doing, Fogarty and Politoni are the two boys steering the ship for us. Everybody is pretty comfortable with that arrangement and we’ll be going forward like that.”
The Bears will be without lock Sam Coster for the first four to six weeks of the season due to off-season groin surgery, but otherwise look likely to be at full strength for their grand final rematch with Wynnum Manly Seagulls in Round 1.
Stone said the remainder of the pre-season will be about locking in his Round 1 side and continuing to fine-tune their attack.
“Trials are trails, so you can’t look too far into results, but our boys were hungry and worked hard for each other,” he said of their performance against the Titans.
“Defensively we looked good, we probably need to keep fine tuning our attack, but it was a good solid hit out, we got through it without any injuries and the boys enjoyed themselves.
“They’re pretty comfortable around each other, these lads. They’ve been together for a while and know their jobs well.”
Burleigh’s season kicks off on March 15 at Pizzey Park when they host the Wynnum Manly Seagulls.