10 June, 2024

Mareeba boys launch Aaron Payne Cup campaign

MAREEBA High School has launched its campaign in the 2024 national schoolboys’ rugby league competition with a first-round win and a second-round loss.

Mareeba High School’s Aaron Payne Cup team after the first-round win against Holy Spirit College, Mackay.
Mareeba High School’s Aaron Payne Cup team after the first-round win against Holy Spirit College, Mackay.

For the third year in a row, the school has entered the prestigious Aaron Payne Cup (open boys) (APC), a secondary school rugby league competition for schools in Far North, North and Central Queensland. It is a round robin competition, with the winner moving on to contest the state finals, the Phil Hall Cup.

The school is also fielding teams in sister competitions, the Cowboys Challenge (U15 boys) and the Karen Murphy Cup (open girls).

The school’s APC and challenge squads have taken on a new look this year, with the competition organiser, the NRL, endorsing Mareeba’s decision to boost its homegrown player stocks with players from southern Tableland schools.

The move, however, comes at a sacrifice – Mareeba’s APC team is unable to contest finals, regardless of the outcome of round games.

Clint Cifuentes, coach of the APC team and the driving force behind the school’s entry in the competition, said the decision to open the squads to players from outside Mareeba High School was not taken lightly, but was a necessary one to enable Mareeba to be competitive based on available players.

“First and foremost, we run the program using rugby league as a tool to get students back into the classroom,” Mr Cifuentes said.

“Although its early days, our focus is paying dividends.

“The involvement of talent identified players from schools in Atherton, Malanda, Ravenshoe and Herberton, and St Stephens in Mareeba, has allowed Mareeba High to continue to participate in the competition.

“It does mean that we won’t be able to contest the finals, as we are working outside the ‘school-based team’ rules of the competition.

“However, the expanded squad is a win-win – Mareeba gets to continue to compete in the competition, and we give an opportunity for other students across the Tablelands to play at this level too.”

Mr Cifuentes is pleased with the team’s response to training, with a focus on the “one per centers”, and fundamentals like ball control and defence, paying dividends.

Mareeba’s campaign has started well with a 30-4 win against Mackay’s Holy Spirit College (HSC) before going down, 22-10, to Mackay State High School in round two.

The challenge team recorded a first-round win against HSC but lost to Mackay High while the Karen Murphy Cup girls are undefeated after two rounds.

The team was set to play Monday against St Augustine College on Monday afternoon.


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