FRONTRUNNERS: Brothers are currently leading the under-20s competition.
FRONTRUNNERS: Brothers are currently leading the under-20s competition. Rob Williams

'Anything possible' in topsy turvy under-20 series

RUGBY LEAGUE: The Rugby League Ipswich Under-20s premiership race is wide open this season.

Any of the teams could launch into a run and take the title, with each capable of beating the rest on their best day.

The start of the competition was delayed so teams do not face each other as often over the course of the season and it is running three weeks behind A-Grade.

After nine rounds, Raceview power- house Brothers (23) is currently setting the pace, closely followed by Goodna (18), Redbank Plains (16) and Norths (13).

Every outfit has recorded wins and losses. Even frontrunners Brothers have been beaten twice by the Eagles.

In the latest fixtures, Brothers travelled cross-town to Keith Sternberg Oval to face a spirited Norths Tigers and came away 32-24 victors.

Meanwhile, the mighty Redbank Plains Bears delivered their best performance of the year to upstage Goodna 40-26 in front of the Eagles' home crowd.

Rugby League Ipswich chairman Gary Parker said it took a couple of teams some time to find their feet but the competition was intensifying as combinations formed.

He said Brothers and Goodna were favourites to lift the trophy at the halfway mark but Norths and Redbank Plains could emerge as dark horses as the season progressed and players from the private school system joined late.

"It has been a bit topsy turvy - very close," he said. "It has not been a walkover. Anything is possible.

"Both Redbank and Norths have plenty of potential for improvement.

"They have been trying hard and enjoying themselves each week."

The NRL and QRL handed down a directive at the start of the season to leagues across Australia which stated under-18s were to be considered juniors and under-20s would have their own separate competitions.

However, many believe the local under-20s competition does not feature enough teams to be considered viable.

Parker tends to agree with them, suggesting it would be ideal if each A-Grade side had an under-20s side. But he remains adamant that Rugby League Ipswich must maintain a 20s age group for the good health of the overall competition.

Though a firm believer that if players are good enough at 18, they should be competing in senior football, he realises that there is a surplus of players who need to be catered for.

"It is a natural progression," Parker said.

"I'd sooner see them play 20s than Second Division.

"If it does not continue it would be to the detriment of the Ipswich competition as a whole."

He applauded the clubs, which worked hard to assemble line-ups this year and said planning for next year would begin next week.

"We want to get the message out now and push it forward next year," he said.

"The clubs meet on Wednesday and we'll be asking for feedback.

"I would like to see the senior clubs take under-20s and run with it next year.

"The only way forward is to have a successful under-20s."

Tom Bushnell

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