Ignatius Park College’s rugby league squad returns to Brisbane next week to chase a Confraternity Carnival milestone that has eluded so many schools.
The Townsville school is seeking its third successive Confraternity Shield as the Division 1 champions when the 2023 Carnival begins next Monday at St Laurence’s College’s playing fields at Runcorn.
Two schools have achieved the three-peat previously in more than four decades of Confro history: St Patrick’s College, Mackay (1988-92) and Ignatius Park College (2011-2013).
Another seven schools have attempted a third successive win without success, underlining the competitive nature of the carnival.
But Ignatius Park can draw on that 2011-2013 era when current Norths Devils coach Dave Elliott guided one of the best teams in Confro history.
The 2012 team came to Shorncliffe to defend their title with a team including Valentine Holmes, Coen Hess and player of the carnival Kieran Quabba.
Ignatius Park College will compete under new leadership this year with two-time winning coach Steven Lansley transferring to new Division 3 team Southern Cross College.
Zeb Kyle is now head coach, following his work leading Townsville Blackhawks Under 18s to the Mal Meninga Cup grand final.
Kyle said the players were excited to compete this year with their attitude and defence helping deliver strong results in other competitions leading up to the Carnival. Kyle said about five players from last season’s champions will return this year.
“I’ve been really impressed with the attitude among the group during the season,” Kyle said.
“Our defensive efforts in our games during the (north Queensland open schools’) Aaron Payne Cup give me confidence that we’ll be a tough competitor for any teams we come up against during Confro.
“It’s been a demanding few months for a lot of the boys with little time between other competitions. The focus this week is on recovery so the boys feel fresh for a big week of footy coming up.”
The Ignatius Park team have battled hard in the first three rounds of the Aaron Payne Cup with their first meeting against last year’s Confro grand finalists St Patrick’s College, Mackay.
Despite a tough loss against the Mackay team, Ignatius Park fought back in round two to force a draw against Kirwan State High School and would later claim victory in round three against Trinity Bay State High School. Ignatius Park will have a chance at redemption against St Patrick’s College in round four which is set for July 12.
When asked what key messages he’d given the group ahead of this year’s Carnival, Kyle said he had kept it very simple.
“I just want them to really enjoy the whole week,” Kyle said.
“Obviously it’s a Carnival where winning and losing matters but it should always be a Carnival they enjoy regardless of the result.
“We want the boys to enjoy each others’ company away from the footy and make sure we’re doing things we enjoy away from footy too.
“In the end, they’re just schoolboys playing footy so it’s always got to come back to that.”
Working alongside Kyle this year is assistant coach Dylan O’Connor. Included in the coach staff is ex-student now strength and condition coach, Matthew Stark.
The boys’ selected in this year’s team will have their jumpers presented to them by their parents at a special evening on the Friday before the Carnival.
Kyle said there had been a really strong showing of support from parents and the wider Townsville community for the players.
“Although it’s my first year as head coach, it’s really impressed me how strong the community support is for the boys,” Mr Kyle said.
“You can expect that a lot of parents will be making the trip to Brisbane to support their son and their school and that’s always really important.”