13 Nov 2015
By Kevin BraysherA returning favourite, some new faces and plenty of young guns came together with the existing members of the I Love Coffee Burleigh Bears as the pre-season kicked off this week. Rampaging front-rower Luke Page returns to the Bears after 18 successful months away which saw him win the Intrust Super Cup player of the year award, make his NRL debut and play international football for Papua New Guinea. He heads up a list of recruits that includes Cameron Cullen (Mackay Cutters), Jamal Fogarty (Titans), Sami Sauiluma (Cronulla), Kurtis Rowe (Wests Tigers), Kelly Tate (Dragons), Jeff Lynch (Raiders) and Conor Carey (Cowboys). The Bears will also get the full-time services of former Titans Jamie Dowling and Chad Redman. Coach Jim Lenihan is pleased with his squad and said one of the main focuses of the 2016 recruitment process was to find players with leadership qualities on and off the field. “We’re looking “It’s important that we get people who want to play for each other and make each other successful in the side and build that sort of pride in what they do. Not just players with ability but who are of good character as well,” he said.. “When looking at who we were recruiting we always had in mind that we need to bring in people that are going to maintain and set a standard that we want to build and launch our season off. “Cullen, Fogarty, Page, Redman and blokes like that are the people that have experience in full-time systems and we want those guys to lead the way in what we’re trying to do. “In turn, we’ve got a lot of good young blokes in the club who already have a great work ethic and a professional attitude; we just need to make sure the people up above them are really doing the right thing so it pulls through the whole club. “We’ve just got to put the hard work in at training now and really have a big focus on building a real team together.” The mixture of players with full-time experience and enthusiastic youngsters will hopefully breed results for the Bears in 2016. The process of taking star players from the Colts and under 19s/20s and developing them into long-term Intrust Super Cup players has been underway for some time with the debut of many players last season evidence of that. The likes of Sam Swift, Tyler Sparks, Talor Walters, Marino Allen, Daniel Schwass and Jenan Parish all made the step up into Intrust Super Cup and all of them had an impact on season 2015. The promotion of more young, local talent can be expected in 2016 as the Bears look to build their long-term future. “There is no doubt that even in this year’s planning there was a big drive to bring those young blokes through to the top grade,” Lenihan said. “That was all in planning last year and we really streamlined the club internally so the players can see the pathway and see the opportunity to come through and play Queensland Cup. “By the end of the year you’re seeing a guy like Tyler Sparks make his debut, who has been at Burleigh since under 6s. “We really worked hard to create those opportunities for those blokes and once the players around them see that it is really possible to make it to the Cup side it creates eagerness and a want to get there themselves. “Our local A-Grade team had a much younger feel this year too and it’s not an accident that that happened. It’s been planned.” Too many Bears finished 2015 injured on the sidelines, but with a long pre-season ahead the squad is healthy and ready to put in the necessary work to be ready for round one. One of the players returning to action will be Burleigh’s 2015 player of the year, Tyler Chadburn, who missed the last eight weeks of the year with a leg injury. The Bilambil product’s third season with the Bears proved to be his breakout year and he shapes as an important cog in Burleigh’s 2016 machine. “I had my first experience with him when he was 17 playing in the local A-Grade comp back in 2011,” Lenihan, who coached the Bilambil Jets in 2011-13, said. “He always had the ability, I think he just needed the self-confidence to believe that he really did belong in Cup. “He played Cup as soon as he got to Burleigh, but people need to mature to a point where they really believe and have the confidence that they do belong and can play at Q-Cup level for a long time. “I think the penny dropped with Chaddy last year and as soon as we lost him we definitely lost a bit of attack and flair. He even had a fair bit to do with our leadership on the field even though he’s still young. He’s got strong voice and a very clear direction and we were a bit rudderless without him at times. “Hopefully he can stay fit next year and hopefully just get better and better for us.” The Bears Colts success has also seen 7 of the team progress to the NYC. Talor Walters, Jack Cook, Dylan Pelo, Daymeric Pelo, Mitch Doring, Sam Ross ( Storm NYC) and Jenan Parish ( Cronulla NYC) have all earned contracts after successful seasons.