Seagulls set for ultimate test
A NEW-look Tweed side will use a practice game against bitter local rivals Burleigh as an acid test ahead of the 2017 season.
Following a significant overhaul to the side that finished a disappointing 13th in 2016, coach Aaron Zimmerle said there was a real buzz around the club.
Of 53 players engaged in pre-season training, 30 are new to the club in 2017 and Zimmerle said taking on the reigning Intrust Super Cup champions in February would gauge the side's progress.
"It brings an intensity when you play your local rival, and for new guys to experience that, not only do they get excited, but they see that level,” he said.
"They're our rival and the defending champions so that'll be a benchmark to see where we are at and it helps coaches to see what changes we need to make leading into the season.”
The Seagulls have been slogging it out at Palm Beach Currumbin High's School of Excellence facilities, and have added significant fitness and strength to their squad ahead of the Bears' test, which will be followed by a trial against Souths-Logan.
Zimmerle said players had added considerable bulk and fitness, with rookies like David Sheridan, Kirk Murphy and Kobi Annand adding four-plus kilograms to their frames.
"They're training and playing full contact so they know that if they're 20-year-old kids, they can handle a 25-year-old that's played 100 games,” he said.
"We're trying to build that attitude that we don't care who's in front of us, we will go out there and compete.”
Recruitment has been a strong focus and experienced Queensland and NSW Cup players, four players from the NRL Rookie, three from the Australian Universities side and two former American Footballers have come on board.
Headlined by former Illawarra Cutters prop Damian Sironen, Zimmerle said that while the club could only spend a quarter of what power clubs could on recruitment, a new mix of players had built enthusiasm and culture.
"A lot of new players by their general nature are very positive and enthusiastic,” Zimmerle said.
"A losing season affects your confidence but with new guys coming in who are enthusiastic, you move on.”
Changes have continued off-field as well with NRL-experienced Scott Clark taking over as CEO and 2016 A-grade coach Clint Barends promoted to an Intrust Cup assistant coaching position.
With confidence building, Zimmerle said the side would be gunning for a return to finals action for the first time since 2014.
"I look at it as a two-step goal; to once again become competitive so when we compete against top sides, we can go into those matches expecting to win,” Zimmerle said.
"Then once you develop that confidence and string momentum together, you can look to make the semi-finals.”
Tweed starts its 2017 campaign on March 5 against Ipswich at home.