ALMOST a thousand Catholic school students from across Queensland will head for Bundaberg this weekend as rugby league’s famous Confraternity Carnival returns home for its 40th staging.
“Confro”, as it has become known since its first staging in Bundaberg in 1980, has become a rugby league nursery, with half of this year’s Queensland State of Origin squad graduating from the carnival.
“We are there, not just united through the game of rugby league, but united in something deeper,” Queensland Independent Schools Rugby League president and Padua College rector Peter Elmore said.
“We are joined by a common connection around our Christian faith and what it means to be a person who displays these qualities on and off the sporting field.
“Confraternity has become a demonstration of our shared understanding of these values in a sporting context through what we affectionately call the ‘spirit of confraternity’.”
Jonathon Thurston’s former school St Mary’s Toowoomba hopes to buck a new trend when it begins its title defence on July 1 at the event hosted by Shalom College.
St Brendan’s Yeppoon was the last team to successfully defend its title in 2015.
Last year St Mary’s delivered the first Confro title to south-east Queensland in 13 years with a 42-6 win over Anthony Milford and Joe Ofahengaue’s alma mater St Peter Claver College, Riverview, in Charters Towers.
The arrival of new faces each year makes it difficult to predict the winner of the prized Confraternity Shield but St Mary’s, Ignatius Park College Townsville and St Brendan’s Yeppoon will be among the leading contenders after impressive form in schoolboy competitions this season.
But St Mary’s coach Rob Anderson warned against reading too much into his team’s early form as the younger squad that had taken the field in recent weeks would be complemented by senior players ready for a shot at consecutive titles.
“We learned a lot two years ago when some of our players had their first Confraternity carnivals and learned what it was like to play six games in only a few days,” Mr Anderson said.
“The carnival really helps players develop and we saw the benefits of that when some of our players went into last year’s matches and played well.
“That win meant a lot to this school and now we’re looking forward to returning this year to see how we play.”