Final challenge for Aaron Payne Cup

The size and power of Kirwan State High will come up against the speed and tenacity of Ignatius Park College when the two proud rugby league schools contest the final of the Aaron Payne Cup at 1300SMILES Stadium on Monday, 27 July.

Held as the first curtain-raiser to the Round 20 National Rugby League match between the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys and the Parramatta Eels, the final marks the culmination of the annual round-robin high schools rugby league tournament involving the North’s top teams.

The Aaron Payne Cup – proudly supported by the Cowboys – is named after the former North Queensland hooker, himself a graduate of famous rugby league nursery Kirwan High.

The competition this year pitted seven school teams – Kirwan (Townsville), Ignatius Park (Townsville), The Cathedral College (Rockhampton), Mackay State High, St Patrick’s (Mackay), St Teresa’s College (Abergowrie) and St Brendans’ (Yeppoon) – against each other in a series of pool matches, with the top two sides at the end of the six matches each qualifying for the final.

Ignatius Park went through the pool matches undefeated, while Kirwan’s only loss came at the hands of their arch-rivals.

Cowboys game development manager Liam Bartlett said Monday’s final shaped as a battle of two styles.

“Kirwan have played a very physical style of rugby league heading into the final,” Bartlett said.

“They’re very strong up the middle and have some big players in the forwards, whereas Ignatius Park have smaller, probably more mobile forwards who possess a lot of speed.

“I guess Kirwan will come through the middle, and Iggy will look to do a lot of running and wear them out.”

Both teams have a number of Cowboys Scholarship holders in their teams, and both sides have automatically qualified for the next stage of the wider schoolboys competition, the GIO Cup, involving top rugby league schools from around Queensland.

The Aaron Payne Cup final kicks off at 1300SMILES Stadium at 3.05pm at Monday, 27 July. Western and Eastern gates will open at 3pm.