Schools battling for Aaron Payne Cup

The next chapter of one of North Queensland’s greatest rugby league rivalries continues this week when Ignatius Park College and Kirwan State High School clash in the Aaron Payne Cup grand final.

The Townsville league nurseries finished on top of this year’s Aaron Payne Cup regular competition, which is NQ’s premier secondary schools rugby league tournament, and will play each other in the decider at 1300SMILES Stadium on Thursday before the Cowboys v Bulldogs NRL game.

The winning school will not only receive the silverware but also earn a top NQ seeding for the nationwide GIO Schoolboys Cup, which Kirwan won last year in a history-making campaign that started with last year’s six-point Aaron Payne Cup final win over Ignatius Park.

There is never much separating the two schools, however, and the same is the case this year.

Kirwan beat Ignatius Park earlier this year but Ignatius Park improved steadily to eventually win the prestigious Confraternity Shield in Rockhampton a fortnight ago.

“The boys are excited to be playing an NRL curtain-raiser and it’s a massive opportunity for them to be playing at 1300SMILES Stadium,” Ignatius Park coach Christian Quabba said.

“It’s also got the strong Iggy Park v Kirwan rivalry that has been building over a few years, but there is a mutual respect for each other.

“We see this game as really good measuring for where we’re at.”

Kirwan beat Ignatius Park 34-12 at the start of the Aaron Payne Cup in an ominous show of strength, but Kirwan coach Dave Ackers said the team of 2016 was not playing in the shadows of last year’s team, which become the first NQ school to win the national schoolboys title.

“This is a different team and this is their journey,” Kirwan coach Dave Ackers said.

“We’re not calling ourselves ­national champions because we’re not, that was last year.

“The first step of this journey is the Aaron Payne Cup final.”

Both Ignatius Park and Kirwan High have players from the victorious Northern open schoolboys and under-18 Townsville Blackhawks teams that won their respective Queensland finals.

Kick-off for Thursday’s Aaron Payne Cup final is 5pm.

First published in the Townsville Bulletin.