The Rabbitohs are making significant waves north of the border.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have confirmed they will add QLD Cup outfit the Townsville Blackhawks to their list of affiliate clubs for 2024.

 

In a two-year deal that sees the Blackhawks join South Sydney’s stable until at least the end of 2025, it poses as a mega blow for the North Queensland Cowboys who will now only have out-of-town affiliates in the Northern Pride (based in Cairns) and Mackay Cutters.

 

 

The news follows last week’s announcement that the Rabbitohs have also signed an exclusive deal with Keebra Park High School in a move that will hit the Gold Coast Titans in a big way.

 

The aggressive play into Queensland for the Rabbitohs comes as the club attempts to expand its elite pathways into the state, with the announcement confirming Rabbitohs players will now also turn out for the Blackhawks as well as their own NSW Cup outfit who won the State Championship this year.

 

The new agreement will provide pathways for elite players in Townsville to join the Rabbitohs system for pre-season training and playing opportunities, professional development opportunities for coaches and staff from both teams and the establishment of a partnership committee to oversee all activities.

 

“We have great respect and admiration for the Townsville Blackhawks. Our clubs share many values and both place the community at the heart of our operations. We’re looking forward to kickstarting this partnership with the Blackhawks as we see this providing great opportunities to players, coaches and staff from both organisations,” the Rabbitohs’ chief operating officer Brock Schaefer said in a club statement confirming the news.

 

“Similar to our agreement with Keebra Park State High School, we have identified in our strategic plan and our football review that we need to continue to grow our footprint and increase our investment in our elite pathway programs. This has proven to be a marker of success at the NRL level of the game and this affiliation agreement will complement the local pathway we have set up in the NSWRL competitions.

 

“We understand that for many young players coming out of Townsville and the surrounding districts that the Cowboys may be the club with which they choose to pursue their career and we fully respect that, however we will be working with the Blackhawks to encourage players that wish to broaden their horizon and look elsewhere to make the Rabbitohs their choice of NRL club.

 

“We’re committing to working closely with the Blackhawks on opportunities for players such as pre-season training blocks and coaching within our system; opportunities for coaches such as professional development going both ways, training camps and facilities use; and opportunities for staff to increase their professional development and promotional opportunities for both clubs.

 

“We’ll also be working towards playing pre-season second-tier matches between the clubs and hopefully we can play against each other in the NRL State Championship as we aim to defend our title this season.

 

“Led from our end by Tyrone McCarthy, Brent Hill and myself, we’ll be providing a pathway for elite players from north Queensland who want to spread their wings and join us in the red and green.

 

“This is an exciting expansion of our pathways program and we look forward to working with (Blackhawks Football Manager) Adrian Thomson, (Head Coach) Terry Campese and the whole team at the Blackhawks to make this partnership successful for both clubs.”

 

 

The move comes with QLD Cup sides playing a game of musical chairs in recent times.

 

The Norths Devils have linked up with the Dolphins, the Burleigh Bears have switched from the Gold Coast Titans to the Brisbane Broncos, and the Ipswich Jets will return from a number of years in NRL affiliate wilderness to take up a spot with the Titans in 2024.

 

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