10 South Burnett footballers who played in the NRL
THE SOUTH Burnett region has produced countless talented footballers over the years, and several players have laced up for both state and national representative sides.
Here’s a list of 10 South Burnett products who have enjoyed illustrious rugby league careers.
1. Matt Ballin (Manly Sea Eagles, West Tigers)
Matt Ballin was born in Nanango and played his junior footy for the Kingaroy Red Ants.
He made his way through the lower grades of the Brisbane Broncos before signing a contract with the Sydney-based club Manly-Warringah, making his NRL debut in round two of the 2007 season.
The hooker won two grand finals with Manly and was the first try scorer in their record-breaking 40–0 victory over the Melbourne Storm in the 2008 grand final.
Ballin went on to play one game for Queensland and 217 for the Sea Eagles before joining the West Tigers in 2016.
2. Gavin Cooper (North Queensland Cowboys, Penrith Panthers, Gold Coast Titans)
Cooper’s rugby league career kicked off as a junior at the Murgon Mustangs. He went on to sign with the North Queensland Cowboys in 2005 where he played until 2007, when he signed with the Titans.
The second-rower spent two seasons with the Titans, followed by two with Penrith before returning to the Cowboys in 2011.
In 2015, Cooper scored the most tries of any back rower in competition and was part of the Cowboys side that defeated the Broncos in a grand final thriller.
He has also represented both Queensland and Australia on multiple occasions.
3. Steve Renouf (Brisbane Broncos)
Steve Renouf was a Mustangs product who went on to become one of the sport’s greatest centres.
Nicknamed The Pearl, he was a prolific try scorer in his day, crossing the line 142 times for the Broncos and helping his side win four premierships.
Renouf was named in the Australian Indigenous Team of the Century and has represented both his state and country on several occasions.
4. Willie Tonga (Paramatta Eels, Bulldogs, North Queensland Cowboys)
Willie Tonga was born in Canberra and moved around until his family settled in Cherbourg where he played his junior footy.
He was scouted by Arthur Beatson to go and play for the Parramatta Eels in 2002, where he stayed for two years.
The winger/centre then penned a four-year deal with the Bulldogs where he won Dally M Centre of the year and went on to play several games for Queensland and Australia.
He was also part of the Bulldogs 2004 premiership-winning side.
5. Chris Sandow (Paramatta Eels, South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Sandow was another Cherbourg talent who went on to have a successful NRL career, running on for both the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Parramatta Eels.
The quick-footed halfback rose through the ranks starring for the Queensland U17s and U19s before winning the Dally M Rookie of the Year in 2008.
Sandow played for the Indigenous All Stars and also had a stint in the Super League for the Warrington Warriors.
6. Leo Dynevor (London Broncos, Newcastle Knights)
Leo Dynevor was yet another indigenous talent out of Cherbourg who went on to play in both the NRL and the Super League.
Dynevor’s professional career started for the London Broncos in 1995-96 before he signed with the Newcastle Knights in 1997.
The agile halfback was pivotal in getting the Knights to a premiership, playing 16 games and replacing an injured Andrew Johns.
After the Knights, Dynevor signed with the Western Suburbs where he played for 11 years before hanging up the boots.
7. Chris McQueen (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Gold Coast Titans, West Tigers)
McQueen was born in Brisbane before moving to Kingaroy and playing juniors for the Kingaroy Red Ants.
In 2006, McQueen joined Wynnum Manly before signing with the Rabbitohs in 2008, where he played until 2015.
The backrower signed with the Titans for two years before heading to the West Tigers.
Along the way McQueen played six games for Queensland, two for Australia and one for England.
8. Bryan Niebling (Brisbane Broncos)
Bryan Niebling’s footy career began at the Murgon Mustangs where he played his junior footy, and a year with the seniors.
Niebling knocked back a contract from Wayne Bennet to play for South Brisbane to stay in Murgon and play an A-grade season.
Niebling then went on to play for Fortitude Valley Redcliffe and the Brisbane Broncos.
He played nine games for Queensland, 13 for Australia and 130 professional games.
9. Ian Pearce (Redcliffe Dolphins)
The Blackbutt product was known around the South Burnett as a speedy fullback/centre who went on to captain Queensland in 1975.
Pearce played for the Redcliffe Dolphins and won the Rothman Medal which has since been replaced by the Dally M.
10. Brad Tessmann (South Brisbane)
Tessmann was a Kingaroy-born rugby league player who played in the 1980s and 90s.
He played more than 60 professional games, including games for both Queensland and Australia.
Tessmann played for South Brisbane and narrowly lost a grand final to Wynnum Manly.