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Captains agree Storm is team to beat

By Daniel Pace 14/03/2007 07:16:41 PM Comments (0)

The captains of Queensland's three NRL teams agree Melbourne is the team to beat in the 2007 season launched on the Gold Coast in an extravagant ceremony.

Brisbane skipper Darren Lockyer, Gold Coast co-captain Scott Prince and North Queensland's new leader Johnathan Thurston all nominated 2006 losing grand finalists the Storm as the biggest danger in the competition.

The Broncos beat minor premiers Melbourne 15-8 in the 2006 grand final.

"They're obviously motivated from last year and they performed well in the trials," said Lockyer, who will partner Karmichael Hunt in the halves for the Broncos' season-opener against the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on Friday.

Prince agreed: "I think the Storm are disappointed from last year and they're still burning inside.

"They'll be looking forward to taking that one step closer to it (the premiership)."

A man of few words, Thurston simply stated: "I'll say the Storm."

In a big weekend for Queensland rugby league, close to 100,000 people are expected to watch the Broncos-Cowboys derby and the Titans play their maiden game, against St George Illawarra, at the same venue on Sunday.

The NRL chose to acknowledge the rugby league supporter base in Queensland, spending $250,000 to launch the season outside Sydney for the first time.

And it was Lockyer who was handed the honour of officially launching the season after last year captaining the Broncos to a premiership, Queensland to an Origin series and Australia to a Tri-Nations victory.

"I don't want to go through this season and keep comparing it to last year," Lockyer said on the 78th floor of Q1 - the tallest residential building in the world - in Surfers Paradise.

"For me and the Broncos it's in the past. 2007 is going to bring new challenges for us.

"Every player and every club's going to have them. It's about doing the best you can and the Broncos will be looking to win the 2007 premiership.

"We're not going to try and talk about 2006 too much this year at all."

Lockyer said the introduction of the Titans as the 16th team in the competition was "good for the game" and would hopefully add depth to Queensland's Origin stocks.

"The more Queenslanders we've got playing in the national competition, the better we'll be in that department," said Lockyer, who turns 30 on Saturday week.

"There's a young winger (Israel Folau) down in Melbourne that seems to be pretty promising.

"The Titans, I'm sure they'll have their players who impress at the start of the season and everyone will want to put their best foot forward for selection in Origin so it can only be good for us."

Prince said it was crucial for the Titans to win their early games to show they won't be the whipping boys of the competition.

"It'll be most important to win early in the rounds," said Prince, whose Queensland and Australian jerseys have been taken by Thurston over the past two years.

"As a team we have to prove to the rest of the league that we're here not to make up the numbers."

Lachlan Murdoch and Eddie McGuire were among the 400 guests flown in for the gala event on chartered jets.

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