WHILE the Mareeba Gladiators were unsuccessful in securing a finals berth in 2019, there are already positive signs for next season after they recently acquired former Ivanhoes and Northern Pride backrower Marvin Toko.
Toko is returning to rugby league after having some time away from the game, citing injury and a lack of passion as the reasons behind his two year hiatus.
“I’m really looking forward to playing again next season – I want to get that love for the game back as I lost it there for a bit,” he said.
“I found myself watching games of footy on TV and not getting the itch to play, but I’ve started to get keen to play again and when Trent (Barnard) messaged me I made the decision to come back.”
While Toko is quite young himself, he has extensive experience at both the CDRL and semi-professional level, having played in two grand finals with Ivanhoes (2015 and 2016) to go along with his two seasons spent in the Queensland Cup system (Northern Pride).
“I learnt a lot at Ivanhoes and in particular at the Northern Pride before getting injured, so hopefully I can bring some of that experience and pass it on to some of the young guys in the team,” he said.
Mareeba Gladiators captain-coach Trent Barnard said he can’t wait to get back out on the park with Toko.
“I was lucky enough to have won a grand final with him in 2016, and we’re really excited to have him as part of the club for 2020,” he said.
“He will provide a lot of guidance around the park for a lot of the young players, particularly our backrowers.
“He will teach them how to run the right lines and ensure they’re always on the ball.”
In addition to potential signings, Barnard said he’s confident the Gladiators will retain most of the 2019 squad.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to said they are keen on coming back for next season which is promising,” he said.
“Also, hopefully Marv’s signing will grab some attention and encourage other players to come up and play for Mareeba.
“So it’s looking pretty positive for next season at this stage.”
Barnard said preseason for the 2020 season will begin after New Years, with a specific date still to be determined.