The annual clash between the best NSW and Queensland junior representative teams continued in May 2016, with the winners of the Harold Matthews Cup (NSWRL under-16s) taking on the winners of the Cyril Connell Cup (QRL under-16s) and the SG Ball premiers (NSWRL under-18s) facing the team that took out the Mal Meninga Cup (QRL under-18s).
Having defeated the Knights in the Harold Matthews decider, the Parramatta Eels travelled to Brisbane’s Albert Bishop Park for the under-16s National Junior Final, while the SG Ball-winning Penrith Panthers would compete in the under-18s after downing the Illawarra Steelers a week previously.
The Eels had completed the remarkable feat of winning every game they played in 2016 and finished the competition deserved winners - but the next task would be to unseat a heavyweight of the QRL's under-16s competition. The Townsville Blackhawks, formerly the Townsville Stingers, were into the National Junior Final for the second consecutive year and were out to avenge their 2015 defeat.
While the Harold Matthews decider provided a see-sawing battle between two evenly-matched sides, the same cannot be said about the under-16s National Junior Final. Through a try to Charbel Tasipale the Blue and Golds got on the scoreboard early - and never looked back, racing out to a 22-0 half-time lead. They showed similar dominance in the second stanza and thanks to a man-of-the-match-winning performance from JP Nohra at fullback, the Eels kept the Blackhawks scoreless to win 32-0.
Like the under-16s Eels, the Panthers faced the Blackhawks in the Under-18s National Junior Final - a team that had been there for the two years previously, but was yet to come out on top. It was a high-scoring affair in hot, dry Brisbane conditions, but Penrith maintained the lead over Townsville for its entirety and eventually made it three consecutive National Junior Final defeats for their opponents. The Panthers won 38-28 and dummy-half Treymaine Brown was judged best on ground in the encounter.
Due to the QRL’s cessation of the Cyril Connell Cup there will be no under-16s National Junior Final in 2017, but both results were promising along with interstate victories to the NSW Under-16 and NSW Under-18 sides in May and June.