THE Turtles will return to competitive rugby union for the first time since 2001, providing the Spring Cup’s fifth team for the competition’s kick-off on Friday.
Gympie Hammers pulled the pin late yesterday but last season’s premiers Fraser Coast Mariners will join Turtles, Wests Barbarians, Alloway Falcons and Isis Crushers in the tournament.
The foundation Bundaberg club – formed in 1985 – will replace the East Coast Buccaneers and have the sort of financial and administrative backing to make local rugby league clubs jealous.
Former player and Bundaberg businessman Steven Ortt was one of the first to support the rebirth of the club and hopes his 17-year-old son, Morgan, will continue the legacy.
“It’s fantastic for the club and the code that the Turtles are back,” Ortt said.
“Time got away from us but hopefully it’s back for good again.
For Morgan to have the opportunity to play in Turtles’ colours again is fantastic.
“It is a good club full of good people. We had fun, played hard and shared a beer with our rivals at the end of the day.”
Ortt’s Retravision, Michael Teasdale at Outlook Optical, and Matt Messenger Legal are three major backers, all with previous ties to the Turtles.
While most of them are past their prime, the likes of current players Stu Milowski and Luke Cummins should guarantee the Turtles aren’t scared back into the their shells this season.
“Like everything new and untried we have our reservations, but we have the blokes at the club with the desire and drive to make it work,” returning player Ross Pukallus said.
“There is a lot of affection and sentiment amongst the old boys and there’s a fair bit vested in it.”
The Turtles were originally formed 25 years ago by Bob Williamson and a handful of other local rugby fanatics.
They participated in the Sugar Coast Rugby Union competition, before the competition evolved into the Wide Bay Rugby Union.
But that soon disbanded as other clubs went south for competition and Turtles were left without a home when the Bundaberg and District Rugby Union was formed in 2002.
Training will begin tomorrow night at Eastern Suburbs Sports Club at 6.30pm.
A reunion night and fundraiser is planned for early in the Spring Cup season.
For more information, call Pukallus on 0405 748 690.