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Queanbeyan Blues quartet back from the 'dark side' and ready for premiership tilt

Former Raiders star, and now Queanbeyan Blues coach, Simon Woolford.

Former Raiders star, and now Queanbeyan Blues coach, Simon Woolford. Photo: Getty Images

Queanbeyan Blues coach Simon Woolford rates rugby union a gold mine for "untapped talent" and hopes the quartet he's lured back from the dark side will help erase last year's grand final heartache. 

After long stints in rugby union, centre Tyler Stevens and prop Aaron McInnes returned to to league with the Blues last year. Winger Jake Knight and centre Tom Ruediger followed suit this season.

A premiership winner with Wests in rugby union, McInnes would love to add a rugby league title to his resume, at a club where he first played as a six-year-old. 

The 33-year-old came agonisingly close in his first year back in the 13-man game last year, only to be denied by Queanbeyan Kangaroos in the grand final 17-16 in extra time. 

The cross-town arch rivals meet in Sunday's Canberra Raiders Cup major semi, with the winner the first team into the grand final. 

McInnes was close to retiring before last season, but was convinced by cousin and Blues assistant coach Jamie McInnes to return to his roots. 

"I was thinking of retiring last year, but Jamie said you'd better come over to league and finish what we started," McInnes said.

"As a forward the games are very different, but Simon feels he's almost coached the union out of me now.

"The guys who've made the transition in the outside backs has been easier, their roles are similar.  

"This is my second crack at trying to win a premiership in league. I've won one in union, and so has Tyler [with Queanbeyan Blues]."

Ruediger and Stevens in particular has given the Blues the strike power they needed to go one better. 

The speed and class of both players was influential in guiding the club to the minor premiership. 

"There's untapped talent in the rugby union ranks, especially the way the points system is with league," Woolford said. 

"I wouldn't say I went searching for players in union, they were offered to us, but it's the best thing I've done in the last couple of years. 

"It certainly has opened my eyes in terms of looking at the union ranks - we'd be in favour of getting those kids back for sure."

McInnes said the intense Blues-Roos rivalry prevalent in his junior days still exists, and admitted some of his team-mates would be using last year's decider as motivation. 

"2013 is done and dusted, [but] there may be a bit of revenge simmering within a few guys," he said. 

"There's a lot of mates across both clubs and there's nothing wrong with having a beer after the game. 

"But as soon as we're on the field all friendships are aside, and we want to rip each other's heads off."

The loser of the match will host Goulburn Bulldogs in the preliminary final. 

SUNDAY

Canberra Raiders Cup major semi: Queanbeyan Blues v Queanbeyan Kangaroos at Seiffert Oval, 3pm

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