Friday’s Rugby News sees a familiar face returning, Flook earning his shot, the latest from clubland and a delicious bit of Tah-Brumby banter. (Shout out to Sully for helping write this news segment too).
Nic White is back!
The Reds Tate McDermott in white-hot form (see what I did there), the Brumbies Joe Powell is humming along nicely in the capital, and even Jake Gordon is on a streak. Yet, even despite the talent on show at scrumhalf, there couldn’t be a better time to introduce Nic White back into Super Rugby AU.
Nic made it back into the Wallabies fold for the World Cup with a bit of accounting that would have made Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas of Midnight Run fame proud. Old mate made the squad because he signed a contract to play with the Brumbies sometime way in the future, and because of COVID the future came early.
White has been named at reserve halfback amongst 15 other changes for the Brumbies, his first appearance in the capital in five years.
McKellar said the World Cup Wallaby brought a competitive edge that would help drive the Brumbies forward, when speaking to rugby.com.au.
“He’s just a competitor,” McKellar said.
“I had the pleasure of working with Whitey for a couple of years before he left and he competes hard, he demands incredibly high standards of himself and others around him and, to be honest, he’s like having another coach on the field which is an incredible benefit for us.
“I can already see our young 9s and 10s, our team in general, is just learning from his experiences and knowledge.
“I just love the fact that he competes hard, wants to win everything – it doesn’t matter what it is – and drives standards and accountability within the group, and that might rattle a few people every now and then but it’s for the betterment of the group.”
The multiple changes by the current leaders sets up an intriguing clash, with the Brumbies looking to maintain their fortress reputation against a rapidly improving Tahs side. Following their last clash when the Brums prevailed 23-24, the Tahs have gone on to convincing wins against the Reds and the Force, while the Brums finally were knocked over by the Rebels 30-12.
i.e. watch this match, it’s gonna be fantastic.
Flook Wins Reds 13 Jersey
Josh Flook will run out in the Reds 13 jersey on Friday night after Hunter Paisami injured his troublesome knee just before halftime in their match against the Rebels last week. Incumbent wallaby outside center Jordan Petaia continues his stint on the wing to accommodate him and balance the backline.
Flook is another exciting young player from the exceptional group coming through the Australian system right now. Flook captained the 2019 Australian Schools and U18s team in their tour to New Zealand, leading them to their first win in New Zealand since 2012. The teenager played alongside Brumbies playmaker Reesjan Pasitoa in the 2018 GPS premiership-winning Nudgee College GPS team.
Loosehead prop Harry Hoopert has overcome a knee injury and is back in the side with Josh Nasser named as Queensland’s replacement hooker.
While scrumhalf Moses Sorovi has been selected for the first time during Queensland’s Super Rugby AU campaign and is set to come-on as a finisher tomorrow night.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “We’re excited to head down the coast and play in front of our Queensland fans tomorrow night.
“The Force will be hungry. They’re a dangerous team with plenty of experience. It’ll be a tough contest and we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“Josh Flook will make his first start for Queensland which is a great achievement. He’s got a few caps now and will only get better with more experience.
“Moses has been working hard in our program and deserves his spot in the side. It’s great to have Hoops back as well. It’s a timely boost in the loosehead department having him there as a finisher this week,” said Thorn.
i.e. watch this game too. Not joking. It’s gonna be good.
Waratahs – Brumbies dirt
We’ve been watching it for years. The Brumbies rock steady lineout I mean. Through a succession of players and coaches, the Brumbies lineout has just got on with the job.
Now the Waratahs want to upset the apple cart and attack a Brumbies pillar of strength. And frankly, they’re a good chance of doing it. The Tahs lineout is clearly the best in Super Rugby AU and on pure stats are 10 per cent better than their opponents.
NSW forwards coach Matt Cockbain can take plenty of credit in this domain and his second-rowers had a field day against the Brumbies in round three by spoiling eight of 22 lineouts.
“I thought [Ned] Hanigan and [Rob] Simmons really challenged us in that area. We’ve got to be better,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said after the 24-23 victory sealed by a late try by Issak Fines.
A lot has happened since that nail-biter at ANZ Stadium and, while lineout success is only one element of a team’s game, being able to unsettle the Brumbies’ set-piece will be a top priority for a Waratahs team third on the ladder with a chance to lock up a finals spot.
Cockbain, the former Wallaby, was understated this week when asked about the lineout performance.
“We try and attack what is a strength of theirs,” Cockbain said. “Sometimes it’s that perceived pressure as well. Sometimes you might not win the ball on that particular lineout but the next time, because you got close, the thrower’s thinking about it.”
Turns out, things got a bit hairy after this discussion, when McKellar came out with a more colourful comment against their rivals.
“They’ve won two games in a row so they’re world beaters again and full of confidence, according to most,” McKellar said.
Unsurprisingly though, Penney played this barb with a straight bat.
“Did he say that, did he? Talking us up. Do you think he’s trying to deflect?
“Yeah, we certainly wouldn’t be viewing ourselves as world beaters after a couple of wins.
“No, we’re pretty grounded. They are very hot favourites at their home ground and what they’ve done in the last few years that would be an appropriate status for them.”
Ahh, the dirt is back.
Clubland is still kicking in 2020, with most comps set to hit the halfway season.
The Queensland Premier Grade had some big upsets over the course of last weekend, with Sunnybank and Bond University picking up wins. This weekend will likely see several close clashes to separate the pretenders from the contenders, the best of which will be Easts v GPS. Both sides have been in red hot form and haven’t dropped a game yet, so be sure to get along to that match.
Similarly, the Shute Shield also is approaching the halfway mark this season, with Randwick, Sydney University, Gordon and Norths the current contenders. However, Southern Districts proved they’ve very much got what it takes to also break their drought, after beating Uni away from home last week. This weekend they face Randwick, which will be an interesting clash for the Wicks given they have faced the four easiest teams in the competition these first five rounds.
Most of the John I Dent Cup this weekend will be having a wet weather bye, with the exception of Gungahlin and Canberra Royals, who will be both fighting to keep their seasons alive with a critical win in the capital.
The Perth Fortescue Premier Grade crossed the halfway point in the season last week, with Cottlesloe emerging as the current favourites for the competition. This weekend however will see more crucial games, as Associates look to make ground on the Gulls, while Wests Scarborough and Perth Bayswater will looking to continue their run to challenge for the top six.
The Coopers Premier Grade in Adelaide sees it arriving towards the business end of the season, with Brighton currently ahead on the ladder by a considerable margin. This weekend will see plenty to play for, with multiple finals places currently up for grabs.
Lastly, the Tasmania Premier Grade sees a top of the table clash between Devonport and the Taroona Penguins (best name, I know). Currently, Devonport have swept the competition as they hit the halfway point, however Taroona have been able to keep pace despite dropping one game. It’ll be a critical match at Royal Park in Devonport, which will likely determine the minor premier.
To find out more about the club rugby coming up this weekend, head over to rugby.com.au and check out my full column covering every single premier club rugby game happening this weekend.
I would go into more detail here, but it’s 11:30pm on Thursday night and I’m crashing harder than Windows 95, so I’ll just leave a link here when it’s published.