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Who will be the key players of 2023 in the club rugby season which is getting underway early on Saturday?
In this guide, we present the names of over 100 players from the Premier Rugby, women’s and colts one competitions who are set to feature heavily for their sides.
CAPTAIN: NOAH NIELSEN
Goal: To win a premiership. Simple as that. We want to play in the finals.
Ins and Outs: A couple. Sebastian Hanna has come over from Souths and Jono Kent, A Marist College Old Boy, has come across this year.
A couple boys from New Zealand have come over as well. But we have lost a bit of experience. Tom Moloney, who has been our captain for the last couple years. And Ben Hyne is a big loss for us. And we don’t have the Super Rugby guys who will be out most of the year.
X factor player: Mosiah Christian and Patrick James. Usually those two are our strike weapons who create a lot of attack for us. They’ll be good for us
Rookie on the rise: There’s a couple of young guys coming through, Harry Grant, and Jonte Connolly who is still really young. I think Grant will be in the mix. At No.10 he’s just crafty, plays his role. He doesn’t overplay or underplay his hand. Really solid.
Team to beat: Wests or Uni. We’re excited to come up against them.
CAPTAIN: MICHAEL RICHARDS
Goal: Try and win it.
Ins and Outs
illon Wihongi has come from Brothers and Tonga Ma’afu from Norths. They’ll be good in the forward pack. Mafu came to Fiji with us, and he played great over there.
X factor player: We didn’t see much of Josh Collins last year so hopefully he will be fit and playing most of the year. Our young halfback Hudson Meyer who’s pretty good. He came from Toowoomba, and this is second year under his belt. He’s super fit and has a well rounded game. He’s tough, quick, can pass and kick and does a bit of everything.
Rookie on the rise: Hooker Tevita Kaitu’u looked sharp in the pre-season but I don't know when he’s coming back from injury.
Underrated: Second rowers Dan Bryne and Oliver Bartlett. they do so much work people don’t see, making them a bit underrated.
Team to beat: Any of the top teams, Brothers, UQ, and Easts who will be strong.
CAPTAIN: JUNIOR LALOIFI
Goal: Main goal is getting into the top four and performing well. At the same time I am excited to see where we can go. We seem like the dark horses so I am hoping to prove everyone wrong. I love that title.
Ins and Outs: Pita Halaifonua, who’s in the Reds development right now. In the first trial match he played bloody well. He scored three at flanker. He's a player I am keen to play with and watch.
X factor players: Our No.10 James Parkeye has just arrived from New Zealand. He’s got that flair, that little bit of Benji Marshall flair that I am excited to see and run off.
Rookies on the rise: The halfback Jayvan Scarff, he’s still in colts but he’s been coming and playing with prems. He's been playing bloody well so he's going to be exciting to watch when he comes up. He will definitely get a few games this year.
Team to beat: About five years ago when we lost to UQ in the grand final, that’s something I can’t get past. It would’ve been my first premiership so always beating UQ is amazing.
HALFBACK: Connor O’Regan
Goal: We just want to fight all season. We had a tough season last year, so we need to stay focused.
Ins and Outs:Connor Higgins has come across from New Zealand to have a go here in Australia. He plays flanker, he’s been great so far. There’s also some electric boys coming up from colts.
X factor players:Joseph Veramu on the wing is super quick and can come up with something out of nothing. Harry Langbrige at No.10 too, he’s electric.
Rookies on the rise: Hamish Muir and Will McCulloch. Tyler Nukunuku in the back row. He played a few off the bench last year, and he should get some playing time after coming from colts 2.
Footnote:Hamish Muir is an elusive fullback and Villanova College Old Boy, while McCulloch is a speedy winger and Padua College Old Boy, who last year played for the Queensland Reds under-19s and Australian Schoolboy under-18s.
Team to beat: Going into round 1 we want to start with a win so we have the confidence for the season.
CAPTAIN: PAT MORREY
X factor:Mac Grealy, we will have him a bit and I think he has a point to prove now. On his day he can be the most electric player in the competition.
Rookie on the rise:Joey Faulalo. He played a lot of reserve grade last year, this year he has had a great pre-season. He played really well in the trials and he will slot in the back row during the season.
Underrated:Brad Twidale. He knows the game very well. He’s a tough kid and a great defender. I’m hoping he has a good season, he flies under the radar.
Team to beat: Wests or Brothers. Wests had a great year last year, rightly so they came out on top. It’s hard to go back to back. The rivalry is always there with Brothers.
CAPTAIN: TOM MILOSEVIC
X factor player: No.13. Po has been a great pick up for the club. He has so much speed.
Rookie on the rise:Meli Dreu. He had a full season for us last year, and at fullback he is going to be good again. He played some sevens at the back end of last year for Qld as well.
Underrated:Aidan Leeming. Second rower for us. He gets through a heap of work on the field. He leads through his actions.
Team to beat: Brothers. For us there’s always a great rivalry between the clubs. Great home games. Watching their trial against the Reds Development XV, I think they look good.
CAPTAIN: KOHEN HERBERT
Goal (In Herbert’s first year at the club and as captain): I think hopefully we can compete with the top teams. Souths haven’t had the best rep in terms of winning in the last couple of years so I’m looking forward to getting back in the winning circle. I’m pretty sure I can lead the boys and get some wins. I don’t like losing. I’ve been in New Zealand for the last five years playing club rugby, playing in the National Provincial Championship (NPC) for the Bay of Plenty Steamers. I’m looking forward to ripping in.
Ins and Outs: This is Herbert’s first season with North’s after growing up in Queensland, playing juniors for the Nerang Bulls on the Gold Coast. He then went to Keebra Park SHS and played rugby league, before going to Pacific Pines and finally Downlands College.
X factor players:Tye James plays fullback/winger. He’s fast. I played with him when I was younger, he’s definitely one to look out for this year.
Rookies on the rise: Dominic Maclean our No.8 is only 19 and Trevor King. He’s only 17 at the moment. He was the Downlands First XV captain in 2022 (as was Herbert in 2017). He will definitely get a run once he turns 18. He’s a big boy, 6 foot three and 125kg. Only 17 but he will do damage.
Footnote: Trevor King was also an Australian Schoolboy representative with Will McCulloch.
Underrated:Riley Kerr our blindside flanker. He works really hard at training and when he gets his shot he goes really well.
Team to beat: Round 1 for us now is the focus. We have Norths at home and getting them back after they beat us in the trial.
PLAYER REP: ANGUS BLYTH (will be back at end of season once Super Rugby is done)
Goal: We want finals. Last few years we have only just missed out so we are trying to put our best foot forward and grab some wins early in the season.
Ins and Outs: –
Footnote:Wilson Blyth is injured at the minute but should be back soon. He has had a strong pre-season with the Reds.
X factor players: The usual guys Jake Upfield, he’s a great player. Joey Fiddock and Spencer Jeans as well. A few good backs who are sharp.
Rookies on the rise: I’m excited to see Jack Winchester back from the Western Force. He’s back from Western Australia now, so I am keen to see him back in a Sharks jersey.
Team to beat: The bigger teams like UQ. Last year we had two close games against them. Wests and GPS are always strong.
CAPTAIN: FLETCHER SPICER
Goal: It’s important for us not to get carried away with accolades. It’s about putting our best performances in each week and if we focus on all doing our best, come game day, regardless of the result, we will be able to look at ourselves and be able to say we gave it our all. Playing for the emblem on our jersey and the Bulldogs community.
Ins and Outs: We lost a lot of players but it was good we lost them because they got contracts, the boys levelling up. Connor Anderson and Ethan Dobbins are with the Reds, Angelo Smith is with the Rebels and Ben Navosalogi is with the Reds and Australian Sevens.
Harry Higgins retired. And Carter Gordon is with the Rebels.
X factor player: No.10 Jack Evenden is one to watch this year coming from the Vikings in Canberra. Dan Hawke our backs coach and winger Charlie Tupu has come up from Warringa.
Rookie on the rise:
Underrated: I don't know if he's underrated but Liam Usher. He’s a workhorse for a prop. He covers some ground, I think he has really levelled up his game.
Our trackers show how hard he is working.
Team to beat: Sunnybank. They've got new coaching staff so maybe they've turned a leaf. They are a bit of a wildcard.