Five Australian players to watch out for in Super Rugby Pacific this year
2021 was a monumental year for rugby fans from both Australia and New Zealand, as the sporting rivalry between these two nations took a step towards normality with a Super Rugby Trans-Tasman champion crowned.
The teams from New Zealand largely dominated that particular competition, with the Blues beating the Highlanders in the Grand Final. But the Australian teams and players showed both last year and the year before that they can play, playing an entertaining brand of rugby in Super Rugby AU.
These performances from the Australian franchises translated into improved performances from the national side as well, with unearthed talent helping guide the Wallabies to two famous wins against the Springboks last year.
As we look ahead to this year, and with the intensity of international rugby ever growing with the World Cup less than two years away, are there any players who could potentially push for higher honours with a breakout Super Rugby campaign this year?
And even if we aren’t looking quite as far as Wallaby gold, who are the players who could really announce themselves to professional rugby in 2022?
I’ve taken a look at the squads for the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season, and highlighted a handful of up-and-coming players who you should keep an eye out for this year. If these guys get regular minutes, then I wouldn’t rule out a call-up to the national squad before the year is done.
Flanker, New South Wales Waratahs
The Waratahs are coming off a 2021 season where they failed to win any of their 13 matches across both Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman. But despite the results, one shining light in my opinion for the Waratahs was Carlo Tizzano.
Playing with an abundance of energy, Tizzano was just everywhere on the field and this was largely clear to see going off his stat line for some matches.
He quickly stood out to me in the opening match of Super Rugby AU last year, even though his side went on to lose 41-7 to their rivals, the Queensland Reds. In that one match, that one example, he made 25 tackles and ran for 44 metres as well.
The former Junior Wallaby finished last year with an 88% tackle completion, having made 143 across the season according to stats at RugbyPass, but also got busy in attack with 64 carries.
The 21-year-old was more than a fine replacement for Wallabies captain Michael Hooper last year, but his return does raise some questions about how and if Tizzano can fit into the team. Even if he just provides minutes off the bench, that’ll be exciting.
Flyhalf, Melbourne Rebels
Gordon is definitely a player to watch this season, and may possibly by given first opportunity to take the flyhalf reigns for the Melbourne-based franchise this season. Confirming their squad on their website, the Melbourne Rebels listed Gordon as a half which Matt To’omua is a centre.
The 20-year-old has largely played for Brisbane-based club Western Bulldogs, since graduating from Brisbane Boys College.
But since making his Super Rugby debut in April, the up-and-comer has simply taken his opportunities with both hands.
Playing against the Chiefs last year, some brilliance from Gordon set-up a fantastic try for the Rebels – and that type of skill can’t possibly go unnoticed. Getting the ball 40-metres out from the try-line, he grubbed a kick in-behind the Chiefs, before regathering and then throwing a no-look pass for the try assist (see below).
TRY OF THE WEEK | Super Rugby Trans Tasman Rd 04
— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) June 8, 2021
Genuinely a talented player who could make some big steps in his career this year.
Backrow, ACT Brumbies
Let’s start with something simply incredible: when Brown made his debut for the Brumbies in 2019, the flanker ended up scoring a try after just six seconds. Wow.
And since then, the now 25-year-old has gone from strength to strength with the Brumbies, proving himself to be a useful member of that impressive squad.
Brown started the first four matches of Super Rugby AU last year at openside flanker, before being named as a replacement for what would be his fifth and final match of the AU season.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 8, 2022
Playing alongside the likes of Pete Samu and Rob Valetini, Brown could take his game to a new level this year. While the Queensland Reds also have an extremely good backrow, with a good season from Brown, the Brumbies could arguably challenge this by the time the season is done.
Other honourable mentions include centre Hudson Creighton who is set for his first season with the club.
Fullback, Queensland Reds
Grealy made his Super Rugby debut with the Reds last year in bizarre circumstances, named as a late callup by Brad Thorn to face the Blues in Brisbane.
And wasn’t he impressive?
In that match he had seven runs for 77 metres and was largely comfortable under the high ball.
As only 19-years-old, he doesn’t turn 20 until March, Grealy showed last year that he’s a truly talented player who arguably has to be a Wallaby in a waiting. With a big season this year, should he get regular game time, he might just be knocking at the door for a Test callup.
Flyhalf, Western Force
After a couple of seasons with the Brumbies, Reejan Pasitoa is returning home to Western Australia where he may get the opportunity to play regular football from flyhalf.
UPDATED 2022 SUPER RUGBY PACIFC FIXTURES
✅ Family-friendly kick-off times
✅ 7 home games
✅ Traditional rivals from Australia and New Zealand
— Western Force (@westernforce) December 23, 2021
Pasiota was a schoolboy star at Brisbane’s Nudgee College, and he also named in the same Junior Wallabies squad as some of Australia’s best up-and-coming players including Josh Flook and the previously mentioned Carter Gordon.
Should he get the chance to play regular minutes for the Force this year, I’m sure Pasitoa will perform in key moments for the Force this year.
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