Brandon Paenga-Amosa’s rise from garbage man to Wallabies representative came and went in a flash but, two years on, his Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn believes he has earned another crack.
The charismatic hooker played four tests in his debut professional season, picked alongside another former Sydney garbage man Folau Fainga’a to face Ireland.
Brumbies No.2 Fainga’a went on to play in last year’s World Cup while the discarded Paenga-Amosa was plunged into a battle for Super Rugby game time as Thorn turned to Alex Mafi.
However, Paenga-Amosa has been a shining light since returning from an early-season ankle injury and, up against Fainga’a and the Brumbies on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium, can take another step towards selection for possible tests against New Zealand in October.
“He got thrown into that in his first season and did remarkably well, was good in his areas against the Irish,” Thorn, who plucked Paenga-Amosa from obscurity three years ago to play NRC, said.
“But it’s three years of going to South Africa, Argentina, Japan, playing for the Reds since then (to improve).
“He’s an important guy in our team, he’s been doing really well and in a really positive state of mind.
“He’s been leading the team in the scrums and you’d like to think if he keeps putting in he can push for higher honours.”
Like Fainga’a, Paenga-Amosa has dominated in general play and at scrums this season.
Just how straight his line-out throws are could be the simple key to a recall, with question marks surrounding the Reds’ set piece before next weekend’s preliminary final against either the Melbourne Rebels or the NSW Waratahs.
A bye has allowed the 24-year-old to work overtime on his accuracy though, Thorn content with the improvements made since the Brumbies last-gasp win in their previous meeting.
“We’ll get tested again and hopefully we’re testing the Brumbies as well,” Thorn said.
The Brumbies are guaranteed a spot in the grand final with the Reds to host next week’s stand-alone qualifier.
Bullocking Reds centre Hunter Paisami (knee) will push for a Wallabies squad berth off the bench, while Jordan Petaia comes in from the wing to the centres and prop Harry Hoopert returns to the starting side.
Chris Feauai-Sautia (calf) and JP Smith (neck) are back from injury for the Reds while JP’s twin brother Ruan has rejoined the side after being released from his Rebels contract.
The Brumbies will go in at full strength, with Australian halfback Nic White starting for them for the first time in five years after two games off the bench since returning from England’s Exeter Chiefs.
Queensland Reds: Jock Campbell, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Jordan Petaia, Hamish Stewart, Filipo Daugunu, James O’Connor, Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Liam Wright, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Blyth, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Harry Hoopert. Res: Josh Nasser, JP Smith, Ruan Smith, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Angus Scott-Young, Moses Sorovi, Bryce Hegarty, Hunter Paisami.
Brumbies: Tom Banks, Andy Muirhead, Tevita Kuridrani, Irae Simon, Tom Wright, Bayley Kuenzle, Nic White, Pete Samu, Will Miller, Rob Valetini, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio. Res: Connal McInerney, James Slipper, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Lachlan McCaffrey, Ryan Lonergan, Len Ikitau, Solomone Kata.
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