Liam Wright has reflected on Queensland rugby’s ability to hang on to local talent and unearth “hidden gems” as they eye a Super Rugby AU title this year.
The Reds boast a host of fresh and experienced Wallabies talent in their squad finalised on Monday, the addition of star NRL winger Suliasi Vunivalu one of domestic rugby’s most anticipated storylines of 2021.
James O’Connor, Taniela Tupou, Harry Wilson, Jordan Petaia, Filipo Daugunu, Tate McDermott, Liam Wright, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Hunter Paisami, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Fraser McReight were all part of Dave Rennie’s maiden test squad last year.
The addition of Josh Flook, Zane Nonggorr, Mac Grealy, Kalani Thomas and Ilaisa Droasese on full-time deals has meant former Wallabies back and nine-season veteran Chris Feauai-Sautia and Samoan halfback Scott Malolua both missed new contracts.
Twins JP and Ruan Smith are the other notable omissions after the props sealed a move to American Major League Rugby franchise LA Giltinis this year.
Brad Thorn took the reins as coach in 2018, controversially axing five-eighth Quade Cooper as he attempted to rebuild a side that had flailed since winning the 2011 title.
Central to that rebuild was internal development, with 89 per cent of the Reds’ 37-man squad graduating from the Queensland development pathway.
Wright said that connection had started to benefit them on field as they reached last season’s Super Rugby AU decider.
“The best thing I can tell you is in games last year, defending our line, there was no quit from the boys,” captain Wright said.
“That’s something special; everyone knows they’re doing their part.”
The Queensland Reds have named a youthful squad for the upcoming Super Rugby AU season as they look to build on their runners-up finish last year.https://t.co/aOLvcVgRd7
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 18, 2021
The Reds’ stability took a hit last season when Harry Hockings, Izack Rodda and Isaac Lucas all left to pursue overseas contracts during the COVID-19 shutdown.
But Wright said the emergence of talented fullback Jock Campbell showed their system was working.
“When Thorny came in he wanted to make sure Queensland had a really, really good pathway and in times before we let a lot of good players go,” he said.
“But guys like Jock, who spent four, five years in club rugby before getting their chance, it shows the hidden gems we have at club level.
“It is that conveyer belt … and with 11 or 12 Wallabies guys away (to begin preseason) it’s given others a chance to step up, talk in meeting and lead that on-field chat.”
REDS SQUAD: Matt Faessler, Feao Fotuaika, Harry Hoopert, Alex Mafi, Josh Nasser, Zane Nonggorr, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Dane Zander, Angus Blyth, Ben Grant, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, Tuania Taii Tualima, Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Seru Uru, Sam Wallis, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Lawson Creighton, Bryce Hegarty, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Moses Sorovi, Kalani Thomas, Hudson Creighton, Josh Flook, Isaac Henry, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Hamish Stewart, Jock Campbell, Filipo Daugunu, Ilasia Droasese, Mac Grealy, Suliasi Vunivalu.
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