Super Rugby


12/26/2017

Year in Review – 2017


As we enter into the final week of 2017, Redsrugby.com.au will be highlighting some of the biggest moments in Queensland Rugby from the past 12 months. 

Each day we’ll bring you a new highlight, before January 1st 2018 rolls around and we turn our attention to the upcoming season. 


To kick things off, we’ll take a look back at the year that was for our next generation of St.George Queensland Reds, the Queensland U20s. 

1 | Queensland U20s continue to produce the goods

Heading into the 2017 Super U20s season, the Queensland U20s had a tough task ahead of them, backing up their 2016 performance which saw them claim the inaugural Super U20s title undefeated. 

The Queensland side, with Brad Thorn at the helm as head coach, continued their dominance going through the regular season undefeated once again. Hosting NSW Gen Blue in the Grand Final at Ballymore, the Queensland side recorded a 46-19 win to claim their second straight title. 




Caption: The Queensland U20s with the Super U20s Title at Ballymore. Photo: Sportography 

Following the Queensland U20s campaign, a total of 15 Queenslanders went on to represent the Australian U20s at both the Oceania tournament on the Gold Coast and the World Rugby U20s Championships in Georgia. 

Number 8 Reece Hewat captained the side, while flanker Liam Wright was named Australian U20s ‘Player of the Year’ at the Rugby Australia Awards at the tail end of the year. 

U20s flyhalf Hamish Stewart’s impressive form for the Queensland U20s saw him called into the Reds squad, making his debut against the Brumbies in Canberra. Stewart also crossed for his first Super Rugby try in the Reds’ win over the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium in the last home game of the season. 

Hewat and Jayden Ngamanu also made their Queensland and Super Rugby debuts in the Reds’ final game of the season against the Highlanders in Dunedin. 

U20s players Angus Blyth, Harry Hockings, Angus Scott-Young, Wright, Tate McDermott, Stewart, Tony Hunt and Efi Ma’afu all went on to form part of the Bond University Queensland Country National Rugby Championship squad, who claimed Country’s first ever NRC title. 

After captaining the Queensland Country side in their win over the Fijian Drua in Lautoka, Wright was then called into the Wallabies squad and played against the Barbarians in Sydney, before traveling with the national side on the Spring Tour as a development player. 

Caption: Liam Wright leads out Queensland Country at Lautoka's Churchill Park in Fiji. Photo: QRU Media Brendan Hertel. 


As we look forward to 2018, within the Reds current squad, there are a total of 14 players who have progressed through to the U20s pathway over the past two seasons. 

 

2 | Women’s Rugby on the Rise 

2017 was the biggest year yet for Women’s Rugby. In the aftermath of the Australian Women’s Sevens Gold Medal success at the Rio Olympics in 2016, participation in the sport in both the sevens and fifteens formats was at an all-time high. 

The rise in the popularity of the sport saw Rugby Australia launch Australia’s first ever domestic Women’s competition, the AON University Sevens series. Queensland’s three sides dominated throughout the competition, with University of Queensland claiming the title undefeated, Bond University finishing in second and Griffith University in fourth. 



Caption: UQ captain McKenzie Sadler hoists the AON Uni 7s series trophy above her head. Photo: QRU Media Brendan Hertel. 

Within the Australian Women’s Sevens squad, the continued success of the Queensland Academy of Sport Women’s Sevens Academy is evidenced by 53% of the contracted list hailing from Queensland. 

2017 also saw Ireland host the Women’s Rugby World Cup. The Wallaroos, led by Queenslander Shannon Parry, exceeded expectations after a disappointing tour of New Zealand in June, continuing to grow and develop with each match. After narrowly going down to Ireland in the pool stages in Dublin, the Wallaroos had a second chance at the host nation at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast and they bounced back to claim a 36-24 win, showcasing their continued improvement. 

The team finished sixth overall after going down to Canada in the fifth place playoff, qualifying for the next World Cup in 2021, which Australia is bidding for. 

Ten Queenslanders featured in the World Cup squad, with Redlands stalwart Cheyenne Campbell having also captained the side during their New Zealand tour. 32-year-old Brothers prop and mother of three, Hilisha Samoa, worked her way back from the birth of her youngest child to be ready for the World Cup, and her form throughout the pool and finals stages saw her named Australian’s Women’s XV Player of the Year at the Rugby Australia Awards. 



Caption: Hilisha Samoa fends off the Irish defence in Belfast. Photo: ARU Media Brendan Hertel

At the state level, the Queensland Women’s XV side finished third overall at the National Championships held at the Gold Coast, the Queensland’s Women’s Senior Sevens sides finished second and third overall at the National Championships in Bendigo, while the Queensland Youth Girls Sevens Red side went back-to-back, claiming their second straight title at home at Ballymore. 

At the junior level, Queensland Rugby introduced an exciting new step in the pathway for female athletes, hosting the first every Youth Girls State Championships at Logan City Rugby Club. Gold Coast stole the show, taking out both the U15 and U17 titles. 

Photo: The Gold Coast U17s side who claimed the inaugural U17 title at the Youth Girls State Championships. Photo: Sportography 

With the ARU announcing the introduction of the Super W competition in 2018, the rise of Women’s Rugby is set to continue. 

 

3 | Club Rugby embraced state wide

2017 was one of the biggest years for club Rugby since Rugby Union went professional. Queensland Premier Rugby was at the forefront of the reinvigoration, with the most hotly contested season in recent memory playing our through the year. 

With two matches streamed live via Facebook and Redsrugby.com.au each weekend, fans were able to tune in around the world as some of Queensland and Australia’s oldest Rugby clubs battled it out to make the top four. 

Throughout the year we saw improvements from perennial cellar dwellers Norths and Wests, while University of Queensland were the team to beat. The Students held an undefeated streak that lasted until Round 17, when the Red Heavies fell victim to GPS’ ever powerful scrum in the Welsby Cup and Halley Appleby Memorial Cup clash at Yoku Road. 


Holding a narrow lead at the tail end of the game, a late penalty saw hooker Troy Simkin crash over to secure Jeeps a 45-42 win, ending University’s win streak and throwing finals predictions into disarray. 

Wests progressed through to their first finals birth since their last title win in 2006, but fell to Sunnybank in the minor semi-final. While GPS were again the victors in the major semi-final, progressing straight through to the grand final, the students accounted for Sunnybank in the preliminary final before exacting their revenge, claiming the Hospital Cup for 2017 with a 23-14 win. 

 



 Outside of Premier Rugby, Country Rugby continued to deliver for regional Rugby fans. Darling Downs and the Sunshine Coast dominated selections in the South Queensland representative side that accounted for North and Central Queensland at the Country Championships in Bundaberg. 

South Queensland’s success was represented in Queensland Country Heelers selections and they began their 2017 representative program by taking on the Queensland Premier Rugby President’s XV at Ballymore.

After going down to the President’s XV in a hotly contested encounter, the Heelers accounted for North Canterbury before claiming bragging rights over NSW Country. 

The Noosa Dolphins and Goondiwindi Emus were the two clubs with the most representatives in the Heelers side, while Indigenous Youth Worker Kai Lowah flew the flag for Far North Queensland. 

The Dolphins proved to be arguably the most successful club in Country Rugby, winning all three grades in the Sunshine Coast competition, with their A Grade side going through the season undefeated. 

Fox Sports got behind Club Rugby like never before in 2017, highlighting events such as the Derby match between University of Southern Queensland Saints and Toowoomba Rangers, the Halley Appleby Memorial Ball and the Premier Rugby Grand Final on their weekly show – Kick & Chase. 



 We saw a large contingent of Premier Rugby players progress through to the National Rugby Championship and players such as Bond University’s Tai Ford and Brother’s Patrick James were influential in Queensland Country’s title win. 

Wests outside back Filipo Daugunu earned himself a spot in Brad Thorn’s 2018 St.George Queensland Reds squad, through his performances for the Bulldogs and Queensland Country. 

 

4 | New generation of Wallabies 

In 2017 we saw Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika usher in a new generation of national players, which included five St.George Queensland Reds who all earned their first Test cap throughout the year. 

The June Test series saw outside backs Karmichael Hunt and Eto Nabuli make their first appearances in the ‘green & gold’, against Itlay and Scotland respectively. Nabuli’s match against Scotland would be his only Test appearance of the year, while a groin injury hampered Hunt’s year, but he went on to earn a further five Test caps. 

The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup saw two of Queensland’s rising young locks, Izack Rodda and Lukhan Tui, make their Test debuts. Rodda made in first appearance off the bench in the second Bledisloe Test against the All Blacks in Dunedin, where the Wallabies were denied victory in the dying stages of the match. 

Tui made his debut against the Springboks in Bloemfontein, and featured further on the Spring Tour. A shoulder injury hampered Rodda’s Sping Tour hopes. Having both represented the Australian U20s at the World U20s Rugby Championships in 2016, the progression of the two 21-year-old locks throughout 2017 was a highlight for Reds fans. 

Taniela Tupou rounded out Queensland’s five new Wallabies debutants for 2017. After playing against the Wallabies as part of Alan Jones’ Barbarians, he returned to the National Rugby Championship to help Queensland Country claim their maiden title, before flying directly from Canberra to the United Kingdom to join the Wallabies on the Spring Tour. 

Tupou was named for the Wallabies’ final match against Scotland at Murrayfield, and came on early in the second half to become Wallaby #917. 

Ahead of his Test debut, Tupou was caught by his roommate rehearsing the Australian national anthem. 

"It was funny ...I didn't know my roommate was awake but he was recording me singing," Tupou said.

"I was trying to learn the anthem before we sung it.

"When I sang it I was just looking to the sky thinking of my family, mum, my sisters.

"I was crying when singing the anthem because I was thinking of my family and everyone that had helped me get to this point.” 

After both featuring for the Australian U20s in 2017, outside back Izaia Perese and flanker Liam Wright were both recognised for their solid form throughout the year. Both players featured for the Wallabies against the Barbarians in Sydney before traveling to the UK as part of the Spring Tour squad. With Wright yet to earn his Queensland and Super Rugby debut, the young flanker is set for a big 2018. 


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