Brothers and Uni against shape strongly in colts. Picture by Richard Gosling
Brothers and Uni against shape strongly in colts. Picture by Richard Gosling

Club Rugby: Players to Watch, Kefu, Knuckles back

A club legend has returned to the Souths Magpies, John Connolly is back at Brothers, Steve Meehan has turned down a contract with Benetton Treviso to link with his old club of GPS while the Easts Tigers plot its premiership defence for 2021.

Good old fashioned grassroots club rugby is ready for take off, returning to a suburb near you from Saturday.

The www.couriermail.com.au will again cover colts rugby each Saturday, as well as the colts, women's and Premier finals later in the year.

So what has happened at your club during the off season and who will be some of the Players to Watch in 2021?

SOUTHS

A legend has returned following the appointment of Wallaby great Toutai Kefu as director of rugby.

"We are really excited to have Kef back at the club - although he never really left,'' said Souths president Tony Shepley.

 

The great Toutai Kefu .
The great Toutai Kefu .

"He has been helping out when he has been able to for many years, most recently assisting in second grade and wherever else needed for the last couple of years.''

Seeing Kefu in a Souths shirt gives Magpies' fans a warm and fuzzy feeling.

"His family have been strongly connected to the club and integral to our success since moving to Brisbane from Tonga in the 70s,'' Shepley said.

"His father Fatai, was a life member of the club and was part of setting the platform that led to our series of premierships during the 80s and 90s.

"As director of rugby at Souths, Kef he will bring a world of both playing and coaching experience to our set up.

"He has undertaken to reinvigorate our rugby program and structure. There are very few people more qualified for the job.''

Souths Magpies colts coach will be Greg Coward who has been promoted following the elevation of Rama Chand into the Reds network.

Theo Fourie. Image/Richard Gosling
Theo Fourie. Image/Richard Gosling

PLAYERS TO WATCH

PREMIER RUGBY

Jack Farrell: A dynamic backrower who has spent the last couple of seasons with the Brumbies. He is currently coming back from injury and should be at peak fitness by the season opener.

Tom Lane: An upcoming young lock who has leadership qualities.

Mike Siaki: Inside centre. One of Souths most experienced players and has been the Magpies most consistent player over the last couple of years.

Theo Fourie. A young hooker who has spent the pre-season with the Rebels and is close to signing a contract as their third-choice hooker.

COLTS

Mone Ma'afu: Powerful centre who is currently one of the established players who has been rewarded with selection in the Queensland Premier Rugby under 20 team to play against The Queensland Country Heelers.

 

John Bryant. (Image Sarah Marshall)
John Bryant. (Image Sarah Marshall)

Andrew Romano: The front rower is another Queensland Premier Rugby under 20 selection who has been in camp with the Australian under 20 squad. "Andrew has moved across from UQ in the off season and will be an important player for the South's colts program,'' said Colts coach Coward, who was predicting him to play some Premier rugby in 2020.

John Bryant: The No. 8 is a part of the QRU Academy where he was expected to show the benefits of extra training and development coaching. He was the St Laurence's First XI captain in 2020.

Eamon McCoola: A young half who broke into colts 1 in stages last season. "He has a nice long, strong pass and defence is good,'' Coward said. "He has the experience of previous seasons in colts to draw upon in the 2021 season ahead.''

 

WOMEN

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ellie Draper, Georgia Sims, Yolanda Gittins, Amelia Brown, Megan Orgill, Bridie McDonald.

 

Nudgee old boy Lastus Auakai is a recruit to Brothers’ colts. Picture: Renae Droop
Nudgee old boy Lastus Auakai is a recruit to Brothers’ colts. Picture: Renae Droop

BROTHERS

When Brothers look to recruit players for Premier Rugby, they don't have to look very far - the talent is right under the noses of officials in the colts ranks.

"Brothers are very strong in colts and promote a successful pathway,'' said new Premier Rugby coach Brendan Gabbett. "We want to keep on building on that,'' he said after colts won three premierships in 2020.

 

Brendan Gabbett and John Connolly have returned to Brothers.
Brendan Gabbett and John Connolly have returned to Brothers.

"The colts is where we want to build from, build from the bottom and we will do it very well.''

Brothers head colts coach Tony Wall said 52 players from the 2020 colts teams had graduated to grades for 2021 after fielding five teams, including winning the triple crown of colts 1, colts 2 and colts 3 premiership.

"2020 was a wonderful and exciting year for Brothers colts,'' he said.

He said this season would be another good one, with colts 4 competition moved to a Thursday night format for the first time.

St Joseph's Nudgee College First XI captain Lastus Auakai joins Brothers colts, along with Louis Werchonm, an exciting No. 9 prospect, composed centre Eyzaiah Ulia and second rower Cooper Bridgeman.

Off the field former Wallaby and Queensland coach John Connolly has returned to his old club as Premier grade Adviser, while Gabbett also returns to his old club after a successful two years helping at GPS. Connolly was a Brothers premiership winner as both a player and a coach.

PLAYER GAINS AND LOSSES

PREMIER RUGBY

Phenix Hunt (No. 9), Richard Clift (backrower), Ash Watson (outside back), Blaise Barnes, (No. 10, No. 15), Kirisome Auva'a (centre).

LOSSES

Matt Mafi (GPS), Brad Capper (Uni), Ro Saifoloi (Shute Shield)

 

Dan Muller is back for Brothers colts. Picture: Richard Walker
Dan Muller is back for Brothers colts. Picture: Richard Walker

COLTS

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jonte Connelly (back rower), Mitch Lowrie (flanker), Dan Muller (wing), Louis Werchon (halfback), Lastus Auakai (centre), Eyzaiah Ulia (centre), Cooper Bridgeman (lock).

 

East player Mitchell Schneider grabs the ball against Gordon. Picture, John Gass
East player Mitchell Schneider grabs the ball against Gordon. Picture, John Gass

EASTS

The Tigers have already inflicted wounds in 2021 with an astonishing after the bell victory over Gordon in the national club rugby championship two weeks ago.

Bottomley Park's David Wilson Field was full to overflowing when gun halfback Eli Pliz directed home the winning penalty goal - five months after starring in Easts extraordinary grand final win over University.

 

East player Max Baker. Picture, John Gass
East player Max Baker. Picture, John Gass

 

Easts' plight is best summed up by head coach Moses Raulini. When asked who would be some players to watch this season, Raulini basically rattled off the entire side.

Expect Easts to be powerhouses again in 2021.

With Ben Mowen retired, Tom Milosevic will resume captaincy. While the Tigers will miss Super Rugby promoted prop Rhys van Nek, player of the match in last year's grand final, they have added strength to the back five forward department by securing Ben Grant from the Western Force system.

Ben Stoddart, son of club legend Tim, and Alex Smit have been promoted as backrowers from colts. Both boys gained valuable experience against Gordon.

On a side note, Easts and Sunnybank will play for the seventh annual Rick Tyrrell Cup on Saturday in Premier rugby, an event raising awareness about the importance of mental health.

"In a show of united support and camaraderie, the teams will play the full game in their opposition socks, with aim of establishing the Sock Swap an annual tribute, a message to walk in the shoes of another,'' said Michael Chettle, organisers of the concept and a mate of the late Rick Tyrell who passed away unexpectedly in 2015.

 

PREMIER RUGBY

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tom Milosevic (captain), Eli Pilz (halfback), Ben Grant (back rower), Zac Crothers (hooker), Api Nayebo (back rower), Alex Smit (flanker), Seru Uru (lock), Ben Stoddart (backrower), Jack Frampton (fly-half), Richie Asiate (front row), Jack Hardy (centre), Shane Kennedy (wing/fullback), Dylan Taikato (wing/fullback).

 

Grand final day action in Colts. Picture by Richard Gosling
Grand final day action in Colts. Picture by Richard Gosling

UNIVERSITY

The long time benchmark of Premier and colts rugby, University will look to go one step further in 2021 after having expectations of premiership in both competitions (colts 1 and Premier) torpedoed on grand final day.

The Red Heavies were far and away the best colts team in 2020, but you never underestimate an opponent wearing a Brothers' jersey on grand final day.

 

Jasper Mellish is tackled. Picture by Richard Gosling
Jasper Mellish is tackled. Picture by Richard Gosling

University's colts campaign will again be spearheaded by eye-catching backrowers George Gibson and Sam Kelly Knowles, while Nat Wright will be a danger at fullback in the women's competition and Fred Keil an exciting prospect in Premier rugby for Uni.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

PREMIER GRADE

Connor Vest (second row/backrow), Will Roach (open side flanker), Mosiah Christian, (halfback), Fred Keil (centre)

COLTS

George Gibson (backrow), Sam Kelly Knowles (back row), Oryaan Kalololo (fly half), Jasper Mellish (fly half), Finn Hearn (halfback), Patrick Elekana (fullback)

WOMEN

Nat Wright (fullback), Rylie Douglas (prop), Giverny Robinson (outside centre), Emma Harris (No. 8).

 

GPS

Steve Meehan has returned to his old club to coach after a long and distinguished career. The former Premier Rugby minor premiership winning coach has been to Stade de France, Bath as head coach, had Super Rugby stints with the Reds and Force, was an assistant at Toulon and most recently spent 2020 as director of rugby at Brisbane Boys College whose First XI claimed last season's premiership.

 

Steve Meehan. Photo Steve Pohlner
Steve Meehan. Photo Steve Pohlner

"GPS Rugby is delighted to have one of their own former coaches back in the driver's seat at the club as our Director of Rugby,'' said GPS boss Anthony Herbert said.

"Steve brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role with a genuine club feel with his appointment.

"We've already noticed a change in the players and coaches attitudes since starting back in 2021.

"The players are really enjoying the changes Steve and A grade Shane Arnold have made already.

"Steve is very excited to finally be back involved with the club where he first started coaching.''

Meehan's arrival complements the off field changes at GPS in 2021 where former grand final coach Shane Arnold will be assisted by Elia Tuqiri (backs) and David Paice, the London Irish veteran and English international.

On the colts front, Sio Kite, a 2019 reserve grade premiership winner, and Lewis Torkington will oversee colts 1 who have Marist College Ashgrove stars Floyd Aubrey and Nick Baker at the club. 

 

Mitch King from GPS returns to the club. (AAP Image/Richard Walker)
Mitch King from GPS returns to the club. (AAP Image/Richard Walker)

PREMIER RUGBY

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mitch King (returning after time off), Pat Nicholson (returning after time off), Alex Samoa (returning after time off), Davis Tevita (returning after time off), Sheldon Tovio (Chiefs squad).

 

Floyd Aubrey will play at GPS this season after widespread interest from two codes. Picture AAPImage/ David Clark
Floyd Aubrey will play at GPS this season after widespread interest from two codes. Picture AAPImage/ David Clark

SUNNYBANK

The Dragons have reappointed Sione Fukofuka as head coach and around him James McClaren (defence) and Josh Afu (attack) will assist.

The overall grades co-ordinator is Brian Allen while Eddie Keepa will again be colts head coach and co-ordinator.

Tha Dragons women will again be a powerful uni, garnished with the experience and speed and power of Wallaroo Reta Marsters and Queensland flyer Ivania Wong.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

PREMIER

Feao Fotuaika, Connor Mulhearn, Nese Solia, Hayden Sargeant, Liam McNamara, Nesta Mahina, Masi Ganita, Joseph Faulalo, Puni Aupuni.

 

Queensland Reds prop Feao Fotuaika. Picture: QRU / Brendan Hertel
Queensland Reds prop Feao Fotuaika. Picture: QRU / Brendan Hertel

WOMEN

Reta Marsters, Christina Sekona, Ivania Wong, Oke Manihera, Kobe Nona, Renae Nona

COLTS

Sam Mataafa, GJ Faulalo, Preston Lambert, Josh Mahina, Elmasi Latu.

 

WESTS

Former GPS premiership winning coach Elwee Prinsloo has been appointed premier assistant while Scott Harrison and Morea Pease will coach third and second grade respectively.

Prinsloo will bring a wealth of experience to the Bulldogs, a club bristling with talent.

Good news is the return of two past players, Joel Atkins (returns from Canberra) and Queensland Reds contracted Issac Henry (back from the south).

Wests is of course home to Reds young gun Ilasia Droasese who was one of five rookies promoted into the main Queensland squad during the off season.

 

Premier Rugby’s Connor Anderson. (AAP Image/Renae Droop)
Premier Rugby’s Connor Anderson. (AAP Image/Renae Droop)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

PREMIER RUGBY

Cooper Whiteside, Liam Usher, Shea Lalagavesi, Connor Anderson.

WOMEN: Rosie Harrison, Hana Lane (From Hong Kong), Bree-Anne Cheatham, Maraea Tupai, Jess Sami

 

NORTHS

Pat Byron will enter his first year as head coach at the Nest after assisting last season while third generation Eagle Dan Ritchie will be colts 1 coach where he will enjoy assistance from Ben Cameron.

On the women's coaching front, Jim Fabish has returned to the club after having a year off and will take the reigns as head coach, with Dom Clarke his assistant. Kevin Sanders will also continue to assist in this role after joining the coaching team last year.

 

Norths eagles have Jordan Luke back from the west.
Norths eagles have Jordan Luke back from the west.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

PREMIER RUGBY

Nick Chapman: The halfback/utility is expected to continue his great form from the last few years.

Jordan Luke: Luke is a prized outside back who has returned from the Western Force.

Tonga Ma'afu: Ma'afu is in the best shape of his career as he moves into his 10th season in Qld Premier Rugby.

Will Rogers: Rogers is a big No. 8 who has travelled down the Bruce Highway from Noosa to ply his craft in the Premier Rugby.

WOMEN

KEY SIGNINGS:

Iopu Iopu-Aso: Former New Zealand 7s player and Hurricanes back rower.

Renee Bates: Bates is another 7s flyer, fast and elusive and will be a real asset to the side with her experience.

COLTS

Josh Mongard: The Brisbane State High School prop who has been training the house down in the pre-season

Lucas Boylan: Big Lucas is training well and looking extremely fit

Tyler Fleming: Fleming is an outside back with lightning feet

 

ROUND 1

APRIL 10

Bond University v Norths (Bond Uni)

Easts v Sunnybank (Wilson Field)

GPS v Souths (Ashgrove)

University v Brothers (Uni)

 

 

 

Originally published as Club Rugby: Players to Watch, Kefu, Knuckles back



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