Rookie flyhalf Jake McIntyre is not Quade Cooper but the Queensland Reds don’t need him to be.
McIntyre played three Super Rugby games in 2015 after being thrown into the deep end amid a mounting club injury toll and showed promise in the matches he played.
The 21-year-old continued his strong form in the NRC, controlling Brisbane City on the way to back-to-back titles, playing in every match and topping the competition’s points tally.
Brisbane City coach and Reds forwards coach Nick Stiles backed McIntyre to continue his improvement in 2016, where he looms as the first choice flyhalf after Cooper’s departure.
Stiles said the Sunnybank playmaker had plenty of upside in him.
“Jake’s got a lot of learning in front of him,” he said.
“The NRC’s been good for Jake, it’s given him two seasons of learning and understanding how you’ve got to go about controlling a game as a 10.
“We look forward to him getting even better through the pre-season.”
Stiles said the team’s forwards would be critical in helping the development of the Reds’ young backline.
“We’ve made some really good improvements over the last couple of years in our set piece play,” he said.
“The challenge for us now as a forward group is to be ruthless, be dominant.
“If we can do that as a forward pack it takes a lot of pressure off our halves.”
McIntyre will have an experienced mentor in new Reds attack coach Matt O’Connor, who has joined the club from Leinster.
O’Connor said McIntyre would have a big spot to fill, in a season that will usher in a new generation for Queensland rugby but they would work at creating a system that fits the side’s emerging players.
“A lot of blokes in our group that haven’t played too much Super Rugby,” he said.
“So, we’re going to have to work out what works for them and what works for the group.
“There’s a lot of potential.
“A lot across the group, not only in the halves, there’s a hell of a lot of potential in the change room so it’s about harnessing that and bringing it to the fore as quick as we can."