Close quarters breeding City-Country rivalry

by Sam Phillips

Mateship will be set aside on Saturday when Brisbane City and Queensland Country square off for the seventh time in the NRC's short history.

It isn't quite state against state, mate against mate, as the famous State of Origin tagline goes, but for these two squads, it isn't far from it.

State of Origin's rivalry is steeped in history and there is plenty of City-Country history that has gone before the birth of the NRC incarnation of this rivalry.

But the history of the rivalry is just one of the reasons that this match means more than any other on the calendar for these two teams.

This rivalry is bred out of proximity, with the enemy constantly in close quarters.

Both teams being based out of Ballymore means they see each other every day and that has led to more than a bit of banter, as Lukhan Tui told today.

"There has been heaps of banter, Reece Hewat has probably led the chat there," Tui said.

"A lot of boys are getting stuck into each other and we had a bit of an edge on the country boys on Monday, considering they lost, so they'll be up for it this weekend.

"They're keen to rip into us."

The rivalry isn't all for show, either, according to Tui.

"There's definitely a rivalry there," he said.

"We all have a joke and a laugh but when we play these games, it's pretty personal.

"Boys are trying to get one up on each other and I think it's good for the club and good for the boys."

Tui, who has had a breakout year which saw him selected in Michael Cheika's June Wallabies squad, will pack down against a man looking to emulate his 2017 season in 2018, Harry Hockings.

Hockings was a fixture in the Australian U20s campaign this year and, as a proud Bowen boy, he is ready to rip in on Saturday.

"Reece Hewat likes to talk a bit of smack so we will see if he can back it up," Hockings said.

"(It's) pretty exciting to be able to represent Bowen.

"I played my first junior rugby up there so it will be good to represent them.

"There should be a bit of a crowd watching the game and hopefully we get the win for them."

The NRC is a showcase of Australia's finest young rugby talent and both these teams personify that.

As two of Queensland's brightest young stars, Tui and Hockings are perfect examples of players that will use the NRC as platform for big Super Rugby campaigns in 2018.

Tui is the more developed player of the pair and after a bumper return to rugby against the Fijian Drua, having spent three months on the sidelines nursing a knee injury, he has set his sights on bigger and better things for the remainder of the season.

"I think anyone who has had a few months out of playing rugby would come back and put a good, solid performance together and I'm just happy to be back and playing NRC," Tui said.

"That's definitely one of my goals, to try and force my way back into the squad but if it happens, it happens.

"I can only control that by putting my best foot forward and playing some good footy."

Queensland Country and Brisbane City square off in Noosa on Saturday, kicking off at 1pm AEST, streamed LIVE on the FOX SPORTS website and on the FOX SPORTS app.