Reds elevate homegrown talent to finalise Super Rugby squad for 2020

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Reds have shown absolute faith in their development systems, backing local talent to deliver them back to the Super Rugby finals after naming a 2020 squad that has come almost entirely through the Queensland pathway.

Queensland was not immune from the elite player exodus to overseas clubs after the World Cup, losing several players, including talismanic captain Samu Kerevi.

Former captain Scott Higginbotham, centre Duncan Paia'aua and former Wallabies Sefa Naivalu and Caleb Timu also left to link with clubs overseas, with the Reds losing almost 200 caps of Super Rugby experience.

Samu Kerevi says he is unable to provide an update on his future ahead of the Reds' final home game of the season. Photo: QRU MEdia/Brendan Hertel

That initially seemed as though it would have dire consequences but the strategic signing of James O'Connor - both positionally and for the experience the reformed wild child will add to the squad - and continued development of players like Izack rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Petaia, Liam Wright and Alex Mafi, who will return to the Reds with either a World Cup under their belt or experience training with the Wallabies has eased those concerns.

The Reds have signed just three players from "outside the tent", adding experience with O'Connor and former Brumby and Wallabies winger Henry Speight, while Fijian back-rower Seru Uru has been signed until 2021 after an impressive season with Easts in Queensland Premier Rugby.

Otherwise, 31 of the 34-man squad have been retained from last year, with head coach Brad Thorn elevating several players from the developing squad to the main contracted group.

Not among them is halfback James Tuttle, who has been cut after rupturing his achilles twice in the past 18 months, with Scott Malolua, who made his Super Rugby debut last season, getting the nod to join Moses Sorovi in the battle to back up Wallaby-in-waiting Tate McDermott.

Scott Malolua will continue his Reds career after making his Super Rugby debut last season. Photo: Getty images

After announcing a raft of long-term signings in the past fortnight, making their home-grown strategy clear, the Reds have also handed chances to a handful of youngsters for 2020, including Sean Farrell, Carter Gordon, Tom Kibble and Junior Wallabies  Josh Nasser and Michael Wood.

Teenagers Tom Kibble and Carter Gordon have been elevated to the top group in a show of confidence from the Thorn and his coaching group.

In a team already bursting with back-row talent, Kibble has still managed to make the grade at just 19 after another outstanding  Premier Rugby season for GPS, while 18-year-old flyhalf Gordon will battle daily with playmakers O'Connor, Bryce Hegarty, Hamish Stewart and Isaac Lucas.

Thorn, who has also maintained his coaching staff - with Jim McKay and Peter Ryan remaining as his assistants, Cameron Lillicrap as scrum coach and Bryn Abad as head of strength and conditioning - said it was great to keep a consistent plying group.

Teen flyhalf Carter Gordon has been elevated from the developing squad to the main contract list for 2020. Photo: Getty Images

“Ninety per cent of our players have come through the system here in Queensland which goes to show what we’re trying to do here," Thorn said.

“Nine of the lads have signed long-term deals to remain at Queensland and there’s more to come. This is a great sign for the future of Queensland Rugby. It’s important we continue to develop this elite talent coming through."

Youth will be no excuse for the Reds though, with Thorn expecting his men to compete on level terms with every other Super Rugby franchise as Queensland look to make the finals for the first time since 2013.

“We saw signs of improvement last season. We did some really good things, but ultimately, we were disappointed not to be playing finals footy," Thorn said.

 

“The majority of this group have been together now for close to four years. The longer we can keep these same men together at Queensland, the sooner we’ll see success here.

"As a group, we’re excited for the challenge ahead in 2020."

 

SQUAD

Queensland Reds Super Rugby squad 2020

Forwards: Angus Blyth (Bon University), Sean Farrell (souths), Feao Fotuaika (Souths), Harry Hockings (University of Queensland), Harry Hoopert (Brothers), Tom Kibble (GPS), Alex Mafi (Bond Uni), Fraser McReight (Brothers), Josh Nasser (UQ), Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Sunnybank), Izack Roddda (Easts), Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Souths), Angus Scott-Young (UQ), JP Smith (GPS), Ruan Smith (GPS), Taniela Tupou (Brothers), Seru Uru (Easts), Harry Wilson (Brothers), Michael Wood (Brothers), Liam Wright (Easts).

Backs: Jock Campbell (UQ), Filipo Daugunu (Wests), Chris Feauai-Sautia (Souths), Carter Gordon (Wests), Jack Hardy (Easts), Bryce Hegarty (GPS), isaac Lucas (Sunnybank), Scott Malolua (Souths), Tate McDermott (UQ), James O'Connor (Brothers), Jordan Petaia (Wests), Moses Sorovi (Wests), Henry Speight (TBC), Hamish Stewart (Bond).