NRC: Stewart pushes outside comfort zone to find Super Rugby sweet spot

NRC
by Emma Greenwood

He's signed with the Reds for the next three seasons and is regarded as one of the rising stars of Queensland rugby, but Hamish Stewart is continuing to push outside of his comfort zone.

Stewart started the Super Rugby season wearing the no.10 for the Reds before settling at fullback ahead of a shoulder injury that robbed him of matches in the back end of the season.

But the Toowoomba Grammar product will use the NRC season to explore his versatility, lining up at 12 as he explores another playmaking option that could lead to a Super Rugby stint in the centres in 2020.

Hamish Stewart is caught by a Sharks defender in the Reds' 21-14 win in Durban. Photo: AFP

Stewart was part of a Queensland Country side run down 50-49 by the Western Force in an extraordinary game in Perth, where 15 tries and almost 100 points were scored.

He conceded Country would need to fix their defence - and attitude - if they were to beat Canberra Vikings at Bond University on Sunday to get their campaign back on track.

"I think we let the foot off the throat," Stewart said of Country allowing the Force to overcome a 49-33 deficit late in the match.

"With 10 minutes to go I think we thought we had it in the bag really.

 

"But I don't think it's going to be (damaging), the first game of the season, you've got to look forward to the next six games and winning them.

"Losing a game always hurts but having the next six games to win them and then hopefully get into the finals again, we've got Canberra and then Sydney, so if we can get these next two and get a bit of momentum going into the next couple of rounds we'll be hard to stop."

The Vikings impressed in their 47-22 win over Melbourne Rising and while Rob Valetini is likely to be missing after being called into the Wallabies' squad ahead of their Test against Samoa in Sydney on Saturday night, they still have plenty of quality players, including several Brumbies stars.

"They're a classy outfit and that's what we're really looking forward to," Stewart said of the match that will be the second leg of an NRC double-header at Bond following the clash between Brisbane City and Sydney.

"We love the big games and we seem to thrive and always be up for them, so I think all the boys are going to be on and we're looking forward to it."

 

Stewart's place at the Reds is in no doubt after he recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at Ballymore until the end of 2022.

"I cherish that and I'm very grateful for another three years at the Queensland Reds where they gave me the start," he said.

"Hopefully I can be there for the next three years and then onwards, I really want to be a one club man.

"I love Queensland, I love the Reds, so hopefully I can pursue that and nail down a starting spot."

But what jersey he turns out in next year remains a mystery after discussions with Queensland coaching staff at the end of last season confirmed he is no longer seen solely as a flyhalf at Super Rugby level.

Josh Nasser (left) of Brisbane City and Queensland Country's Hamish Stewart at Bond University ahead of this weekend's NRC double-header. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

"Basically they said that the 10 role … they're looking for someone who could play the role (alone) but I've got the versatility so I can play 10, 12, 15," Stewart said.

"Having that in the back pocket is pretty handy so you can cover three positions, I think that's pretty good.

"Even if you're sitting on the bench, you can cover everything."

It's not a situation that has left Stewart kicking stones, with the 21-year-old happy to continue to work on his game.

Queensland Country hosts Melbourne in Townsville. Photo: Getty Images

"I've got things that I need to work on in my game to be the best player I can but I just have to keep working," he said.

"I don't think it's been hard, I just think it's just … I haven't really been in form this year. I haven't really played the best footy to my ability."

His quest for a start at no.12 will be no picnic though after the Reds recruited James O'Connor, whose best fit seems to be at inside centre as a replacement for Samu Kerevi, while Junior Wallabies star Isaac Lucas is being groomed for a start at 10.

"I think James is going to bring a lot of experience. I'm not sure what is going to happen next year but I'm pretty sure the coaches will have a fair input on what they want and you just have to go with what they say and move around and adjust with them," Stewart said.

"I've always had the support of the senior players and the coaching staff, so I never really got thrown into the deep end, I just needed to keep on working on my game and improving, because I'm only 2, I just need to keep on working on my game."

 

And the NRC is a perfect forum for that development, Stewart said.

"It's a step up from club rugby and a step down from Super, so it puts you right in between.

"It's a good pillar for all the young players coming through, it gives them that bit of experience of the contact and the speed of Super Rugby maybe, so I think it's a good pillar for everyone to go off and show talent."

Queensland Country take on Canberra Vikings at Bond University on Sunday, September 8, kicking off at 3pm AEST and streamed on Kayo and at RUGBY.com.au.

FIXTURES

NRC Round 2. All times AEST

Saturday September 7

1pm - Fijian Drua vs Force, ANZ Stadium Suva, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo Sports

4pm - Melbourne Rising vs NSW Country, AA Bailey Reserve, Adelaide, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au, Foxtel and Kayo Sports.

Sunday September 8

1pm - Brisbane City vs Sydney, Bond University, Robina, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo Sports

3pm - Queensland Country vs Canberra Vikings, Bond University, Robina, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo Sports