Bragging rights on line as Nasser shapes up against mates in Queensland NRC derby

by Emma Greenwood

Mates be damned. The bonds he's forged with premiership-winning clubmates and world championship teammates will mean little for Josh Nasser this week as friends become foes in the Queensland NRC derby.

Brisbane City surged into second place on the competition ladder after beating previously undefeated NSW Country on Sunday and are determined to stay there with a win over Queensland Country this weekend.

The Queensland teams will clash at Gladstone, in Central Queensland, on Saturday in a match that could prove crucial to the outcome of both their seasons.

And with plenty of Reds squad members, including Nasser, in both teams, it's the quintessential "mate against mate" experience.

Josh Nasser goes over to score a try for the University of Queensland. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel 

Nasser won a Queensland Premier rugby title with the University of Queensland last month but he will have little time for Red Heavies teammates Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott and Harry Wilson on Saturday, while fellow Junior Wallabies forward Harry Wilson will also be on the outer with the tighthead prop.

"There's always a bit of banter around the change rooms with Hocking and Scott-Young and Tatey (McDermott) - and even Harry Wilson who I played U20s with - but I love playing against my mates, a bit of bragging rights over them," Nasser said of the challenge.

It's been a breakout year for the 20-year-old and son of former Wallabies forward Brendan Nasser, who has played in the World Rugby U20 final, won a club premiership and made the Reds' fulltime squad this season.

It's a far cry from just over a year ago when Nasser headed to the world championships with the Junior Wallabies but badly injured his ankle before the first match, ruling him out of the tournament.

But with another year of toil under his belt, Nasser has made his mark well enough to be competing with men in one of the toughest positions on the park.

Josh Nasser celebrates the Queensland Premier Rugby title with UQ. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

"Obviously scrummaging is an extremely technical aspect of the game," Nasser said.

"But working with Ruan Smith, who's almost 30 and really experienced in his field, he's been immense in helping me - and Cameron Lillicrap at the Reds.

"I think it's just about sticking at it. You might get toweled up once or twice but you've just got to take learnings every single time you do have the opportunity to scrum. So that's probably my major working point for the time being."

That thirst to learn is likely to be invaluable for Nasser over the next year as he completes his first season as a fulltime professional having become part of the Reds' squad.

"I did a full pre-season this year, which was awesome for my learning and fitness but coming in fulltime next year, it'll be massive for me, especially just dealing with men and blokes who have been around the set-up for a while, just being a sponge and soaking up as much as I can," he said.


And with a head coach who loves the dark arts of the scrum, ruck and maul and former Wallaby Lillicrap as a scrum doctor, Nasser is set to thrive.

"I think anyone could see that Thorny, especially, and Crapper (Lillicrap), love the tight stuff, in close, rucking, mauling, scrummaging.

"So I think it just naturally rubs off on the players. "And that will be our focus going forward, just really nailing that tight stuff and being the most physical pack."

While his dad was a no.6, Nasser said the gradual shuffle into the front row had been a "natural progression" for him.

"I started at five-eighth and then went to centre and then discovered the meat pies and came into the forwards as a no.8 and then when I was about 15 I moved into the front row," he said.

"But I'm pretty grateful for it, I love it."


For all the focus on rugby and dreams of a professional career, Nasser has an eye on his future and is studying commerce at the University of Queensland, juggling his degree with his training commitments.

"Dad's always been massive - and mum - in that study and sport thing, so I'm plugging away with a degree at the moment," he said.

"But of course, rugby is at the forefront of our family. My younger sister player, my younger brother plays, my older sister doesn't play but is a water polo player.

"Obviously it has been a massive part of my life and I'm just really grateful to be able to fulfil (my dreams)."

Nasser knows the NRC is the perfect bridge between the elite junior and club level and Super Rugby and is out to put his best foot forward - even against his mates.

Josh Nasser has been added to the Reds' fulltime squad for 2019-20. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

"It's an awesome opportunity to showcase yourself against that standard of players," he said.

"The Canberra Vikings have got a complete Super Rugby back row, Sydney have got plenty of front-rowers in Super Rugby programs, so it's just a great test to see where you're at," he said.

"It's a bit of a wake-up call, if you're not there, to get the ball rolling.

"But it's definitely awesome in the growth of my play and for other people.

"It definitely is a great leaping point for the players who do step up in this competition and showcase themselves."

Brisbane City and Queensland Country play in the second game of the NRC round five on Saturday, kicking off at 4pm at Marley Brown Oval in Gladstone. All NRC games are LIVE on and Kayo.