Rise of Super W minnows has Reds coach 'worried'

Super W
by Emma Greenwood

Queensland coach Moana Virtue admits she is "a bit worried" about how quickly rivals the Brumbies and Western Australia are closing the gap on the top two as the Reds strive to make a third consecutive Super W final.

Queensland and NSW have played the final in the first two editions of Super W, with their deep player base giving them an edge over the other clubs.

Queensland, who will take on the Reds moniker that has been the exclusive domain of the men until now, will be without several of their top players in the 2020 season after being hit by injury and representative sevens concerns.

And while their depth means they have the ability to cover those losses, they know they will have to be at their best to challenge champions NSW and push for a maiden Super W crown.

"I'm actually a bit worried," Virtue said of the challenge from the other states working to close the gap.

"WA did show signs (of their improvement last season) and even in Aon (Uni 7s series) as well.

"There's a few girls here who use both pathways. And what I've seen from WA, especially with Aon, is that they went up another level.

"Those players will (flow through to Super W) and in the Brumbies as well, so I'm worried - and we should be.

"But we need them to close the gate, because then it makes us raise our level as well. We want everyone to be chasing each other."

While the Reds' drive is a maiden title to sweeten the bitterness of two agonising grand final defeats to the Waratahs, they need no reminder of the competition coming from the other clubs, having had to fight off a brave Brumbies outfit in a tough preliminary final last season.

"The Brumbies are just that team that sticks to you the whole time," Virtue said.

"You can be winning and then something will happen and they just fight.

"And WA have so much talent and one day it's going to click - and it had better not be against us."

The Waratahs face a new dawn without leading playmaker Ash Hewson but Virtue said they were still the pace-setters.

"I think naturally, they are, they're the best going around, so everyone is chasing them," she said.

"Ash is a huge factor, she was probably what kept them ahead when we played them in that final, she's just smart.

"She's probably one of the smartest rugby players around and would still be up there. She was a lot of their driving force.

"But they've got some young talent down there and it's scary good.

"They're definitely the ones at the top, they're the ones with target and I think everyone wants to beat them. To be the best you've got to beat the best and that's what we're aiming for."

While the Reds are still stinging from a second consecutive grand final loss, Virtue said it had been a great teacher.

"I was proud of the way the game was played - it wasn't from lack of trying. I was just disappointed  because I knew how much they'd put in," she said.

"It hurts - and a lot of the players have said it hurts - but it's important that we learnt from it and we have learnt a bit from that final, especially from the coaches' point of view, what we should have done to prep them a little bit more.

"We're just going to make sure that we pick the right team and have the right attitude that want to work hard - which Queenslanders do, they want to work hard for each other."

Accepting and learning from the loss is different from liking it though and Virtue admitted it was driving her players toward an even stronger showing, despite the loss of Millie Boyle (back), Eilidh Sinclair (knee), Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea (sevens) and Sammie Treherne (sevens) for the Super W season.

"It's got to. Why else would you pull on a jersey to play. You don't play to lose.

"But I know a lot of the girls are (hurting) and that's good. You need a bit of hate, that's what gets the adrenalin pumping."