Rookie Watch: New Season, New Stars

Tue, 23/02/2021, 06:05 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The NSW Waratahs Carlo Tizzano will be one to watch in 2021 | Photo: RugbyAU Media

Nothing gets the pulse to quicken quite like the opening of a new season and a glimpse at rookies who can shake up the established order. 

Last year, it was the kid wearing the No.10 at the Brumbies and a burly, line-bending No.8 from Queensland. 

Five-eighth Noah Lolesio’s eye-catching opening round display for the Brumbies in the win over the Queensland Reds was a portent of big things to come in 2020. 

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By season end, he had played two Tests and won a Super Rugby AU title, all before his 21st birthday. Likewise, Harry Wilson, at No.8. His power-running style with that mix of nifty offloads and intuitive support play turned him into a six-Test hit. 

You could throw in Reds discovery Hunter Paisami or Waratahs prop Angus Bell just as easily because they were bolters made good for the Wallabies last year.   

Things can happy fast, very fast, in Australian rugby during this exciting time of flux on and off the field.  

The kick-off to the Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU season last Friday night tossed up its own mix of talents to keep tabs on. Rookie Watch is underway for 2021. 

CARLO TIZZANO 

Going so quickly to a savage crewcut has meant the non-stop Waratahs flanker has skipped the Fabio heartthrob stage to his career. 

Tizzano’s arrival in Michael Hooper’s absence was one of the few upbeat aspects for the Waratahs in the heavy 41-7 loss to the Reds at Suncorp Stadium. 

There’s a lot of rubber-man to Tizzano who bounces up from tackles and dives into the next play. The 20-year-old is non-stop. 

He made 25 tackles against the Reds, a significant number when the Waratahs showed pluck when scrambling, with 14 men, to keep them tryless for 20 minutes.  

Some around the Waratahs have made a Hooper-Tizzano comparison. 

“Being compared is an honour but I like to think of myself as Carlo trying to see what I can do and do the best for the team,” Tizzano said. 

SERU URU 

The Reds didn’t so much blood a debutant as re-program a forward into a new role when they unleashed athletic lock Seru Uru. 

The lean No.8 has added 8kg to now be a 110kg lock. 

What an impact he made. He showed lovely hands and the Fijian knack to always loom in support in the lead-up to the Jock Campbell try, added a telling pop pass in the first Filipo Daugunu try and just kept on contributing. 

Turn away all you dieticians. At least some of his weight gain is due to McDonalds. 

“Credit to the coaches for believing in me. I’ve worked hard to gain the weight and want to maintain it,” Uru said. 

With a laugh he added: “I really like Maccas so I try to order an extra burger.” 

ILIASA DROASESE 

When he bobbed up on the fringes of Reds’ training early last year, many were wondering who he was. 

When Suliasi Vunivalu scuttled his own debut with an own-goal and suspension, the chance was opened for this young flyer from the Fijian Under-20s crop of 2019 to get his chance. 

He savoured a moment he’ll never forget against the Waratahs. James O’Connor delivered a perfect long ball and Droasese dived over for a try with his first touch in Super Rugby. 

You’ll be seeing more of him with or without Vunivalu in the side. 

TANE EDMED 

A 25-minute blooding was unexpected but Edmed relished the chance when the Waratahs had to find a backline sub for the red-carded Izaia Perese. 

The Waratahs were largely on the back foot but the Eastwood No.10 will have learnt plenty about the pace of the game at the higher level. 

It’s great to see another ginger on the scene to keep up the Waratahs’ tradition established by David Knox, Andrew Kellaway, Harry Johnson-Holmes and others. 

Eastwood coach Ben Batger is delighted that Edmed is on the way: “He really benefitted from everything a full season of club footy threw at him last year because I just saw a 20-year-old playing like a 10-year veteran every game.”  

JACK GRANT 

The son of former Wallaby James Grant suddenly has a major upgrade in minutes ahead of him with skipper Jake Gordon grounded for six-to-eight weeks with a high ankle sprain. 

Grant played the final quarter against the Reds and will enjoy that as grounding for a much bigger role. 

ISSAK FINES-LELEIWASA 

The pacy halfback has been around for a few years but we mention him because of his tenacity. He’s played in Brisbane, Perth and Canberra searching for his break. 

His biggest chance may finally have arrived with the Brumbies as a Francois Hougaard-style utility who can play halfback or wing. 

He certainly confirmed the visionary idea from the Brumbies’ coaching staff at the 70-minute mark last Friday. 

A Tom Banks pass gave him some room to operate near the right-hand touchline. He put on the accelerator in a single, subtle in-and-away and scorched one of the world’s best fullbacks, Rob Kearney, the former Irish ace playing for the Western Force. 

TIM ANSTEE 

A subdued start with 25 minutes off the bench for the tall sevens star at the Western Force.

He’ll find his way in the flow of the Force soon enough because he has explosive pace and impact to make his mark as a blindside flanker. 

There’s a start to our Rookie Watch for 2021. Let’s see who the Melbourne Rebels can throw onto the radar when they play their first game against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.   

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