Praise for unsung winger as Kiss explains Wallaby omissions for Reds-Chiefs

Wed, Jun 5, 2024, 5:30 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey

Queensland coach Les Kiss knows how to play above his weight better than most.

After all, the former Maroons and Kangaroos flyer made a career of it spanning eight years in the 13-man code, including a 1986 Dally M gong for winger of the year.

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It should come as little surprise, then, to see Kiss bring out the best in Queensland's latest featherweight winger.

Not Tim Ryan, though his nine-try debut season and rise to cult-hero status has been the Reds' top story in 2024.

Kiss' tenure has coincided with the rise of Mac Grealy - the man entrusted with shutting down All Black winger Emoni Narawa this Friday night.

Grealy, 22, was used sparingly across three seasons under Brad Thorn but has burst to life in 2024, starting 10 of his 12 appearances in 2024.

Budding statisticians may note Grealy's unenviable try drought - he's yet to score in 28 Super Rugby appearances - however that's of little concern to Kiss, who's banking on the Grealy-Ryan combination to deliver in Hamilton.

"Mac's had a very special year, I think he's been brilliant for us in attack and defence … and I'm really proud of him," Kiss told media in Brisbane.

"I made the challenge to him earlier in the year and he's stood up when it's counted.

"He's valued by his peers immensely, he only adds value and usefulness to the locker room. Every training session he's abuzz and he's in front of his detail."

The rise of Grealy and Ryan sits in contrast to fellow winger Suliasi Vunivalu, who is one of two Wallabies missing from Queensland's matchday 23 alongside James O'Connor

Vunivalu is signed through 2025 but finds himself on the outer after a mixed 2024 across nine starts from 12 appearances.

Kiss lent his support to Vunivalu earlier this week, telling media he was "committed to the cause". Vunivalu will also travel to Hamilton as a non-23 squad member.

"Everyone digs in each week to make the 15 work and the 23 work,” Kiss said.

"(Vunivalu) will have his role to play, whether he’s in the starting team or on the bench or not, and he’s committed to that.

Kiss also told reporters he was "close" to selecting O'Connor but will back rookie flyhalf Tom Lynagh and Brothers veteran Lawson Creighton to deliver in Hamilton with Taj Annan preferred as a backline utility.

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