Flair Jordan ready for liftoff at fullback

Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 7:37 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Whether it's at fullback or wing, a fit and firing Jordan Petaia is all set for a big 2022 season.

The Jordan Petaia experiment at fullback is a goer with the Queensland Reds set to trial the bold move on Saturday night behind closed doors.

The ramifications go right to the top with “Find A Fullback” one of the Wallabies’ most pressing selection issues in the run to next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

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Petaia was coy about revealing exactly what role he will play against the Western Force at Ballymore in Saturday night’s trial but rugby.com.au can exclusively confirm he will play at fullback at some stage.

At times, Petaia has been tossed in at fullback in the secondary team at training during the pre-season to practice his kick return skills against the Reds’ top defensive unit.

The transition is a work-in-progress but Petaia, 21, will tackle his role at full fitness on Saturday night after beating the hamstring injury that ended his Wallaby tour of Europe last November.

When asked if a spy at Reds training might see him rehearsing his fullback skills, Petaia smiled and put on his best sidestep.

“I’m not sure...it’s hard to say,” Petaia said.

“There were chats last year. The coaches were speaking about it.”

Petaia has been a hit at wing and outside centre, when fit, but enjoys fullback just as much.

“I played fullback in my final year at school (Brisbane State High) so, yeah, I enjoy getting more touches there and the greater freedom you have at the back,” he said. 

The chatter about Petaia being reprogrammed as a fullback was ignited as a left field idea by Test great Tim Horan early last year. By the time Tom Banks and Reece Hodge were both grounded by injuries, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was biting on the idea.

Banks played some of his best Test rugby minutes as a fullback last year, not all the time but he did finally translate some of his thrust for the Brumbies to the international arena. With his booming boot, Hodge always looks like he should be a better fullback than he is which is probably a spin-off of just not playing there regularly over the past few seasons.

The Reds were delighted with the form of Jock Campbell at fullback last year but there has been no interest in him from the Wallabies selectors. 

Saturday night’s trial at Ballymore is being played without a crowd so fans will have to study Petaia’s progress on the Reds’ YouTube channel or by livestream from the Reds website at 6pm (AEST).

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New Queensland co-captain Tate McDermott gave the strong impression fans will like what they see.

“Jordan has always had that flair about him. You can put him wherever you want and he’ll provide for the team,’ McDermott said.

“He’s moving extra well after working really hard on his body. He’s smiling and he's got that lightning back he had when he was a young fella.

“Whether that means him playing fullback or on the wing only time will tell. I think he has a big future at fullback but we’ll have to wait and see.

“It will be exciting...if or when he gets that gig.” 

Unfortunately, the Reds will be missing centre Isaac Henry for the first month of the Super Rugby Pacific season after he broke a bone in his foot at training.

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