Knee injury hits Hoopert's hopes for Australia A and Reds

Mon, Oct 10, 2022, 12:54 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The Queensland Reds and Australia A have received a blow with prop Harry Hoopert suffering a long-term knee injury. Photo: Getty Images
The Queensland Reds and Australia A have received a blow with prop Harry Hoopert suffering a long-term knee injury. Photo: Getty Images

Queensland Reds prop Harry Hoopert has had his Super Rugby Pacific plans for 2023 ruined by a serious knee ligament injury sustained with Australia A in Japan. 

Hoopert’s second-half exit from last Saturday’s nailbiting 22-21 win over the Japan XV in Fukuoka turned into grim news when scans revealed an ACL tear which will require surgery.

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The developing loosehead prop faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines which will rule him out for the entire 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season from February until June. 

For Australia A coach Jason Gilmore, the excellent displays by Wallaby props Pone Fa’amausili and Matt Gibbon last Saturday make for an easy decision on starters to face the Japan XV in a final game on Friday in Osaka. 

Without Hoopert, that leaves experienced Tom Robertson and Archer Holz as prop reserves and the possibility that prop-turned hooker Richie Asiata can be used as an emergency back-up. 

Hoopert, 24, had been eyeing a return trip to Japan with Queensland to play against the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights on November 4 in a full cap match. 

With that now ruled out, there was extra focus on the front-row options in Sunday’s Queensland Reds Development XV-Queensland President’s XV match at Sunnybank Rugby Club in Brisbane. 

Reds coach Brad Thorn will likely rely on Dane Zander and the versatile Sef Fa’agase as his top loosehead options for the two-game tour to Japan. 

Thorn was delighted with what was essentially a tour trial in perfect conditions at Sunnybank. 

The President’s XV side, made up of Queensland club rugby’s best, was always more competitive than the 57-24 scoreline suggests. 

The underdogs led 19-12 late in the first half after a 19-0 points rush from three good tries. 

There were plenty of encouraging performances. 

For the Reds Development XV, three-try speedster Joey Fittock and Floyd Aubrey on the wings were excellent. Young lock Wilson Blyth, 21, matched experienced brother Angus beside him, flanker Connor Anderson showed classy touches, bossiness suited flyhalf Lawson Creighton, halfback Spencer Jeans was sharp when the game loosened up and headgeared fullback Mac Grealy scored a fine kick-and-dot-down try.    

The positives started with winger Aubrey before his early exit with a corked leg. So often starved for chances, the Reds squad back chimed in off the blind wing and threw a fine long ball for the first of Fittock’s three tries. 

Only a few minutes later, Creighton was cross-kicking to Aubrey’s wing. The youngster had a Socceroo’s deftness by using only his boot to meet it and grubber it ahead. He chased the ball to score. 

For the President’s XV, Wests’ premiership hooker Ethan Dobbins was a standout, Easts halfback Eli Pilz showed his experience and University of Queensland winger Kye Oates produced classy touches under the high ball, with a switch play and a deft pick-up.  

Two-try winger Ben Navosailagi showed why he is such an asset for Wests. His diagonal running line, shift in gears and deft swerve confounded the defence for his second try. 

The Dobbins try before half-time was close to the best of the match. Bond University props Rhys Sheriff and Levi Samuela, UQ No.8 Pat Morrey and Easts flanker Alex Smit all handled in a sweeping attack of perfect link play by forwards before Dobbins put on two big sidesteps to befuddled the final defenders. 

He would not have known but Dobbins had one lineout throw right in front of Thorn in the crowd. He nailed it perfectly. Little things like that can go a long way because there are less-skilled hookers already playing Super Rugby.  

Thorn was delighted with the first of the two Challenger Series games. 

“Rep footy for club players. It’s so good after there has been nothing for them for two or three years since the National Rugby Championship stopped and COVID,” Thorn said. 

“The Australia A program this year has been good quality. Some guys are getting six extra games from the season through that. 

“These two Challenger Series games and our two-game tour of Japan is also giving players what they need...more games. 

“We saw it in this game. There was some good kicking under match conditions which is far better than just rocking up to kick at training.” 

Another Challenger Series game will be played at Easts Rugby Club on Saturday.  

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