Liam Wright, Filipo Daugunu, Alex Mafi, Angus Blyth and Seru Uru have been directed to play club rugby on Saturday to stay sharp for the biggest fortnight in Queensland rugby since 2011.
The five players are among a 20-strong flotilla from the Queensland Reds squad who will sail into teams for a bumper day in the Allsports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup.
State squad members and a sprinkling of reserves have more regularly been returned to club rugby in recent seasons when Super Rugby has been in full swing.
Not for more than a decade have so many players been released for one weekend and certainly not so many regular starters.
A freshening weekend off through a bye week is fine to repair a few bodies from knocks but the Reds face two blank weekends close together.
Not playing on May 1 either in the Super Rugby AU qualifying final means a large chunk of the Reds will have played just one game in nearly a month when they run on for the final at Suncorp Stadium on May 8.
This extra gallop for flanker Wright, in particular, is crucial before the Reds’ regular season finale against Western Force in Perth on April 23.
He made an encouraging 30-minute comeback, from a two month lay-off for ankle trouble, against the Brumbies only last weekend.
“Playing this club game can provide a great opportunity for Liam to get in more game time and match fitness before the finals,” Easts captain Tom Milosevic said.
“He presented the first grade team with our jerseys in the dressing room before the Round One match so he’s always very connected to what’s happening at his club.
“This many Reds' squad players returning for one round is something I haven’t seen in my time (as a first grader since 2014) and it’s really going to elevate the comp.”
Under guidelines, Wright will likely get about 60 minutes for the Tigers against Bond University at the Gold Coast from 3pm.
Wright, prop Richie Asiata and game-breaking lock-backrower Uru are all returning to Easts for this game.
Bond get their own lift with lock Blyth, hooker Mafi and rookie prop Zane Nonggorr all playing for the Bull Sharks.
Premiers Easts know they will need to sharpen up after a ragged 24-17 loss to a switched-on Sunnybank outfit last weekend.
“Poor discipline, in giving away too many easy off-side penalties, and our cohesion being out were the two main problems. There are no major issues around our structure, it’s just the mindset we have to improve for Saturday,” Milosevic said.
Here’s the full list of which Reds' squad members are in action for their clubs this weekend.
WESTS: Filipo Daugunu, Keynan Tauakipulu, Moses Sorovi, Isaac Henry, Ilaisa Droasese.
UNIVERSITY: Kalani Thomas, Sam Wallis, Mac Grealy, Josh Nasser.
NORTHS: Dane Zander.
GPS: Tuaina Tali Tualima.
EASTS: Richie Asiata, Seru Uru, Liam Wright
BROTHERS: Lawson Creighton, Harry Hoopert, Josh Flook.
BOND UNIVERSITY: Alex Mafi, Zane Nonggorr, Angus Blyth.
Norths and GPS meet at Courtney Field while University of Queensland travel to Chipsy Wood Oval to face Souths.
At Crosby Park, Wests get the biggest lift of all with five Reds squad members available for their tough clash against Brothers, who have three.
Dynamic Wallabies winger Filipo Daugunu, curiously on the bench for the Reds against the Brumbies, can have a huge influence.
Fellow flyer Ilaisa Droasese can be just as big a handful for the Brethren defence with more time with the ball at outside centre.
Experienced halfback Moses Sorovi and midfield back Isaac Henry can provide sharp direction.
Tall No.8 Keynan Tauakipulu will add dynamism to a Wests pack with much to prove this season.
Bulldogs’ fans will also get a look at the club’s off-season backline recruit Jono Kent, who has moved from GPS.
The Bulldogs were well off in fitness during last season’s COVID-delayed and shortened club season and promising periods rarely came with any finishing punch.
“We had some close losses last year but we struggled with the circumstances of the season,” Wests captain Connor Anderson said.
“From our first meeting for this new season we identified that our game speed was not up to it in 2020. We’ve done a ton of fitness but most importantly our attitude to fitness has changed.
“We’re a more closeknit team and excited about some good improvements showing on the field.”
Brothers copped a jolting start to the season against old foes Uni when down 19-0 early. A fine fightback to 19-all petered out as a 31-19 loss so the Brethren will have a point to prove in their first home game.
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