2015 NRC Season Preview: Brisbane City
By Matt Findlay
There’s no two ways about it, Brisbane City demand favouritism for the 2015 National Rugby Championships, which the side will kick-off on Thursday night against Perth Spirit.
Brisbane City claimed last year’s title decisively with a 37-26 victory over Perth Spirit in the final, and after releasing a blockbuster squad ahead of Thursday night’s opening round grand final rematch plenty are suggesting the 2015 title is the reigning champions’ to lose.
Of course, what’s on paper rarely tells the full story as Brisbane City head coach Nick Stiles said.
“On paper, we’ve probably got stronger names than what we had last year,” he acknowledged.
“In saying that, you just never know how much those big names are around for you.
“So really, I reckon the [crucial factor] for us is going to be how the new contingent into Brisbane City steps up, we’ve got more club players in the program this year … it’s a good opportunity for them.”
Queensland Reds flanker Liam Gill will lead a dominant-looking Brisbane City squad, complete with 15 other Super Rugby players – five more have also represented the Wallabies – and 20 uncontracted players.
In particular, Brisbane City’s backline is enviable, and should see players like Nick Frisby, Jake McIntyre, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi and James O’Connor link together to play some inevitably exciting rugby.
Stiles admitted, like most other franchises, his side’s preparation time has been limited due to the Queensland Premier Rugby season.
But, he said his side should be up to the challenge and highlighted Brisbane City’s culture and attitude as not just the reason the side triumphed last year, but also as a potentially telling factor in 2015.
“We had a jersey that had no real history in it (in 2014),” he said.
“We won the comp which is obvious but it was more that the culture and the team ethos we drove really sunk into the group.
“By winning it really locks that in, we’ve got a good contingent of players backing up from last year’s side who understand what we’re trying to achieve on and off the field.”
For Brisbane City’s players, fans, support staff and Stiles alike, it doesn’t get much better than facing off against Perth again in Thursday’s opening game.
“We have a real rivalry with them playing them twice last year and now having the honour of kicking off the 2015 competition against them,” Stiles said.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Alex Gibbon (outside back)
Gibbon was one of Southern Districts’ best in a strong Shute Shield campaign in 2015, and the former NSW Country Junior Rugby Union player of the year is set to make his NRC debut this year.
The Lismore-born flyer spent the last two years in the Australian Sevens program and Stiles said he could set the competition alight if everything falls into place.
“He played really well for Southern Districts and scored some good tries,” Stiles said. “Mixed in around some genuine Super Rugby players hopefully that can see [him] rise to the occasion.”
SQUAD: Ryan Freeney (GPS), Feao Fotuaika (Sunnybank), Sam Talakai (Queensland Reds/GPS), Pettowa Paraka (Queensland/Easts), Markus Vanzati (Souths), Matt Mafi (Brothers), Andrew Ready (Queensland Reds/Easts), Alex Casey (Souths), James Horwill (Queensland Reds/UOQ), James Moore (Easts), Cadeyrn Neville (Queensland Reds), Corey Thomas (GPS), Ben Hyne (Brothers), Luke Beauchamp (Brother), Liam Giall (Queensland Reds/Sunnybank), Scott Higginbotham (Wallabies), Adam Korczyk (Queensland Reds/UOQ), Michael Richards (GPS), Cliff Tupou (Brothers), Waita Setu (GPS), Nick Frisby (Queensland Reds/GPS), Will Genia (Queensland Reds/Wests), Tim Smith (Wests), Moses Sorovi (UOQ), Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds/Souths), James Dalgleish (UOQ), Jake McIntyre (Queensland Reds/Sunnybank), Karmichael Hunt (Queensland Reds/Brothers), Samu Kerevi (Queensland Reds/GPS), Henry Taefu (Sunnybank), Toby White (Easts), Alex Gibbon (Southern Districts [NSW]), Patrick James (Brothers), Chris Kuridrani (Queensland Reds/GPS), Junior Laloifi (Sunnybank), James O”Connor (Queensland Reds/Brothers), Mika Tela (Souths)
ROUND 1: Thursday, August 20: vs Perth Spirit; Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane; 7.30pm
ROUND 2: Saturday, August 29: vs Melbourne Rising; Harlequin Rugby Club, Melbourne; 2pm
ROUND 3: Sunday, September 6: vs Queensland Country; Clive Berghofer Stadium, Toowoomba; 3.30pm
ROUND 4: Thursday, September 10: vs North Harbour Rays; Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane; 7.30pm
ROUND 5: Sunday, September 20: vs NSW Country Eagles; Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane; 3.30pm
ROUND 6: BYE
ROUND 7: Friday, October 2: vs Sydney Stars; Leichhardt Oval, Sydney; 7.30pm
ROUND 8: Saturday, October 17: vs Greater Sydney Rams; Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane; 3.30pm