2015 NRC Season Preview: QLD Country
By Matt Findlay
In 2014 Queensland Country’s results were disappointing, to say the least.
No one at the franchise is hiding that, least of all head coach Jason Gilmore.
But, if you ask Gilmore, what went on behind closed doors during last year’s National Rugby Championship – the stuff the public didn’t see – was far more important than results.
It’s exactly what puts his side in good stead leading into the 2015 competition too.
“The one thing that stands out is whilst results didn’t go their way last year everyone was really happy with the culture they built, and we want to build on that again this year,” Gilmore said.
“The feeling around the group is really positive, there’s a fair few boys back from last year which is really good.
“I think we’ve got [the mix] right between the contracted players and [the uncontracted players]. We’re really confident the club guys we’ve picked up are in good form at the moment.
“Between the two groups we’ll have a lot of energy come into the group, which will be positive.”
With just two victories from eight games last season, Queensland Country were found out at times by the higher-finishing sides, and Gilmore said rectifying that is his biggest goal, and will try to do so by focusing on the side’s work off the ball.
“I think it was just reaction,” he explained.
“It’s definitely the style of competition that encourages using the football pro-actively, and that stresses your defence more than a normal game would.
“So that work in our defensive shape is going to be critical, and on the flip side we want to play up-tempo and use the ball as well as we can.
“We’ve pushed really hard with the boys with our work off the footy, to get into good shape.
“I think if we can do that well, you get the spin off with good defence and good attack whereas if you’re slow off the ground, with your reload, all those things are going to count to make sure you’re in front of the football rather than chasing it too much.”
Queensland Country have trained together several times over the past fortnight, although in the same vein as other sides, have had limited preparation time.
Gilmore remains confident his side will be able to kick-off its season with a confidence building win in round one against last year’s minor premiers Melbourne Rising, at Bond University on Sunday, August 23.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sam Greene (five-eighth)
Brothers five-eighth Sam Greene returns to the NRC in 2015, although he has defected from title winners Brisbane City to Queensland Country this year.
A wily pivot, he earned his first Super Rugby cap last season and Gilmore said the young gun is champing at the bit to get on the paddock.
“He picked up a cap with the Reds and has played a couple of good seasons of [Queensland Premier Rugby],” Gilmor explained.
“He’s just waiting for an opportunity at the higher level so I’m really looking forward to seeing how he plays.”
Haydn Hirsimaki (Sunnybank), Sef Fa’agase (Queensland Reds/UOQ), Taniela Tupou (Queensland Reds/Brothers), Greg Holmes (Queensland Reds/Sunnybank), Andrew Parker (Townsville Brothers), James Slipper (Wallabies), Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds/GPS), Alex Mafi (Queensland Reds/Bond University), Tonga Ma’afu (UOQ), Campbell Wakely (UOQ), Lukhan Tui (Queensland Reds), Richie Arnold (Bond University), Phil Potgieter (UOQ), Cameron Bracewell (Bond University), Rob Simmons (Wallabies), Jack Cornelson (UOQ), James Turner (Souths), Conor Mitchell (UOQ), Ed Quirk (Queensland Reds/Easts), Radike Samo (GPS), Lolo Fakasilea (Queensland Reds/Sunnybank), Scott Gale (Queensland Reds/UOQ), James Tuttle (Queensland Reds/GPS), Harry Nucifora (Bond University), Same Greene (Queensland Reds/Brothers), Dion Tuamata (Bond University), Duncan Paia’aua (Queensland Reds/GPS), Matt Gordon (Easts), Izaia Perese (Easts), Anthony Fainga’a (Queensland Reds), Jamie-Jerry Taulagi (Queensland Reds/UOQ), Tom Banks (Queensland Reds/UOQ), Chris Feauai-Sautia (Queensland Reds/Souths), Stephen Van Der Walt (Souths), Elliot Hagen (Easts), Campbell Magnay (Queensland Reds/GPS)
ROUND 1: Sunday, August 23: vs Melbourne Rising; Bond University, Gold Coast; 3.30pm
ROUND 2: Thursday, August 27: vs Sydney Stars; Leichhardt Oval, Sydney; 7.30pm
ROUND 3: Sunday, September 6: vs Brisbane City; Clive Berghofer Stadium, Toowomba; 3.30pm
ROUND 4: Saturday, September 12: vs Greater Sydney Rams; Foreshaw Park, Sydney; 3pm
ROUND 5: Saturday, September 19: vs Perth Spirit; Rugby Park, Rockhampton; 6pm
ROUND 6: Thursday, September 24: vs NSW Country Eagles; No.2 Sportsground, Newcastle; 7.30pm
ROUND 7: BYE
ROUND 8: Saturday, October 10: vs North Harbour Rays; Pittwater Rugby Park, Sydney; 3pm
ROUND 9: Thursday, October 15: vs UC Vikings; Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast; 7.30pm