2018 QLD Premier Rugby Season Preview: GPS

Despite beating eventual premiers UQ twice at the backend of the season, GPS were unable to breakthrough for a long awaited Premier Rugby title again in 2017.

Incredibly, Jeeps have lost 14 of the 17 Premier Rugby deciders they’ve played in but Anthony Mathison’s side certainly hasn’t lost hope and are looking to add more spark to their attack in 2018 in the hope of going one better.

Overview with Anthony Mathison:

“We’ve been really happy with our preseason so far. We’ve had continuity within our coaching group and that’s made a big difference compared to last year where we had to start fresh. This year we’ve been able to build on what we implemented last year and I’d like to think we’re in a better place this year than we were at this point in 2017,” Mathison told Rugby News.

“We’ve been a little bit inconsistent in our trials. I was quite pleased with our final hit out last Saturday against Bond Uni. We were able to tie a few things together, particularly in our attack, which is what we’ve been focussing on all preseason.

“The week before against Sunnybank, we just weren’t sharp enough with our execution and although we created a lot of opportunities, we weren’t able to finish them off. Overall though, I think we’ve built quite nicely through that trial period but we’ve still got plenty to work on heading into the season.

“Looking back at last year, I guess it’s mixed feelings. It was extremely disappointing to get so close and then not get a reward at the end of it in the grand final but from where we came from as a group, we went from a team that hadn’t played finals in a few years to a side competing for a premiership and that was a massive step forward for the club.

“We beat UQ twice towards the back end of the season before the grand final so we do take confidence from that. We certainly believed we were good enough to win that grand final, we just didn’t take our opportunities, particularly in the first half.

“On our day, we know we’re good enough to win the competition and that’s certainly what we want to do this year.

It’s obviously been a long time since anyone around Jeeps has been able to celebrate a premiership and for a couple of our guys – Dan Gorman, Ryan Freney – they’ve played in a few grand finals now and not won one, so everyone at the club is very motivated to make it happen.

“Numbers across the grades have been very healthy. You can’t read too much into trial form but we’re fairly confident that we’ll have the vast majority of our teams in and amongst things come finals time this year.”

2017 result: 2nd (12 wins, 4 losses)

Ins: Davis Tavita (Perth), Albert Nikoro (New Zealand), Jay Thompson (New Zealand), Issac Taavu (Perth).

Outs: AJ Alitimo (Western Force), Laione Mulikahammea (New Zealand), Maaloga Konelio, Todd Winkley (Sydney).

Key areas of improvement: 

“The basis of our game last year was on the back of a really strong set piece, then we developed a game that we thought worked for our group. This year, one of our focusses during preseason has been our attack. We still had the second best try scoring record in the competition but it is still an area we think we can improve,” the coach said.

“Last year we relied a lot on our set piece and our attack was quite direct, whereas this year we’d like to have a bit more of a balance in our game.

“We haven’t changed our attacking structures, I think we’ve just developed them. We’re into our second year together as a group now so we’ve been able to expand on what we did last year. Last year we focussed on the basics, this year we’d like to expand things and play with a bit more variety because we’re a lot more advanced as a group.”

Player(s) to watch:

“Our senior guys were really good for us last year and I think they’ll be very prominent in the competition again. Guys like Freddy Burke and Michael Richards are two guys who I think will be standouts in the competition as they have been for a few years now.

“I’d also like to think some of the younger guys who were on the fringes last year will take a big step forward. A guy like Daniel Byrne, Jono Kent, Pat Nicholson. We want to see those guys establish themselves as quality Premier Rugby players this year.”

Hopes and expectations for the season: 

“We want to win the competition, there is no doubt about that. We set such a good foundation last year and got so close and that disappointment has motivated everyone to make sure we do everything we need to do to ensure we win the premiership,” Mathison said.

“I don’t think there is any point in shying away from that. Obviously there is a lot of work that needs to happen between now and August to achieve that, but that’s what we’re working towards and we want to make sure we’re winning games along the way to set ourselves up and give ourselves the opportunity to win it.

Who will GPS play in the grand final this year? 

“UQ will obviously be very strong again, it’s hard to go past them. They are always very competitive and they’re always there or thereabouts.

“Sides like Souths will also improve a lot this year as well I think. They missed the finals last and obviously Quade Cooper’s availability will play a part but I think they’ll have a big year.”