2019 QLD GPS season review: The Southport School
Photo: Stephen Tremain
Southport School returned to Queensland GPS’ zenith this year and for the first time in more than a decade they did so alone after sharing their last two titles in 2017 and 2010.
TSS’ character in a one-point, 21-20, first-round victory over traditional powerhouse Nudgee set the tone for an undefeated season, which sealed the school’s 11th premiership overall.
It wasn’t until the back end of the year they were tested again, first by BBC in round six and then by Ipswich Grammar in the penultimate game of the season, TSS’ last thanks to their final-round bye.
They edged out the former 23-20 in round six and then, with a premiership beckoning, drew 29-all with Ipswich to claim the title by a solitary point from BBC.
Simply, head coach Mike Wallace couldn’t really have asked for any more.
OVERVIEW WITH MIKE WALLACE:
“The premiership was certainly a goal at the start of the year so it was pretty cool to set that goal and then achieve it,” Wallace said.
“But we rarely measure ourselves on wins and losses and whether our players have improved, and we think across the season pretty our whole squad improved.
“We had players selected in Queensland and Australian teams and (while) we don’t focus on the individual as such, the group playing well promotes those individual players.
“We had a number of our guys who will go on to get really high [overall position] scores and hopefully get into some pretty prestigious academic courses at university. That is the most important thing, making sure no player is disadvantaged academically because he’s playing rugby.
“This team probably wasn’t the most talented team I’ve ever coached at TSS, but they probably worked the hardest, and continued to trust in the system and back themselves.
“One other that’s really important, I think, is that the strength of our rugby community really lies within our boarding community.
“We have so much strength and value coming from a boarding community that has players from so many diverse regions, who are willing to buy in and work hard, that’s been the case for a number of years.
“Places from well beyond the Gold Coast like Goondiwindi, Moree, Tamworth and even as far south as Dubbo provide us so many reliable, physically capable players who have a huge desire to learn.
“As a coach that’s a dream, and without our boarding community being so strong and so involved in everything we do our rugby program wouldn’t survive.”
WHO IS THE GRADUATING PLAYER TO WATCH?
“Zane Nonggorr is probably the best schoolboy footballer I’ve ever coached,” Wallace said.
“In his time at TSS he’s played every game in three years of first XV, only lost two games and won two premierships. I don’t think there’d be many players who …. boast that sort of record. Wilson Blyth came on in the last two years and was magnificent as well.
“Dion Samuela too, a young man who a couple of years ago was quite shy and would sit back and let others take on leadership roles but stood up this year, he was an outstanding leader and is an outstanding human being.
“That was reflected in his selection in the Australian team, and I think he had an outstanding Test against New Zealand.”
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN BETWEEN NOW AND ROUND ONE NEXT YEAR?
“The exciting thing about coaching schoolboy rugby is you get a new group every year, but that’s the scary thing about coaching schoolboy rugby too,” Wallace said.
“We’ll maintain the core of our group – our 10, 12 and 13 will stay together – but we’ll start again like we do every year. Rather than trying to overlay a game plan over the players we’ll look at who’s developing out of our second XV and [younger age groups] and then build a plan around their skill-sets.
“Next year is a massive academic year in Queensland as well with changes to university entrance and the way [senior students] are exited. The biggest term of the year will be term three which will cut across the rugby season so we have to make sure we find a way to tailor our program to that too.”
BOLD PREDICTION FOR 2020?
“It’s a long way out and [a premiership] is always the goal, but if every game is do or die you end up dead a lot,” Wallace said.
“And with it being such a big academic year we’re not going to compromise their academics on the altar of win at all costs, so we’ll just have to see how we go.”