2019 QLD Premier Rugby Season Preview: University of QLD
University of Queensland were the form side for the majority of 2018 but were stopped in their tracks by a desperate and deserved GPS side in last year’s grand final.
A number of big names have moved on from UQ’s 2018 squad but with plenty of young talent pushing through and some familiar faces on deck, it’s almost impossible to talk down a side that has played in four of the last five QLD Premier Rugby grand finals.
Overview with Mick Heenan:
“It was a very even competition last year. Going into the last quarter of the season, we still didn’t know who would be playing in the finals,” UQ coach Mick Heenan told Rugby News.
“We finished the regular season off well, won the minor premiership and played well in the major semi. Unfortunately, the grand final wasn’t our best day.
“There are things you obviously look back at and think you could haven done differently but ultimately Jeeps just wanted it a bit more than us on the day.
“The only team that is happy at the end of the year is the premiers, so it can’t be a successful season unless you win the competition.
“We had a good year and we get a lot of guys back for another crack this year and I look back at it fondly. At the start of the season, we were long odds to play in the grand final so the fact that we gave ourselves another chance to win it is pleasing.
“Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get the job done at the end.
“The guys started training back in December and they’ve been working really hard. Preseason is always a period of great optimism, for all coaches really, but until you start playing games it’s hard to know exactly where you’re at.
“We’ve tweaked a few things over summer but nothing major. You’re always looking for little ways to improve and that’s been our focus.
“I think we’re in a much better position at this time this year then we were at this point of last year, so that’s all I could really hope for.
“We played Sunnybank in a trial on the weekend and had a solid win, then we play Brothers this weekend and Warringah the following week ahead of round one. Warringah will be a really good test.
“We lost the Club Championships for the first time in nine or so years and that was really disappointing, so that’s an area where we are looking to improve.
“We’ve appointed a few new coaches in our colts program and across the grades, numbers have been really good since the students have returned and I think we’re in a good place.”
2018: Grand finalists (lost 23-16 to GPS)
Ins: Cam Flavell (Auckland), Alex Horan (sabbatical), Kye Oates (returning), BJ Oates (returning), Ashton Watson (returning).
Outs: Con Foley (USA), Scott Gale (USA), Hamish Richardson (New Zealand), Campbell Wakely (Hong Kong), Wyatt Setu (sabbatical).
Key Areas of Improvement:
“Win the grand final,” Heenan joked.
“We’ve played a fairly good brand of rugby and have had a consistent period of success going back to 2010, so it’s more about trying to get all the basics right that contribute to that.
“We spend a lot of time on basic skill work at training. With a decent turnover and a lot of young guys pushing into grade, it’s about getting the new guys to demonstrate that they can execute those skills under pressure.
“I don’t think there is any particular area that we need to improve, but there are lots of little incremental improvements that we’ll try and make week to week throughout the season.”
Player(s) to watch:
“Guys like Brad Twidale, Josh Nasser, Ben Paxton-Hall. They’re guys that are in and around the Australian U20s set up and they’ll be away for some of this year but I think they’ll be really good for us over the next few years,” Heenan said.
“Alex Horan has had a great preseason. Jock Campbell has picked up a Reds contract on the back of a good few seasons but hopefully we’ll see a bit of him as well.”
Hopes and expectations for 2019:
“We just want to be as consistent as possible, week to week, get to the finals in good shape and then go from there.
“If you can do that, you’re a pretty good chance of winning a premiership and that’s the same for every team.
“The Club Championship in the number one goal for the club. It’s the only trophy that the entire club can contribute to and share. Brothers won last year and we want it back. I’m not sure if we’ll get there this year, but I’d certainly like to see us perform better in that race than we did last year.”
Who will UQ play in the grand final this year?
“I think Jeeps will be hard to beat again. Souths and Brothers will also be tough and possibly Easts but I think it’ll come out of those five sides,” Heenan said.
“Bond finished last year really strong and they’ve got a good coach so I think they’ll be up there again but of the Brisbane clubs, Souths, Brothers, Easts and Jeeps are the ones to watch.”
Photo: QRU Media