2020 QLD Premier Rugby Season Preview: University of QLD

By Finn Morton; Photo – QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

Defending champions UQ will attempt to become the first Brisbane team since Souths in the mid-1990s to claim back to back QLD Premier Rugby titles in 2020 when the season eventually kicks off.

Last season, the Red Heavies sat in seventh before a late resurgence that saw them win nine of their final ten matches en route to Premier Grade supremacy.

But UQ aren’t resting on their loreals, instead they’re looking to improve under the guidance of experienced campaigner Mick Heenan who returns for another season as head coach.

Overview with Mick Heenan:

“Our preseason has been a bit disrupted with all the weather. Uni is a bit more sensitive than perhaps what other clubs are to their fields being affected by the weather. We’ve been able to be back on the field for a couple of weeks now which has been really good and we’ve been getting through some good work. We’ll be ready to go,” Heenan told Rugby News.

“We gave a number of players opportunities during the first-half of the year which is good for the future. A number of guys who were in colts last year have a taste for it and we suspect that some of those guys will push through and be challenging for Premier Grade selection this year.

“Defending your title is difficult, I don’t think anyone has done it since Canberra so nobody in Brisbane, possibly Souths in the nineties. It’s a hard challenge. We’re in reasonable shape but we’re certainly aware that there are a number of other clubs who have been working away at improving their lists, improving the way they play. It’s going to be challenging.

“Our style of play has been pretty consistent over the last ten years. You’re always trying to improve the fundamentals but as far as our style of play goes, it’s going to be fairly consistent with what we’ve produced in the past. The challenge is to produce it at a higher level, produce it in a way that leads us to being successful in games. The style of play wasn’t really an issue for us, it was execution last year and not being able to see out consistent performances through games and week to week.

2019: Premiers (defeated Brothers in the grand final).

Ins: Hamish Richardson (North Harbour), Connor Vest (Norths, Sydney), Jordan Lenac (GPS), Josh Birch (Life), Lachlan Stewart (Wests), Eric Salesalu (Easts).

Outs: Adam Korczyk (Ealing), Sam Mellor (retired), James Dalgleish (Scotland), Clifton Setu (MMA).

Key areas of improvement:

“Physical preparation was the initial focus before we tried to improve our skills base. That let us down at the start of last year and we’ve done a lot of work to rectify that.

“It’s really just about improving our skill base. It’s the fundamentals around catch and pass and our set-piece which let us down at the start of last year.”

Player(s) to watch:

“Sam Wallis is going to have a big year. Year on year we’ve seen a lot of effort. He’s in very good physical condition and he’s come off a couple of years where he’s actually been quite dominant at NRC level as well. We expect him to really take on more of a leadership role with us.

“I’m also pretty excited about some of the young blokes that are coming through. Mac Grealy who was the Downlands fullback last year. He played a trial for us on Saturday and went very well. He’s certainly got some talent.

“Then you’ve got guys like Brad Twidale who will be stepping up with James Dalgleish probably moving over to Scotland. Brad will be stepping up into that five-eighth role which is exciting for him.”

Hopes and expectations for the year:

“I expect us to be a little bit better during our regular season. Of course the aim is to make finals first of all and then secondly to make it in good shape to give yourself a chance of winning the thing.”

Bold prediction:

“Jeeps and Brothers are probably the two teams who are going to be strong. Brothers have got a new coach and they’ve got outstanding depth.

“Jeeps appear to have recruited well over the off-season so they’ll be very difficult to stop as well.”