Australian Schools Championships: QLD I set to bring size & talent to Sydney

By Matt Findlay

At this level it’s easy for a coach to look for all the usual hallmarks that could be a catalyst for success – think size, skill, strength and speed – but there’s one other factor giving Queensland I coach Rod Seib confidence leading into next week’s Australian Schools Championship, at Sydney’s St Ignatius College Riverview.

“What you don’t find out until you meet someone is what type of person they are, and I can tell you we’ve got a really good group of young men here who I’m proud to take away and wear the Queensland jersey,” he said.

“Sometimes in teams like this you find you’ve got a couple who can be divisive … but as a collective there’s no cliques here, they all get along and mix well with each other, that’s one thing we’ve noticed as a coaching group.”

Queensland’s two sides were named following an intense, three-day, trial tournament and head into next week’s national championship on the back of a bumper training camp at Ballymore too.

While Seib admitted it’s been a short and somewhat frantic preparation, he said he’s seen enough to suggest his side is in good stead to improve on last year’s third finish.

“It [was] a good week, it’s always a bit frenetic when you’ve essentially only got four sessions with the boys but … it’s been an absolute pleasure so far,” he said.

“I think the most important thing following on from [the training camp] making sure the boys got plenty of rest. It can be tough … following that up with a week of rugby, so we’ve been really conscious of loading this week and making sure they’re physically and mentally ready to go next week.

“Based on what I’ve seen so far I’m hopeful our forward pack will really set a good platform for us. As with normal rugby it’s really about the pack. If we get some forward momentum I think we’ve got the skill and speed in the backline to really capitalise, and finish.”

As per usual, size won’t be an issue for the Seib’s Queenslanders. In recent years the sunshine state has boasted gargantuan forwards – like Trevor Hosea last year – and that hasn’t changed in 2018.

“They just keep growing don’t they,” Seib laughed.

“We’re not lacking in size, but we know we’ll be coming up against [other] big sides so we’ll need to meet them in the physical contact.”

Seib said, as you’d expect him to, taking out the national title is his Queensland side’s focus and the perfect way to kick-start that bid would be a first-up victory against the ever-improving Western Australia, althought he admitted his outfit is flying blind in a way.

“While we’re playing against teams and we don’t know what they’re going to do, we haven’t played a game together (either). To a certain extent we don’t know what we’re going to do yet either,” Seib said.

“That’s the unknown factor. The first game’s against WA and we don’t know what to expect there (but) I know with the Force and everything they’re doing over there with the World Series Rugby the profile of the sport hasn’t diminished over there, if anything it’s increased so I know they’ll be well-prepared, just as (reigning champion) ACT was last year.

“We’ll see how WA go, I know last year they had some really good players in there and we expect the same. It just comes down to our guys making the right decisions on the field.

“In our first game against WA as coaches we’ll find out a lot about us and we’ll just have to learn from that as quickly as we can, before we play Combined States in the next game.”

Seib didn’t want to highlight any individuals he’s viewing as potential game-breakers at risk of adding pressure, before saying he’s expecting Queensland II to once again perform well.

Last year the second-string side made a fairy tale run to the final, including a stunning two-point upset of NSW I, before being soundly beaten by ACT in the gold medal game.

“[The entire squad] has been impressive in their own right,” Seib said of his troops, before heaping praise on Queensland II.

“They’ll be strong. From what I’ve seen through the training week they’ve got a lot of fight in them and a really good attitude, so I know they’ll be really aggressive and throw everything at their opposition.

“It’d be wonderful if we could get [an-all Queensland] final but we’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out.”

While Queensland I kicks off its campaign against WA at 11.30am on Sunday, Queensland II opens next week’s tournament with a blockbuster, mouth-watering rematch of last year’s decider against the ACT, from 2.30pm.