Every Grand Final just as special as the last for UQ stalwart Conor Mitchell

By Liam Cook

Long-time UQ forward Conor Mitchell is approaching yet another Grand Final appearance this weekend against Wests at Suncorp Stadium.

“To me personally it’s awesome and you never take for granted getting to a final,” Mitchell told Rugby News.

“Every year that I have made it it’s been different and really exciting.”

“Each group, each year has their own unique gel and we get together quite well.”

The flanker has been an ever-reliable performer the Students this season.

Mitchell says the boys from St Lucia have recovered strongly from a stuttering middle portion of the year to reclaim top form heading into the finals and now, another chance for a premiership.

“I think we had three consecutive losses which we hadn’t had for a number of years.”

“It just shows the strength of the squad that we’re able to rebound and come back with some complete performances.

“We’ve had a good run into finals, especially the last three weeks we’ve gone GPS, Wests and Brothers now which are you’re three top teams back-to-back and we’ve put in good performances.”

UQ’s seventh straight Grand Final qualification has provided cause for reflection from Mitchell.

After joining the Red Heavies in 2012, the No.6 pursued opportunities with the Australian sevens, Shute Shield and Young Munster in Ireland before returning home in 2020.

“Uni’s always had a really young team with really enthusiastic, skilful, and good players who just want to learn and develop.”

“The benefit of Uni is they produce some good players who have gone on to higher honours, whether it’s locally here in Queensland or other Super Rugby clubs or overseas.

“We do see quite a high turnover but it’s creating those opportunities for everyone.”

Even a decade into his career, Mitchell says he is still loving his footy in 2022 and finding new ways to impact for his team.

“It’s been enjoyable for me, I’ve found a bit of form adjusting my gameplay a little bit.”

“I used to be quite tight and on-ball and now I’m a bit wider.

“I just love it, for me this year I’ve got that enjoyment of the game back and just love turning up to training and game on the weekend having a smile on my face.”

An epic semi-final loss to Wests meant UQ needed to defeat Brothers to progress to another premiership decider.

The Students learnt a harsh lesson that day and will need to be on for the full eighty minutes if they are to reverse the semi-final result.

“It’s one of those games that is exciting for the public but unfortunately for us didn’t go our way.”

“Defence is going to be a huge focus after conceding thirty-seven points last time which is quite high.

“We know our attacking ability and we know we can rely on that to score points but I think if we can close out Wests and physically front up that’s going to be our goal.”

Having seen lots of talent come and go, Mitchell is well placed to pick out the best talent at UQ.

Kye Oates has been put in a monumental season according to Mitchell, along with some new talent impacting off the bench.

“His form’s just been phenomenal, the way he’s been able to break through tackles has been extraordinary for us.”

“Outside of that, we’ve had a few guys who’ve sat on the bench and had their starts throughout the year and been really strong like Okaw Obonno and Nesetolio Solia.

“They’ve been really strong as second row, back row cover and they’ve got some bright futures for us.”

Winning this year’s premiership would be a particularly special achievement for the club even after last season’s success, Mitchell says.

“We’ve used something like forty or fifty players this year in the squad so we’re a big squad and everyone’s contributed equally to that.”

“To be able to join in the success of that as well would be phenomenal.”

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