Premier Rugby: Sunnybank eager to attack in higher quality 2020 season

By Liz Moore; Photo – QRU Media Unit

Sunnybank coach Sione Fukofuka is excited by a season with more top-level players in his team and across the competition while his game plan is fixed on improving the set piece so his team can do what they do best – attack.

Coaching his old club’s Premier team for the first time, Fukofuka welcomes the senior players his ‘young’ squad is set to gain.

These include Tongan international Dave Feao who fractured his scapula in the first trial game of 2020 and is awaiting release from Queensland Reds/Rugby Australia to play for the club, and Liam McNamara whose knee surgery would have ruled him out for two thirds of the usual season.

“It’s absolutely a positive,” said the former Brisbane State High School premiership coach. 

“The guys that come back to the ‘Bank’ obviously improve our playing group and add a little bit more professionalism to a young group.

“And then the opposition players that come back lift the level of the competition, so it’s a win-win either way.”

As for how his team is looking against these strong opponents, Fukofuka is positive. 

“I’m pretty optimistic that we’re going to be competitive. Given the chance and the opportunity, we should get some pretty good results through the season so hopefully that bears out.

Fukofuka said the clubs that have been strong in the last few years will be strong again, and highlighted the significance of the set piece.

“The clubs with a strong set piece will most likely give themselves the opportunity at the pointy end of the season. It seems to have been a trend of the last few years.”

Set piece is something that Fukofuka has been focused on at his new club, including through the Covid-19 isolation time, having seen the benefits of it for Easts where he was assistant coach under Moses Raulini for four years.

“It’s something we need to fix. Coming into the club from Easts who had a really strong set piece, it was an area I identified pretty early on that we have to be much better at. 

“The set piece is source of the ball so if we can get 50/50 in terms of possession, and the set piece is a big part of that, then we’re a chance at doing what the club does really well and that’s attack.”

Fukofuka is enjoying his time at Sunnybank, where he played Colts and juniors and his first few senior seasons before playing for nearly a decade with Souths, and the connections to his six years as State High’s head coach.

“There’s a lot of boys that I coached at State High that have come through there and are still playing, so that’s been a really nice experience to reconnect with some of them.”

Fukofuka said like a lot of Premier Rugby sides his squad is ‘young’, and he’s excited by the potential that comes with that.

“Even though it’s young, there are a couple of experienced players that have learnt some lessons and are pretty keen not to repeat the last couple of seasons. 

“They have a really good work ethic and attitude. 

“What I’ve really enjoyed is the energy around the group. 

“They’re clearly well aware that the results for the club the last couple of years haven’t been as strong as they would have liked so they’re working pretty hard to fix that and to hopefully move up the ladder and hopefully get some results.”