QLD Premier Rugby Report Card: How is your team tracking after 6 rounds?
By Michael Atkinson. Photo: QRU Media Unit – Brendan Hertel
Hard to believe round seven is just a drop-kick away! We’ve already been treated to some wonderful rugby this season: some predictable results, some upsets, some freakish skill and some wonderful individual talents. With six rounds already done and dusted, let’s take a look at how your team is tracking.
University (1st, 5 wins): A+
The teacher’s pet. The perfect student.
Well, maybe not teacher’s pet but this team is perfect so far. Five wins, zero losses. Not only that, they’ve put 50+ points on four of their five opponents, including the last two premiers, Brothers and Souths. They average a smidge over 50 points per game and have scored 39 tries. If you wanted to find a negative to focus on, you might need to get the University of Queensland Research department to help out, ‘cos I can’t see any at the moment.
G.P.S. (2nd, 4 wins): A
The kid who must have spent the school holidays studying.
GPS were disappointing, as much as they would have been disappointed, to miss the finals the past two seasons. They showed glimpses of exceptional promise but often lacked composure and leadership in 2016. That appears to have been rectified in the off season. They’ve recruited well, the old stalwarts look refreshed and hungry and they look super fit. They’ve won four out of five, their only loss coming at the hands of Uni. Their scrum is easily their best weapon and is the source of plenty of territory and points. This was highlighted when they got out of jail against Wests with a penalty try from a scrum after full time. Special mention also to new five-eighth – AJ Alatimu – who has given the side great direction around the park and is a solid goal kicker.
Sunnybank (3rd, 3 wins): A-
The top-three student; always in the hunt.
Sitting in third spot, the Dragons are looking at another positive year in 2017. Three wins, one loss and one draw isn’t too shabby. Their backline is what dreams are made of. Speed and skill from 9 to 15. Halfback Issak Fines-Leleiwasa is a superstar in the making. Speed off the mark, terrific pass, cheeky enough to always look for the run option. His ability to keep defences wary with his running game allows his partner-in-crime, Jake Strachan, an extra half second to unleash the potent backline. Awesome to watch. Still young and both with plenty to learn, but hopefully they stay in Queensland for a long time, and at the Dragons. They’ve got a big test against University this weekend.
Easts (4th, 3 wins): A
The comeback kid.
Comeback may be a bit strong for six rounds, but seriously, this team is miles ahead of where they were at the same time last year. They get a slightly better mark than Sunnybank – despite sitting below them on the ladder – because of the growth from 2016.
Three wins, two losses so far in 2017 and the Tigers are purring, while not quite roaring. A couple of handy recruits, the return of Toby White in the midfield and having Andrew Ready back for the last couple of rounds has really boosted the 2015 minor premiers. In round one they showed that this year would be much happier at Bottomley Park by taking down the defending Premiers, Brothers.
Fingers crossed injuries are kind to the Tigers because a strong Easts side goes a long way to a strong competition and their fans are ferocious on the XXXX Hill at Ballymore come finals time.
Brothers (5th, 2 wins): B
The kid that thinks he’s still on holidays.
I’m sure the 2016 premiership celebrations were long and hard at Crosby Park, but the hangover must be really taking effect now that they’ve started 2017 with two wins, two losses and a draw. The Brethren have been hit hard by the player drain with a number of guys shifting clubs, some retiring and some taking up ‘greater opportunities’ elsewhere (e.g. Taniela Tupou playing for Reds). Brothers are very proud of the guys who go on to ‘higher honours’, and it’s one of the things they strive for as a club, as they should. But there is no doubt that it has hurt them this year. Nonetheless, the season is young and the men in butcher stripes can’t be discounted. They’ll only get better as the new players get more experience and combinations gel. They’re nipping at the heels of the top four and there is still a long way to go.
Wests (6th, 2 wins): B+
The kid that got all the best gear at Christmas time and now everyone wants to be their friend.
Wests have done it tough for the past few years, but when they were pantsed by Uni at their revamped home ground in round one, everyone thought it would be the same old story for the Dogs this year. Except the Dogs!
Two superb wins later and the barks are getting louder. Okay, so there are three losses in there, but one was to Jeeps after the siren; and another was to Uni, who no one can beat. But they toppled Sunnybank at the Dragon’s lair, and they smashed Souths at the Kennel last weekend. This is a much-improved Wests side and they’ve already equalled their number of wins from 2016, so there will be more to come this year. The fact that they now have arguably (as in, every other club will argue their case) the best home facilities, means teams are excited to play there and the coffee-hipsters at Pitch&Fork Cafe are all of a sudden rugby fans!
They get a B+ based on their improvement from last year.
Souths (7th, 2 wins): B-
The smart kid who doesn’t try in class.
The Magpies are battling so far in 2017. A thrilling win over Easts, an impressive defeat of Bond Uni and a round one draw with Sunnybank. But they’ve been put to the sword by Uni (57-17), Jeeps (33-10) and Wests (63-36). All in all, it’s been an underwhelming start to the season at Chipsy Wood Oval. They recruited well over the off season, but seem to be struggling with consistency in selection each week. Make no mistake, this is a good side. A talented squad, size across the park, and a good coaching team leading the way. They’ll click soon and trying to stop them will be the unenviable task of every other club. Keeghan Sefton at the back has been a real plus for the Magpies. A wonderful try scorer who is fleet of foot, and can kick goals too. Keep your eye on him and the Magpies as a whole, that B- will be taking a more f-A-vourable shape come mid-season.
Bond University (8th, 1 win): C
The student who loved school last year, but would now rather go surfing.
I don’t know if any of the players in the Gold Coast-based side do surf, but it’s just an analogy. Bond are a bit like the year nine kid (before primary school ended at year six). They were bright and promising in year 7, excited to be finishing primary and moving on to high school. Full of enthusiasm in year 8; just pumped to be a ‘high school kid’. But now school sucks and year 9 is the worst.
That’s how I see Bond’s form over the past two season, and 6 weeks. 2015 and 2016 were full of promise and they just missed the finals. 2017 has seen them collect one win and a draw from their opening six games. I’m not at all suggesting that the players are ‘over it’ or that they’re dragging their feet, but they’re definitely not impressing like they did last year. They’ve been gutted by the U20s representative season, so you’d think they’ll be getting a boost soon. Sean Hedger is a quality coach, so this side will still have a few more wins in them.
Norths (9th, 0 wins): D
The kid who puts their hand up but always gets overlooked by the teacher.
Norths are trying their guts out, but the fact is they’re 0-6. Coach, Nick Fogarty, would be less than impressed with that start but he’s a real thinker and an analyst of the game, so he will be finding a way to get that first win. Opposing players and coaches have remarked at how the Eagles are winless, because in their experiences of playing them this year, Norths have impressed. They put more points on Uni than any other side this year and they came within a whisker of beating Brothers (22-21), so there are positives to build on. But, it is hard to give a pass mark on six losses. The wins will come and they get a real opportunity this weekend against a wounded Souths side. However it could be a dangerous time to play the Magpies. Battle of the birds – it’ll be talons and feathers everywhere.