QLD Schools: Complete guide to the 2021 AIC Rugby Season

The 2021 AIC Rugby season begins on Saturday and it’s shaping up to be one of the more competitive competitions in recent memory.

To kick start Rugby News’ comprehensive coverage of the 2021 season, we caught up with all eight schools to find out how they’re looking ahead of round one.

Iona College 

A bigger, faster and more experienced Iona College first XV squad will start the 2021 AIC competition with plenty of confidence next weekend.

Seven players return from last year’s side and will play alongside some exciting young talent who will likely push for a first XV jersey at some stage this season, according to Head of Sport Keith Harron.

Overview with Keith Harron: 

“The AIC competition this year is going to be really even I think,” Harron told Rugby News.

“Traditionally Marist College Ashgrove are really strong in all age groups, but this year you wouldn’t think that there is a team that really stands out at the moment given the preseason results so far.

“The 2020 season was quite interrupted by Covid and although we played some games, it all came to a pretty abrupt end before we got to the playoffs. It’s hard to get a gauge of last year’s results to help predict what is going to happen this season.”

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St Patrick’s

A new look and potentially more balanced St Patrick’s first XV squad head in to the 2021 AIC season full of confidence after some impressive trial results.

Coach Josh Neilsen knows the challenge ahead for his side though and is predicting one of the tighter AIC competitions in recent memory this year.

Overview with Josh Neilsen:

“It’s looking really positive at the moment. The boys are all training really well and are on track to hit the ground running in round one,” the coach said.

“We’ve selected a larger squad this year and the competition for spots has been excellent.

“Our trials so far have been good. We’ve had some nice close games which as a coach, is what you’re looking for at this time of the year. You don’t really want to win or lose by a lot in a trial, you want it to be a nice close contest and we’ve got that this year.

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The 2020 AIC Rugby season didn’t quite go to plan for Villanova, who fell just short in two of their three matches in last year’s shortened season.

A handful of key players return from last year’s campaign though and will be joined by some exciting young talent this season.

Overview with Paul Davey:

”We’ve had a good preparation so far. We had a good performance at the Ballymore Cup and then we had a 24-24 draw against St Pat’s in our last trial on Saturday,” Davey told Rugby News.

“The players all got through that game unscathed, which is the main thing in trials, plus we’ve learnt what we need to work on this week ahead of round one against Iona.

“2020 was a frustrating season. We were in a strong pool and ended up on the losing side of two very tight games against St Laurence’s and St Peter’s. That was frustrating because in a typical season, you can even that out but in a short season, we didn’t get a chance to do that.

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Padua had a mixed 2020 season, finishing the year with one win, one loss and one draw. A number of players return from last year’s squad though and will add experience to a group eager to improve.

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St Edmund’s

After a disappointing season in 2020, Eddies first XV coach Andrew Kirk will oversee a far better prepared St Edmund’s outfit when round one of the AIC competition behind on Saturday.

Kirk has tinkered his side’s game plan to suit his playing group and seems confident his boys can be the big improvers this season.

Overview with Andrew Kirk:

“It’s been a really solid preseason, particularly compared to preseasons we’ve had in the past and we’ve got a great crop of kids coming through this year and for the next couple of years, which is exciting to see,” Kirk told Rugby News.

“We’ve focused on instilling values on the group this year and increasing the rugby literacy of the kids who come from a non traditional rugby background.

“Most of the boys are ‘leaguies’ and there are a lot of split second skills that are fairly unique in rugby that they need to learn.

“They are footballers with a lot of skill and now we’re trying to add some of the nuances of rugby to their games.

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Marist Ashgrove

Marist College Ashgrove will field as many as 10 returning players this weekend in the opening round of the 2021 AIC season.

The perennial champions will start the 2021 season as premiership favourites but coach Brendan Kiernan knows his side won’t have it all their own way in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive competitions in recent memory.

Overview with Brendan Kiernan:

“Like most teams, everyone is in pretty good shape at this stage of the year but I think we’re all really just looking forward to playing a full season,” Kiernan told Rugby News.

“Other than the fact that we missed the opportunity to tour again, it’s been a great preseason. Physically, the boys are in really good shape and we’ve played enough trials to get that much needed match practice during preseason. It’s all looking good for round one.

“Last year was certainly a unique season. For us at Ashgrove, we probably felt like we had some unfinished business after missing out on playing the grand final due to Covid.

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St Peter’s

Results haven’t quite gone St Peter’s way in recent years but new Director of Rugby Russell Todd is confident that is about to change.

By simplifying his side’s approach, Todd is confident a young St Peter’s team will more than hold their own this season.

Overview with Russell Todd:

“I’m new to the role this year. I’ve just relocated from Cairns where I worked with QLD Rugby as a development officer for three or four years. I was also involved at a local level but I was keen to come down to Brisbane to try to progress my coaching,” Todd told Rugby News.

“I guess what excited me about the role is that the St Peter’s rugby program is that it is in a developmental stage, where the school is very driven to improve consistency across the board after having varying levels of success in recent years. I want to work to improve the entire program and my role covers all teams from grade 5 to seniors, although this year, I’ll be focussing on the senior squad.

“There’s a lot of talent at the school but I think there’s probably a lack of belief because a lot of the boys haven’t won consistently before. As a coach, coming in and seeing that early on allowed us to set two key outcomes for this season.

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St Laurence’s

St Laurence’s were undefeated in 2020 and claimed a shared premiership with Marist last season.

Coach Welmar du Plessis said his boys were desperate to play last year’s final but have a new found belief heading into a 2021 season that will begin with a match that should have been last year’s decider.

Overview with Welmar du Plessis:

“Everyone is really excited to get started this weekend. Obviously playing our big rivals Marist this weekend in round one is exciting,” du Plessis told Rugby News.

“We got started back in term four so we’ve been training with a big squad for quite a while now. That worked really well because all the boys have pushed each other and it created competition for spots.

“We narrowed that down a little in term one and I’m really happy with the squad we’ve got for the season ahead. There are some good year 12 boys and some exciting year 11s pushing through as well.

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