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The 2003 Red Vintage
The 2003 Red Vintage
(It could be well worth bottling)
13 Nov 2002
Well boys and girls I know itís a long time no hear from this author about Qld rugby but when you are busy and someone is paying for your time then it tends to attract your attention. Warning this article is far too serious but I hope a fairly honest appraisal so it may be duller than usual.

Like last year I have divided the squad into who would be my choice to run on followed by the bench or replacement players and then the squad members. Where I canít determine who will get the spot (i.e. hooker and halfback I have left the bench/replacement spot blank). The Reds team list for next years Super 12 is as follows

The Bank of Queensland squad for 2003 is

Starting Line up Bench/Replacement Squad
1
Nick Stiles Glen Panaho/Fletcher Dyson, Syd Douglas, Pete Niumata
2
  Sean Hardman / Tom Murphy / Tai McIsaac Stephen Moore
3
Anthony Mathison  
4
Nathan Sharpe Rudi Vedelago, Luke Caughley, Luke Doherty
5
Daniel Heenan  
6
Matt Cockbain John Roe, Tom McVerry, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Mitchell Chapman
7
David Croft  
8
Toutai Kefu  
9
  Tim Atkinson/Ben Wakley /Josh Valentine
10
Elton Flatley Paul Warwick/ Julian Huxley
11
Wendell Sailor Michael Tabrett, Scott Barton, Drew Mitchell, Peter Hynes
12
Daniel Herbert  
13
Steve Kefu Junior Pelesasa, Mafileo Kefu, Gene Fairbanks, Josh Graham
14
Ben Tune  
15
Chris Latham  

The Forward Pack

The forwards are looking a lot better this year with more experience, power and mobility. However, the major weakness will still be the hooking department. The depth and skill of some up coming players could see a current wallaby being forced onto the bench or a position change.

Props
Stiles should have shaken the 2nd year uni student syndrome by now and should be ready for another big year. I have chosen Mathison ahead of both Panaho and Dyson as he showed a lot of promise when playing for the U21ís this year. I believe that his mobility and commitment should put him ahead of his rivals.

Hooker
Damn it the retirement of Foley left a huge gap that wasnít filled properly last year. This spot is up for grabs between Hardman/Murphy and McIsaac.

Tai McIssac has some very big wraps from some kiwi called Grant Batty who you lot may remember. With the change in coaching staff this spot could go to anyone of these three.

2nd Row/Locks
Sharpe has one spot nailed down as I believe he played a staring role for the Wallabies during the Tri-nations. As he was one of the goto men that is sadly lacking in the European tour squad. Over the last 4 seasons he has come along in leaps and bounds and if he wasnít recovering from surgery would be providing real go forward for the wallabies.

The other spot I have given to Heenan who is also recovering from injury at the moment at didnít go on the Eurpean tour. However, there may be real pressure from Cockbain who may be forced into the locking department. Rudi Vedelago will also be a very sound backup and several people who saw the Qld v Maori game may remember his dominance during that game.

I believe that the Sharpe, Heenan combination may end up locking the Wallaby scrum by 2004 but it would be nice to see this combination in 2003.

Loosies
The two definites are Crofty (who will probably get a starting game against Italy) and T. Kefu. I have sung enough praises about both Croft and Kefu in the past that by now their importance to the Qld game plan should be understood.

Cockbain will probably get the nod to start at no. 6 next year. However, Roe and Wallace-Harrison will be definite chances at getting hold of this spot if he falters.

The Show ponies

This is where the Qld season will be determined. I like the forwards and believe that they should be able to get hold of and control the ball while driving forward. However, there are a couple of questions in regards to the back-line to see if they can unleash their attacking potential. There are also several gaps after the 22 have been chosen.

Halfbacks
This is where Qld season will be won or lost. Can Atkinson be transformed from an IC into a halfback? Will Slack prefer the tried and true Wakely or the new up and comer Valentine?

For the answer to these questions see the points table at the end of the year.

5/8
Flatley has this spot. But the question of who is his replacement is undecided. An old team list has Paul Warwick in it but the latest team list doesnít. This is of concern to me.

I am not a real big fan of Huxleyís as I believe that he has a couple of the same weaknesses as Larkham. That is primarily the inability to take the ball up to the line which means that the backs are generally flat footed before they receive the ball. While I also donít think his passing is as strong as it should be.

I watched Warwick play several times this year and I see him more in the style of Flatley where there is a commitment to take the line on. Warwick had a very successful ĎPremier Compí season for GPS where he scored and set up some very nice tries. He also has a very good understanding with fellow GPS players Wakley and Atkinson which is essential for good combinations.

Unfortunately I think they will choose Huxley as he can cover fullback and he is a very accurate kicker.

Centres
S. Kefu and Herbert will get the nod here. I would still prefer to see Pelesasa get a decent run instead of Herbert as I believe he has a more explosive impact and stronger tackler. However, Pelesasa should be at the very least on the bench and if Sailor does nothing again this year he should then be on the wing.

The best news is that another Kefu, Mafileo is also in the squad and I wouldnít be at all surprised if he gets the chance to grace the Ballymore turf this year. This family really has the chance to surpass the Ella brothers as there ability to spark something out of nothing with their hard work is delightful to watch.

Wings
Tune is expected to be full fit by the start of the Super 12 and he will want to play in the World Cup so watch out.

Windhole was less than inspiring in 2002. However, Slack is expected to encourage a very attacking style and he may receive more of the ball. But Iím not going to hold my breath. I personally donít think he has neither the speed nor ability to cope with that position or really play rugby. But I hope I am proved wrong as $350,000 per try after last years Super 12 is not good enough (2 tries against the bulls).

If he doesnít perform I would prefer to see Pelesasa get a run as he can play.

Fullback
Latham has this spot nailed down. The number of times he saved Qld and me the embarrassment of losing or writing a losing report was too numerous.

Coach
For those that donít know, Slack is now the Qld coach. McBain was dumped because of the lack of attacking flair. So the precedent has been set. It will be interesting to see if he can deliver.

He is the first backline player to be the Qld coach since I can remember.

Other Squad members
The other squad players plus extras will be playing in the QLD ĎAí side that will play 10 matches during the Super 12 season. This program will hopefully increase the skills and match fitness of all players not included in the 22.

Super 12 2003 Summary

If injuries occur galore in the backs then there are several gaps in the squad that will be very telling: 5/8 (if no Warwick), halfback, and the back three.

But if Qld can go through relatively injury free then they will have far more muscle in the forwards and if the backs can be unleashed with creative play then they will preform very well. I believe that if the hooking and halfback positions can yield genuine players who can perform under pressure then despite a poor Super 12 draw, Qld will finish in the top 4 and from there anything is possible.

The 2003 Red vintage could be well worth bottling.

by Geeves

Let us know what you think!

Or it could be one to leave on the vine... I always hated Red wine in any case.

Only time will tell...

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(Although it could have just been Geeves on the Reload button doing some serious ego padding!)