University of Queensland head coach Mick Heenan has selected his match-day-23 for today’s Australian Club Championship clash against Sydney University in Sydney, with Number 8 Sam Wallis named as Captain for the first time.
At the age of 21, Wallis has already established himself as a mainstay within the Red Heavies backrow and his efforts for both UQ and Brisbane City in the National Rugby Championship (NRC) saw him earn a call up for the Reds in their pre-season trial against the Waratahs in Dalby.
Wallis is one of 10 players from the match-day 23 that won last year’s Hospital Challenge Cup Grand Final to be named for today’s clash, however a lot of former UQ heavy weights return to the fold.
Former Reds U20s prop Hamish Richardson is back from a stint in New Zealand and will start at loose-head prop, while former Newcastle Knights U20s and Queensland Country flyer Josh Birch returns to the Premier Rugby scene after taking time off for work.
Flanker Pat Morrey also heads into the 2020 season with a full Super Rugby pre-season under his belt, having trained with the Melbourne Rebels.
In the halves, two fresh faces will steer the team around with halfback Jordan Lenac and flyhalf Lachie Stewart both transferring to UQ from GPS and Wests respectively in the off-season.
The next generation of Red Heavies talent is also set to be on show, with former Colts captain Tom van Der Schyff named in the reserves, as well as 18-year-old outside back Jasper Mellish.
Mellish, although already having played for UQ in Sevens, is fresh from Siena Catholic College on the Sunshine Coast and follows in the footsteps of a number of Coast products who have previously made the move to the Red Heavies including Elliott Hagen, Tom Cox, Halley Appleby and Tate McDermott.
Wallis said ahead of the match: “We’re hugely excited for this match, we get to showcase our skills for the season and this is the best test we could hope for ahead of Round 1 next weekend.
“Coming off our win last year, we want to go down to Sydney and show that we’re the best club side in Australia.
“Given that it is the start of the year, we’re still a work in progress, but we have enough of the core from last year and guys who’ve been around the club before so they know how Uni play and what the expectations are.
“Traveling for the match adds to the excitement. The club scene down in Sydney is different so it will be good to check that out and it will be a great bonding experience for us a team, something that not many of the other Brisbane Clubs might have ahead of the season.”
2019 minor premiers and runners up Brothers also head south to Sydney to face Warringah, with their main core of the 2019 squad returning for the clash.
Talismanic captain Tom Moloney will lead the side, and in an interesting twist, Lawson Creighton, who trialled with the Reds in Gladstone, will start at flyhalf with Rohan Saifoloi moving to fullback.
At lock, former Nudgee College star Thomas Jefferies will make the return to Brothers, a club his family has close ties with, after stints in Victoria with both the North Melbourne AFL Club and the Rebels.
Fellow former Nudgee star Jangala Bennet, who has been part of the Cronulla Sharks system since leaving school, also returns to Brisbane and will start on the wing. The Brothers clash with Warringah will kick off at 12:30pm at Sydney University, with the Red Heavies Australian Club Championship decider against Sydney Uni kicking off at 4:30pm AEST. The UQ v Sydney Uni match will be broadcast on Kayo, Rugby.com.au as well as Qld.Rugby.