We’re now three rounds into the 2020 AllSports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup, and there have been plenty of new faces at each club to talk about.
The return of Queensland Premier Rugby has seen plenty of young players step up and perform amongst some of the competition’s most established players.
In no particular order, let’s take a look at five young players to keep an eye on throughout the season:
1. Billy Rutherford – SouthsThe Hospital Challenge Cup has been spoilt for choice with halfbacks over the last decade. From Will Thompson (UQ) and Jack Mullins (Easts) through to Liam Dillon (Bond) and Reuben Wall (Brothers), there have been plenty of quality no.9s coming through the ranks. 2020 has given rise to yet another generation of quality scrumhalves and Billy Rutherford is helping lead the charge.
A product of St.Laurence’s College, Rutherford has been at the centre of Souths Colts’ resurgence in 2018 and 2019, and was rewarded for his form with selection in the Brisbane City U19s in both seasons.
Last year he was named Souths’ most valuable colts player, a great accolade given the season the club had claiming both Colts 1 and Colts 2 titles. He is also one of the first graduates of Brad Free’s C2K Rugby Academy, and having learnt from some of Queensland’s former great scrumhalves, including Free and Sam Cordingley, the additional work put in by Rutherford is paying dividends early on in his senior career.
2. Cullen Cooper-Jones – GPSA graduate from All Saints Anglican College on the Gold Coast, Cullen Cooper-Jones is in his first year out of school and despite only appearing in Round 1, sidelined due to a hamstring injury, his class is already showing through.
Having spent time in Bond University’s Colts program whilst still at school, Cooper-Jones represented the Australian U18s Barbarians in 2019 and has also represented Queensland in Sevens. He made the move to GPS ahead of the 2020 season and his timing paid off.
The COVID period has seen Cooper-Jones work alongside one of Australia’s most decorated scrumhalves Will Genia, and GPS head coach Elwee Prinsloo has said that Cooper-Jones wouldn’t have progressed as far as he has had it not been for the tutelage of Genia.
Cooper-Jones is also a graduate of the C2K program, another shout to the great work Brad Free and his group of dedicated volunteers are putting in.
3. Liam Usher - WestsLiam Usher isn’t new to the Queensland Premier Rugby scene, having spent time in the Brothers Premier Grade set up, but his move to Wests in the off season has seen him cement himself in the Bulldogs frontrow.
With new head coach Carl Marshall at the helm of Wests, he has looked to build a formidable forward pack that can match it with the best of Premier Rugby, and rebuilding his forward stocks has been a major focus.
The recruitment of Usher, as well as former St.George Queensland Reds prop Gav Luka, has strengthened the frontrow at Sylvan Road, while fellow former Brothers squad member Jeremiah Skelton has provided the Bulldogs with a ball-running backrower.
4. Hudson Creighton – BrothersWe’ve all seen what Lawson Creighton can do for Brothers, and his younger brother Hudson is emerging from the Brothers Colts production line and getting ready to burst onto the Hospital Challenge Cup scene.
A member of the Brothers’ Rohrig Elite Development Program, Creighton has represented Brisbane City U19s and made his Premier Grade debut for Brothers off the bench against GPS last weekend.
Creighton played in the centres for Brothers colts last season, partnering with Josh Flook, and while the Brethren went down to Souths in their Grand Final show down, Creighton had a memorable game and his kicking in general play was particularly astute.
5. Mac Grealy – University of QueenslandNot much needs to be said about Mac Grealy. The Toowoomba product is fresh out of Garrick Morgan’s program at Downlands College and he has aligned himself with University of Queensland in Premier Rugby.
A recent addition to the wider Queensland Reds squad, Grealy impressed at Reds training early, famously stepping James O’Connor during one particular session.
Released to return to club Rugby, Grealy made his debut last weekend against Easts and while the Red Heavies went down in the tight affair, Grealy still managed to cross for two tries. The most talked about moment from the match however, will likely be when Grealy decided to run full pelt into his Reds Academy coach and former Wallabies captain Ben Mowen. Worth a watch in the highlights.
In a backline that boasts experienced campaigners such as Scott Gale and Con Foley, expect to see more Grealy highlights in 2020.