The University of Queensland fell just one game short of lifting the Allsports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup in 2020, and Mick Heenan’s men are out to go one better this season.
The perennial title contenders again loom as one of the teams to beat in 2021, with the majority of last year’s squad remaining together at St Lucia.
Favourite sons Scott Gale, Con Foley and Pat Morrey will again be key for the Heavies, while abrasive backrower Connor Vest will look to take his game to new heights following an impressive debut season in Queensland.
After last year’s COVID enforced bubble, the Students may be further strengthened by the increased availability of their Reds contingent, with the likes of Sam Wallis, Mac Grealy, Josh Nasser and new recruit Kalani Thomas a chance to feature heavily this year.
Here’s what premiership wining coach Mick Heenan had to say about his side’s 2020 campaign and their focus for 2021.
2020 REVIEWPremierships are currency at Uni, meaning last season’s efforts have left the side with no shortage of motivation as the 2021 season approaches.
Heenan believes his side never played to their full potential last year, despite their second place finish on the ladder and Grand Final appearance.
“As a club we had a reasonable year without really breaking through for a great year,” Heenan said.
“From a performance point of view, we kind of got our way through to the Grand Final without ever really hitting our straps and Easts were clearly the best team in the comp.”
The side’s performance at set-piece is one area of the game that has come under the microscope during pre-season, after Easts’ star-studded forward pack gained ascendancy with ease on Grand Final day.
“Obviously at the end of the season our set-piece let us down so that’s one area of improvement,” Heenan said.
“We were pretty good in most areas of the game, we just need to look at making small improvements in every area.”
2021 FOCUSAs per usual, lifting the Hospital Cup remains the ultimate goal for the Heavies in 2021.
The squad has enjoyed a promising pre-season and looked steeled to again contend for the title come August.
“We’ve had a pretty good run over the last ten years or so, and that’s always the aim at the start of the season,” Heenan said.
“We know that there is a number of clubs there that will be the same way, and I think some of the clubs that finished in the bottom four last year will also improve.
“I think it will be a good even competition.
“If you look at last year, I think there was only one win separating first and fifth, and then the bottom four sort of dropped away a bit, but I think this season it will be tighter again and I think there’ll be more teams in contention towards the back half of the season.”
RECRUITSBrad Kapa – Brothers
Fred Keil – Wests
Kalani Thomas – Souths
Lukas Ripley – Souths
Tom Molloy – Randwick (Shute Shield)
LOSSESSJ Tamala – Easts
Ashton Watson – Brothers
Richard Clift – Brothers
PLAYER TO WATCH – MAC GREALYIf his debut season was anything to go by, the Heavies have a special talent in Mac Grealy.
The versatile outside back spent time between fullback and wing last season and has Heenan excited for what’s to come in 2021 and beyond.
“I expect Mac Grealy to have another big season,” the head coach said.
“We saw glimpses of what he could do last year and with a full pre-season with the Reds, hopefully – COVID permitting – he can play a bit of club footy.”
OPPOSITION PLAYER TO WATCH – JOSH COLLINSYou can’t teach speed, and GPS winger Josh Collins has it in spades.
“I’ve got a lot of time for Josh Collins from Jeeps,” Heenan said.
“He’s just lightning, he’s good to watch when he gets some ball in space.
“It would be good to see him get an opportunity higher up.”