There is no substitute for speed as a winger as those fallen defenders clutching at nothing but thin air behind GPS flyer Josh Collins will tell you.
It’s blink and he’s gone for would-be tacklers who must feel their vision is blurry so quickly is the 25-year-old optometrist out of sight.
Last Saturday, he glided, swerved and accelerated by five Easts defenders with barely a fingertip laid on him at Ashgrove for one of the tries of the season.
Fair enough, the season is just two rounds old but we will struggle to see a better solo try from 60m out.
Collins already has three tries for 2022. That flash of finishing pace is a big reason why GPS have made a strong 2-0 start with wins over Brothers (34-28) and Easts (36-24).
Saturday’s clash against Bond University on the Gold Coast will pit two undefeated sides in the Third Round of Queensland Premier Rugby.
Collins follows a long line of speedsters who have made eyes pop in the crowd because a scintillating run might just be a few strides away when they get the ball.
Ken Donald was so swift that he made the 100 yards final in the trials for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics before becoming a Wallaby winger the following year.
In his 30s, he was still hand-timed at 10.6 sec over 100m on the grass at Lang Park so he could scoot.
He missed the Olympic relay squad but the Australian who went on to win the 1956 Olympic bronze medal in the sprint was also a rugby player.
Hec Hogan spent time in reserve grade and firsts at Brothers but there was never any doubt who would win a straight line run to the tryline.
Paul Carozza, Ricky Nalatu, Brendan Moon, Brett Leavy, Peter Hynes, Rod Davies and many others have all had pedigree on the track whether at school or dabbling in athletics as a sidelight to rugby careers in Queensland.
Collins was never a sprinter at school. His pedigree was over 800m and he won the AIC schools title in Year 12 with a 1 min 57 sec time for Marist College Ashgrove.
In his humble way, he deflected his fast start to 2022 onto the continuity of players at GPS.
“It’s great to have Tasi (Tautalatasi Tasi) shoring up the centres this season but, largely, we have kept a lot of players from last year,” Collins said.
“We’ve also kept our patterns of play and hopefully we’re doing them better for a coach (Shane Arnold) we all enjoy training under.”
Collins works diligently on his speed. He hops onto the field at a local school near his Newmarket home to work on his acceleration and pace.
“I mean, it’s about all I’ve got,” he said with a grin, “If I had some power and a big fend it would be nice.”
No one underestimates his pace to make something out of nothing. He scored two tries against Easts and had a hand in two more with the space his pace created.
He proved it in 2018 as well as a late comer to the GPS side which won the premiership in style.
Not bad for a former seventh grader. True. He started 2018 in Friday night footy with the club’s seventh grade side. Three tries, including a long-range effort, meant he didn’t stay there for long but it was a climb. He played fifths, fourths, thirds and seconds before making his first grade debut in the finals.
“I pretty much played every grade that season. Playing in sevenths meant a real mix of players," he said.
“You have former Premier Grade playing down just to have a chill sort of run and you had ‘regulars’ who enjoyed a beer and a smoke before kick-off.
“It was very daunting, to be honest, to debut in first grade in a finals series but a great feeling to win the premiership.”
Collins has a try-scoring pedigree. Long before the grey hairs took over, father John was a sharp winger for University of Queensland and joint top try-scorer (17) in the Brisbane competition in 1981. Mum Karen had speed in her legs too.
“Dad has scored more tries but I’ve reminded him since 2018 that I’m the only one in the family to win a first grade premiership,” young Collins quipped.
GPS have a dangerous back division to throw at any opponent this season.
Fullback Pat Nicholson is also a pacy customer. Reds squad member Floyd Aubrey has a different sort of speed. He’s quick off the mark to get on the attack by scooping a ball up one-handed from the back of a ruck, instinctively appearing in support or spearing through with a big sidestep.
The last word goes to Donald, still a sprightly 85 and with a distinguished medical career behind him.
He still had glee in these words: “There is no substitute for speed.
“Other things just complement it as a winger. Early speed is the most dangerous, that first 5-10m where you see tacklers misjudge...and you’re gone.”