StoreLocal Hospital Cup: mid-season check in

Thu, Jun 13, 2024, 3:48 AM
by Queensland Rugby Media Unit
Images Credit: Stephen Tremain, Bob Milosevic, QRU Media
Images Credit: Stephen Tremain, Bob Milosevic, QRU Media

As we tick over the halfway mark of the StoreLocal Hospital Cup regular season, we take a look at one major talking point from each team, with this season shaping up to be the closest season in recent memory.

After Norths completed the StoreLocal Hospital Cup ‘Circle of Life’ with a win over Easts in Round 9, one could confidently say it’s anyone’s game.

While there are certainly favourites in every match up, major upsets and standout performances from Easts’ Eli Pilz, GPS’s Matt Gicquel and Bond University’s Rhian Stowers have created an exciting QPR scene.

So, what else have we learnt so far?

Brothers - #1

Outside of a Round 4 hiccup against long-time rivals University of Queensland, Brothers have put a stamp on this competition and look well positioned to push forward for a minor premiership through the second half of the season.

Averaging per game the most carries (118.6), making the most line breaks (5.9), and scoring the most tries (5.8) – including a healthy 5-try contribution courtesy of hooker Dom Fraser and the Brothers rolling maul against Sunnybank – the Brethren are a well-oiled attacking machine. It’s not just the forwards, utility back Benn Dalle Cort and livewire halfback turned winger Will Cartwright are providing tries aplenty from the backline.

Despite this, they certainly aren’t home yet, with Souths hot on their heels only four points behind and their second meeting of the season impending, all eyes will be on Chipsy Wood Oval come Round 12.

Who’s Hot? Benn Dalle Cort
Souths - #2

Sitting nicely in 2nd spot, Souths have been the big improvers over the past few seasons, and they look primed to finally crack the top four.

Led strongly by arguably the best non-contracted player in the competition, flanker Kohan Herbert, Souths will need the very best from him and the likes of Vilikesa Raboiliku and George Francis over the next two weeks as they come up against GPS and Brothers.

A strong showing in the next fortnight for the top side, alongside their ever-thriving Colts program, will have the Magpies ready to swoop on more silverware come finals time.

Who’s Hot? Kohan Herbert
GPS - #3

GPS are the quiet achievers of the 2024 season; after finishing in 5th spot last season they sit in 3rd after the first half of this season. Although there’s no space for complacency, with just four points separating 3rd and 6th place, good teams will miss out come finals time.

GPS are showing why they won’t be one of those teams, with more time in possession of the ball compared to last year in the right areas of the field – 21% more time spent in their opponent’s 22, and crucially 14% less time spent in their own 22.

Playing in the right areas of the field will give any team a better chance to win, especially one with arguably the competition’s most dynamic fullback, Floyd Aubrey, who is bringing is experience with the Queensland Reds back to clubland and dominating each week.

Who’s Hot? Matt Gicquel
University of Queensland - #4

Coming off a big 68-41 win over neighbours Wests in Round 10, the Red Heavies have cracked the top four following an up and down start to the year.

UQ will be looking to stack consistent performances as they push into the second round, with the club going win-loss-win-loss nearly every week since the season commenced. Some big individual contributions across the year from Kye Oates, Jake Tierney and Flynn McDermott have offered glimpses of a team that could be a major threat come August.

Who’s Hot? Kye Oates
Wests - #5

After starting the season on a tear, last year’s finalists have dropped four of the last five games. One could safely assume this is in part due to having used 47 players so far, already more than were utilised the entire 2023 season, and the most players of any team this year.

The constant changing of lineups would be testing the cohesion and combinations of the club, and Wests will be looking forward to getting the likes of former-Wallabies winger Henry Speight, a big off-season recruit, back on the field.

The Bulldogs will have some work to do as they press their claims for finals with multiple clubs peaking at just the right time. Matchups against Sunnybank and Bond University over the next fortnight will be viewed as must-win games before having the chance to reset over the bye weekend.

Who’s Hot? Connor Anderson
Bond University - #6

Last year’s minor premiers have been slow out of the gates to start 2024. Dropping their opening game of the season to Sunnybank was a right shock and showed new Head Coach Mick Heenan the work he had to do.

Standout performances from the backline trio of Tyler Campbell, leading points (110) and try scorer (12) Hamish Roberts and reigning Alec Evans medalist, Rhian Stowers, have kept the club in the finals race, and they now sit within a win of the top four.

With a bye this weekend, they will need to be raring to go against Wests next weekend, a game they must win if they are to stay within striking distance of the congested race for finals.

Who’s Hot? Rhian Stowers
Sunnybank - #7

Despite sitting 7th with only one win to their name, Sunnybank have been a much stronger outfit this season, and have threatened many of the top teams. With two draws and two losses by less than a try, the Dragons are no longer the easy beats of the competition.

New recruit Kitione Taliga and veteran Junior Laloifi have been strong across the backline, while returning Irish 7s representative Liam McNamara has provided the direction and leadership the team has been lacking in the 10 jersey.

Much like Wests, Sunnybank will be big beneficiaries of the Queensland Reds season finishing, with Richie Asiata, Taine Roiri, Sef Fa’agase and Alex Hodgman ready to reinforce the tight five.

Who’s Hot? Liam McNamara
Easts - #8

A disappointing season to date for the Easts Tigers, currently sitting well outside the top four after finishing 3rd in 2023. A form guide that reads LLLWWWLLL is not what new Head Coach Simon Craig would want to see, especially with the missed opportunities in some recent tight losses.

Despite being in 8th spot, Easts are more than capable of beating any team in the competition, With young talent like flanker Henry Wilson, who leads the competition for tackles made with 112, and Queensland Reds prop Massimo De Lutiis powering a new-look forward pack.

That’s not even to mention the form of halfback Eli Pilz, which has been exceptional this year. Pulling the strings and constantly threatening, he has put himself well in the frame for the Alec Evans Medal if this form holds up.

Who’s Hot? Eli Pilz
Norths - #9

It has been a mixed bag season for the Eagles, with their first win of the season finally coming in Round 9 at home. They’ve pushed some teams all the way but have often fallen short in the dying stages of the game. While finals is unlikely this year, it is still mathematically possible, giving those at The Nest a slither of hope for what lies ahead.

More promising, however, is the performances of flyhalf and captain Harry Langbridge, and Junior Wallabies outside back Will McCulloch, who has spent the year bouncing between Premier Grade and Colts 1. Between this young duo, Norths have the makings of a strong 10-15 axis for years to come.

Who’s Hot? Connor Chittenden