Every Super Rugby preseason I get excited by the potential of the Australian Super Rugby teams, which unfortunately has more often than not found me crashing back to reality by the Kiwis.
This preseason for me is no different, however in recent seasons my enthusiasm has been with the Reds, Brumbies and Waratahs camps who were stacked with the talented 2019 Junior Wallabies.
This season will for sure be compelling viewing to see how this talented group move forward, with a lot of this group now having more than a handful of Wallaby caps, however this preseason I find myself more intrigued by what is happening over at the Rebels and the Force.
Firstly, both teams have put a priority on developing home grown talent which is a real positive.
In July last year, the Rebels announced that eight Rebels’ Under-18s Academy members have been signed to the club’s Super Rugby squad for the upcoming 2022 season.
With the overly popular word “cohesion” being echoed across many rugby corridors it bodes well for the future for the Rebels if they are able to keep a core group of talented players coming through together.
Since the return of the Force into Super Rugby there have been plenty of developments with their pathways system.
The former Crusaders academy boss, Chris Goodman is at the helm of the Senior Academy and in October it was announced that nine players were inducted into the top tier of their 2022 Fortescue Academy program with the aim that they will be ready for the Super Rugby squad in the next few years.
The support of the Force with the now renamed “Western Force Cup”, with ambitions for it to be the premier school-aged rugby competition in the country is also a great development.
Looking at this season I find myself getting carried away by the current playing rosters and their potential.
At the Rebels there is the fringe Wallabies such as Jordan Uelese, Pone Fa’amausili and Trevor Hosea, who with a good season could throw themselves into the international selection mix.
The precocious Carter Gordon steering the side at flyhalf will be compelling viewing and with a couple of injuries his brother Mason could also potentially be in line to debut – I say this quietly but could they be the Australian answer to Beauden and Jordie….
The departure of Marika Koroibete, rather than looking at the negatives of losing a world-class player, does offer an opportunity on the wing for a player such as Ilikena Vudogo who has shone at Junior World Cups a chance to make a name for himself following his move back to union.
Personally I will be watching with anticipation the emergence of Jeral Skelton.
The former Sevens product has been moved from the back row to the centres which should perfectly fit his speed, athleticism and power attributes.
The New Zealand teams have shown the value of having genuine fetchers in the outside backs and should he be able to hone the defensive requirements the centre position demands, the Rebels could have a real winner.
Over at the Force the excitement comes in the additions of Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Reesjan Pasitoa and Bayley Kuenzle who each have a real X factor about them.
With the Super Rugby competition starting with Australian domestic matches and the Fijian Drua, the hope is that these three players can be gradually eased into Super level rugby before coming up against the New Zealand powerhouses.
Pasitoa in particular has been a much talked about talent since his schooldays at Nudgee and his return home to West Australia seems to be a trend with the recent recruitment of another highly sought after school talent in Campbell Parata from the Crusaders.
If this trend continues could we see in the coming years Carlo Tizzano and maybe even his Western Australia U15 teammate Tamaiti Williams returning to WA?
For all this fawning over the backs it is worth mentioning the talented young forwards, Bo Abra, Harry Lloyd and Jack Winchester who may not see many minutes this season but do have the perfect opportunity to learn from the experience heads that the Force possess in the front row.
Similarly to Lloyd, who enjoyed a successful stint at the end of last year in Edinburgh, it will be great to see the progress that Ryan McCauley has made following his time with the Exeter Chiefs.
For one I am hoping that 2022 can finally live up to my pre-season anticipation.