Despite containing one of the best back lines in the NRC, it is a group of largely unsung names up front that will ultimately determine Brisbane City’s push for NRC glory.
It is also the ability of those names to work cohesively together that will ultimately determine each one of the players realising their individual goals to reaching the Super Rugby or representative leagues in 2015.
Meet Brisbane City’s Tongan contribution to its front line of defence; Dave Feao, Phil Kite, Matt Mafi and Sam Talakai, four of the six names that need to fire collectively, if Brisbane City are any hope of claiming this year’s NRC championship.
Alongside the impressive Sef Faagase and Pettowa Paraka, the Tongan front row foursome form one of the most inexperienced first class front row combinations in the NRC, but what the quartet lack in experience they certainly make up for with potential, size, and ability.
After playing each other in last year’s
Australian Tongan Battle Of the States in the inaugural Monimonu Cup which saw Feao and Kite pack down for Queensland Tonga against a strong NSW Tongan pack led by Mafi and Talakai. Close to this time last year, both duos were effectively trying to rip each other’s heads off, all in the “loveable” spirit of interstate Tongan rivalry.
Fate has now seen the one time rival duos land into the Brisbane City NRC squad as team mates, where each player is now a key ingredient to helping their team mates and individual future aspirations.
Along the way the interstate duos have now become a cohesive unit and brotherhood, trying to help each other display what they can contribute in the big leagues if given an opportunity. The unique skill set in terms of what each player brings to the equation now provides Brisbane City with a prop rotation for all types of scenarios that could provide opposition coaches with all sorts of headaches who try to dismantle the front row foundation of the City squad.
Aside from each player having a firm hold on the fundamentals of their positions, each player also contains certain traits that make them further threats to opposition teams. Feao’s explosive speed off the mark makes him a threat if put into any half gap or against flat-footed or tiring opposition, while Kite’s ball carrying and link play makes him a threat in terms of providing a threat at the line or behind it, when linking with his outside support players.
Mafi’s astute set piece play and presence make him the ideal foil for industrious fellow hooker Andrew Ready, whilst Talakai’s ability to impose himself on both sides of the football using his strong all round game befitting of the traditional prop, makes him a prop for all seasons and threat if rivals are even lacking in just one department of traditional front row play.
Aside from what the Tongan quartet offer individually in terms of skill sets that bely the traditional expectations of their positions and put all their individual memberships in the famed “Front Rowers Club” at risk, it is what the men also offer in collective size that would have their coaches rubbing their hands with glee.
One would only have to look at a back pedalling Sydney Stars forward pack when the Tongans were given an opportunity to work together to understand there are some hallmarks of unquestionable potential both individually and as a group moving forward for the Tongan City slickers.
The Brisbane City NRC squad has come flying out of the blocks in the opening two rounds of this year’s NRC championship. With a back line containing the talents of Nick Frisby, Samu Kerevi, Kris Kuridrani, Junior Laloifi, and cult hero Harry Parker the Brisbane City early and future success has perhaps justifiably been centred around the firepower they have out wide.
However, anyone who knows anything about rugby and the basic ingredients it takes to ensure success at the higher level would know it is the ability of the burly boys up the front who determine whether that crucial “W” is within reach.
If Brisbane City rack up their fair share of “W’s” for the year, you can bet that at least a few if not all of the Tongan fearsome foursome up front, will get their shot at the coveted next level to go beyond the darkness of the fringes and into the bright lights of the big time.
A culmination of the four men pushing each other for benefit of the team but to undoubtedly display what they have to offer.
Inset: The one time rival duos a picture of unity after a hard fought win against Perth Spirit last week. (L-R Phillip Kite, Sam Talakai, Matt Mafi, Dave Feao)