Rugby

Premier Players: Victorian bolts into Junior Wallaby Gold, Mountain Goat excelling in Shute Shield

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Growth in Australia’s loose forwards continues to impress, with players in the Junior Wallabies and in clubland showing incredible form throughout the course of the season. 

Last weekend saw several exciting names stand up, and even more impressively, players from outside the traditional Australian heartlands. The WA Academy has been noted for its ever increasing contingent of local players making it into the likes of the Junior Wallabies.

Leafi Heka Talataina scores for the Junior Wallabies (Source: Getty Images)

Leafi Heka Talataina – Number Eight (Endeavour Hills Rugby Club)

This week, Victoria takes centre stage for its first clubland feature of the year, albeit in Junior Wallabies Gold. The Dewar Shield has been one of the most competitive competitions this year, with emerging teams in Melbourne University and Footscray upsetting the apple cart and challenging the likes of current premiers Harlequins.

Endeavour Hills sits second on the ladder as one of the stronger teams, and a big reason is the growth of talent like Leafi Heka Talataina. A near two metre machine who has come through Hills and the Rebels Academy, he was rewarded for his form with an inclusion in the Junior Wallabies squad for South Africa.

This young talent has delivered, proving a physical battler in the style of Scott Fardy. A great ball runner, he also scored one of the most critical tries in their campaign, as the U20s drew with secure a battle for 5th place, which they will face Wales for following a 35-44 win over the Baby Blacks. 

This exciting player looks strong, physical, and destined for Rebels representation: another exciting local product from the Garden State.

Patrick Sowerby – Number Eight (University of Queensland Rugby Football Club)

From the Garden State to the Sunshine State, despite the form of the Red Heavies first grade so far this season things are still looking positive across the UQ club as a whole. With strong campaigns by their Womens and Colts teams, the club is still set to feature in many competitions come finals.

One of the most exciting talents is young Number Eight Patrick Sowerby. Recently selected as Queensland Premier Rugby’s Young Gun of the Week for Round 12 (one of several exciting players in the UQ colts program to have been recognised), Patrick has had a strong season so far in Red.

The Hospital Cup is proving a strong nursery for many exciting players and coaches who go on to excel nationwide, and Pat has the makings of a great loose forward: strong dedication to set piece, the capability to be a real nuisance in open play for opposition teams, and critically, possessing a strong maturity that has seen him stand out as promising leadership player.

It will be exciting to watch Patrick make the inevitable transition to Seniors, and should he continue to impress, maybe even go higher. 

Saiyasi Ikanidrodro – Wing (Western Sydney Two Blues Rugby Union Club)

Finishing up in Western Sydney, last week saw one of the most incredible rounds in recent Shute Shield history, and no bigger a result was there than the Western Sydney Two Blues winning of Sydney University on campus. The Two Blues having been building in form over the last few seasons: and with the result now putting them squarely in the finals picture.

While not selected for this first grade match, Saiyasi Ikanidrodro has impressed throughout the 2023 season, currently leading the club for tries scored, crossing the white line a whopping eleven times. 

Originally an exciting young player who emerged from the mighty Blue Mountains Rugby Club, the Mountain Goat has transitioned to Penrith, Gordon and now into Two Blue colours, earning first grade caps both on the bench and as a starting player. Settling at Western Sydney, Saiyasi has impressed as a finisher with every opportunity he’s been given. 

On the weekend, his inclusion in Two Blues Second Grade saw him scoring a try for his efforts and helping contribute to Second Grade prevailing over Uni on campus as well, winning 29-33. With him being selected as the Kiama Sevens 2023 player of the tournament, he’s clearly in the form of his career and, should he continue to perform, could be slated to become a more regular feature at Shute Shield level. 

Who are the club players that you think are deserving of higher honours? Let us know in the comments! 

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