We’re nearing the halfway stage of the 2016 Buildcorp NRC, and to help build the following and profile of the competition, the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) has engaged a blogger from each of the eight teams to write for the RUPA website on multiple occasions throughout the season; next up we hear from Queensland Country’s Duncan Paia’aua.
21-year-old playmaker Paia’aua is in the middle of his third Buildcorp NRC season with Queensland Country. Duncan joined the Reds from the Brisbane Broncos, where he played in their U20s team, and has made 8 appearances in Super Rugby over the past two seasons at flyhalf, inside centre and fullback.
Paia’aua also represented Australia at the 2015 World Rugby U20s Championships in Italy, and while his Queensland Country side are yet to record a victory in this year’s Buildcorp NRC the signs were there at Bond University on the weekend as they pushed the table-topping Sydney Rays all the way.
This week, they head to Perth to take on a Spirit side yet to lose at home, but first we hear from Duncan about playing against some of his former Australia U20s teammates and building combinations in the Queensland Country backline.
Duncan Paia’aua - In His Own Words, NRC Round Four:
Of the team that went to Italy for the U20s championships last year, there’s only five players who aren’t aligned with a squad in this year’s Buildcorp NRC. This competition is a great chance for us young fellas, as we get to play against experienced Super Rugby players and guys who are pushing to be selected at an international level.
For me personally, coming over from Rugby League last year was a challenging transition and playing for Australia U20s helped me out a lot in terms of providing knowledge of the game. It’s a great tournament to prepare young players to play professionally in Super Rugby.
When you’re on tour together for a long time, you start to bond a lot more as a group and get to know everybody. Our whole group from that tournament are pretty close, and I was pretty lucky that I got to tour with my cousin (Melbourne Rebels fullback) Jonah Placid; that was very special.
Jonah and I grew up together in Rockhampton and played a lot of Rugby against each other, which we really enjoyed as we always want to get one over the other. In saying that, we always had a good combination in Rockhampton when we got selected in the same rep teams and we knew each other’s’ games inside out, so to play for our country together it was like nothing had changed.
I was disappointed I missed our game against Jonah’s Melbourne Rising side in Round Two with injury. It’s always weird playing against your mates, but I guess when you have different jerseys on those friendships go out of the window and you become enemies for 80 minutes. You often catch up the night before and afterwards as well; if you’re catching up and then playing them the next day you avoid talking about footy, which is pretty easy anyway to be honest.
In the Queensland Country backline, there’s myself, James Tuttle and Campbell Magnay who played in that Australian team. If you then add the likes of Mack Mason and Izaia Perese, it’s easy to understand why all of us young guys in the backline are pretty tight.
We have all played together for Queensland U20s as well as training together and playing a few games at the Reds. Our combinations will only get better as we keep playing alongside each other, and hopefully we get to play a lot together for the Reds in the years to come.
We’re disappointed we haven’t had a win yet, but we’re getting better every week and we’re competing against the top teams. It’s been a very hard three weeks, but as each week goes we are clicking better and we’ll back ourselves to play a full 80 minutes this week in Perth, keep improving and try to get the result.
It's great being coached by two former international stars at Queensland County. Toutai Kefu and Brad Thorn are just legends of the game, and when they talk we listen; everybody wants to play for them and learn from them, and it’s unreal.
I love representing Central Queensland and where I grew up every time I put the Queensland Country jersey on, and I’d love to go back and play up there in the NRC next year if a fixture got scheduled up that way. I missed out on our game in Rockhampton last year through injury, so it would be great to play there if that chance came along.
There’s always a bit of chat when the Brisbane City and Queensland Country squads come together to train at the Reds. (Brisbane City winger) Alex Gibbon likes to remind us how many times they have won the competition, and when the fixture comes out the first game we look for is when we’re up against them; this year, that’s Round Seven at Ballymore.
2016 has been a good year for my Rugby development. I had a really unlucky run with injuries in last year; I couldn’t string together more than three or four games without picking up a knock and I guess that slowed down my progress as I switched codes to Rugby. This year has been a lot better, and I have only one missed the one game though injuries which is great.
In terms of goals, my initial priority is of course Queensland Country. We’re hoping to win the rest of our NRC games and go as far as we can as a team, and then personally next year I want to cement a spot in the Reds’ team whether it’s at 10, 12 or 15.
As a young back I’m really excited that Quade Cooper is coming back to the Reds; he loves hanging around after training and helping the young blokes, and he just wants us to get better. It will be great having him at the Club in 2017 and beyond, both on the field in Super Rugby and also for us to keep learning from him.
2016 Buildcorp NRC, Round Four (all times local):
- Sydney Rays vs. NSW Country Eagles, 1:00pm Saturday September 17th, Pittwater Rugby Park, Sydney
- Melbourne Rising vs. Brisbane City, 3:00pm Saturday September 17th, Harlequin Rugby Club, Melbourne (LIVE on FOX Sports)
- Canberra Vikings vs. Western Sydney Rams, 1:00pm Sunday September 18th, Viking Park, Canberra
- Perth Spirit vs. QLD Country, 3:00pm Sunday September 18th, UWA Sports Park, Perth (LIVE on FOX Sports)