This weekend, the Buildcorp NRC regular season comes to a close with six of the eight teams fighting for spots in the final four.
Two-time defending champion Brisbane City and Queensland Country are out of that running, however they have plenty on the line as they meet in the annual Andy Purcell Cup, a trophy which Queensland Country have never held!
RUPA’s Pete Fairbairn sat down with Brisbane City prop Sam Talakai and Queensland Country centre Duncan Paia’aua when they were both at Ballymore to get a gauge on the temperature heading into this one, and it will come as no surprise to see that both the boys came out firing when hit with the burning questions…
Pete Fairbairn (RUPA): Lads, you’re coming up against a lot of your current Reds teammates this weekend. If you could take any one player from your NRC opponent this weekend and put them into your team, who would it be and why?
Sam Talakai: I’d probably say the guy sitting next to me; Duncan Paia’aua. He’s been playing some awesome footy at 12 and I think he’s been controlling the Queensland Country team very well this season, with some great touches in attack and really solid defence. His team have really been able to thrive off what he’s been able to do.
Duncan Paia’aua: I would take Sammy Talakai. I think he’d fit in well with our game plan, as he is not only good at the set piece but he also has some serious skills about him too; he thinks he’s a flyhalf!
PF: Alright lads, let’s move past this love-in and get serious and spice things up a little bit. Describe the average personality of your opposing team this weekend please…
ST: Mack Mason really represents the average Queensland Country player. He’s no frills, a bit country in his approach and mannerisms, and overall he’s just really boring. Queensland Country players’ personalities are a mixture of boring, sophisticated and laidback, but I suppose they are very hard working and have great determination as well.
DP: The Brisbane City boys are all just a bit up themselves. Having won the competition two seasons in a row, they let us know about it all the time and they think they are the duck’s nuts, so hopefully we can shoot them down this week.
PF: Why do you think you’ve been aligned with the right NRC team?
ST: I’ve never even been to the country; I have always been a city slicker growing up, so I guess that’s where my allegiances lie! What we’ve built at Brisbane City over the past couple of seasons is obviously a big factor in my allegiance as well. This year we have gone through some tough times, but we have also been able to introduce some of the new players and show them what the NRC is all about. We might not have had the results on the board, but we have learnt from this experience and we just want to end our season on a good night.
DP: I’m a country boy through and through; I grew up in Rockhampton and I am proud to wear the jersey. I’m not stuck up enough to play for Brisbane City!
PF: What’s something embarrassing that you would rather wear than your opponent’s jersey?
ST: I’d rather play 80 minutes in the Queensland Firebirds netball outfit than wear a Queensland Country jersey…
DP: Yeah, I’d be happy to wear a tutu before I wore that kit!
PF: What’s been your personal highlight of the 2016 NRC?
ST: I think for me, getting to know the Club players who have joined our team for the first time this year. It’s been a real journey this year, and obviously very different to the last two years, and even though we have been through some tough times that’s when you learn about your new teammates. I’m happy with the growth within our team, and spending time doing a few different activities as a group has been a real highlight as well. From a playing perspective, our win against the Rams was a really tough slog and a hard-fought win so to play well against hem was definitely a highlight. Hopefully we can add to that this weekend against Country.
DP: Last week against the NSW Country Eagles, when we got our first win, was definitely my favourite moment. The boys have put in so much hard work all year but just haven’t gotten the results, so when we were able to topple the competition leaders that was a pretty special moment.
PF: Which of the non-contracted players in your team do you think would shine if they got a chance in a professional program?
ST: I’m going to say scrumhalf Angus Fowler, even though he hasn’t had a lot of game time. He has enormous skill, and a great work ethic He is somebody who is definitely capable of playing Super Rugby in the future and he has the qualities required to lead a team around the park at that level. He’s still a young kid and still has some improvements to make, but he is definitely up to the challenge.
DP: Isaac Fines-Leleiwasa is a great young player coming through. He is very dangerous at scrumhalf, and he reminds me a little of Will Genia in the way he plays. He is a real threat and also a great distributor as well.
PF: Now that you’re out of contention of winning the NRC, who are your tips to win the competition and to be the MVP?
ST: It’s probably the tightest that the competition has ever been to be honest. If NSW Country can regain Tolu Latu and Tom Robertson from Wallaby duty for the finals series, they are big inclusions and I think that they will be too tough to handle and will win the competition. Otherwise, I think Perth Spirit are real dark horses. In regards to the best player in the competition, (Eagles flanker) Rohan Perry has been great again. What he can do at the breakdown, especially; he’s been enormous for them.
DP: I like the Sydney Rays to win the competition, they’re a good team and they have been solid all year. If he hadn’t missed games in the last couple of weeks, then I think that Izaia Perese would have been favourite to be the MVP...
ST: You can’t nominate somebody from your own team mate…
DP: Yeah you can! I actually think (Rays centre) Irae Simone will probably be the favourite to be MVP, he’s been great.
ST: Oh yeah, can I change mine? I think Irae as well. He absolutely killed us when we played the Rays. What he has been able to do, being that pivotal man in the midfield; he’s a class player.
PF: Final one lads – I want you to come up with a bet for this weekend’s game, with the loser to do something for the winner next week that we can all see on Instagram. It could be shouting your coffee every day for a week, I don’t know; any ideas?
ST: I‘m keen for that, I don’t if know Duncan is…
DP: Yeah I’m up for it!
ST: Well, we’ve both got shaved heads so we can’t go there, and Duncan’s already got shaved legs as well…
DP: Clean boots for two weeks, what do you reckon?
ST: Alright, sounds good – and you’ll get Instagram proof.
PF: Outstanding lads, thanks for your time and good luck this weekend.
2016 Buildcorp NRC, Round Seven (all times AEDT):
- Western Sydney Rams vs. NSW Country Eagles, 1:00pm Saturday October 8th, Concord Oval, Sydney
- Canberra Vikings vs. Perth Spirit, 3:00pm, Saturday October 8th, Viking Park, Canberra (live on Fox Sports)
- Melbourne Rising vs. Sydney Rays, 1:00pm Sunday October 9th, Frankston Oval, Frankston
- Brisbane City vs. Queensland Country, 1:00pm Sunday October 9th, Ballymore, Brisbane