NRC stars to step up for Qld Reds

They may have lost their Will and other big names, but Queensland are determined to find a way to be competitive in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

The Reds head into the first round game against arch-rivals NSW Waratahs in Sydney next weekend without some of their most dominant players of the past decade.

Their creative hub of halfback Will Genia and five-eighth Quade Cooper have gone, plying their trade with northern hemisphere clubs, along with lock and former captain James Horwill.

The value of the National Rugby championship as a feeder competition to Super Rugby is likely to be thrown into sharper focus by the performances of the men expected to replace the Will `n’ Quade show.

Halfback Nick Frisby and five-eighth Jake McIntyre ran the show for Brisbane City in their back-to-back title wins in the first two years of the NRC and will get a chance to step up and hopefully do likewise for the Reds.

Frisby has already accumulated 40 Super caps, most as backup off the bench to Genia, but 21-year-old NSW-born Aston has made just three appearances for the Reds.

“Frisby has been the heir apparent for a fair while behind Genia,” Reds’ coach Richard Graham told AAP.

“He’s been the halfback of the NRC for the last two years with Brisbane City. He’s a logical choice at this point although under some pressure from good young kids.

“Similarly with Mcintyre, he’s been the leading 10 in NRC over the last two seasons.

“Queensland have lost Will and Quade who have pretty much controlled the way the game has been played there for a number of years, so there will certainly be noticeable change.”

Graham asserts the Reds have sufficient depth to cover the loss of two Wallabies forwards, captain and prop James Slipper and lock and prize recruit Kane Douglas.

Lock Douglas suffered an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury early in the World Cup final and is expected to miss most, if not all, of the Reds 2016 Super Rugby campaign.

“I remember sitting there with my wife thinking that we’d run over a black cat or something,” Graham said.

“‘Slips’ we always knew about, so we had prepared for that, he’ll only miss the early rounds of Super Rugby,

“In terms of the depth of the tight five, we’re pretty well covered.

“We recruited (lock) Caderyn Neville so that added a fair bit of depth in that space and similarly with the front row.”

Graham isn’t going to fret over any negative comments from pundits about the team or himself.

“Everyone has always had an opinion, but there’s a lot more forums these days to express the opinion,” Graham said.

“It’s part of the sport. A couple of years ago (rugby league coach) Wayne Bennett had won I think six or seven titles and people had written him off before the season started, which is ridiculous.”

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