Queensland's top 50 rugby union players: Part four
THE Hottest 50 of Queensland Rugby is counting down who's hot and who's hotter among rugby union players from grassroots to the elite levels of the code.
It's not a strict countdown of the "best" but a judgment on performance, rising star quality, impact on the code, breakthrough status, legacy, gut feel and whether players are performing abroad.
Exciting young players on the rise like Darcy Swain (No.22) and Fraser McReight (No.24) have already earned higher spots in these power rankings than former Wallabies star Will Genia, who was No.1 on the 2019 list.
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There is a further takeover by young guns with former Nudgee College high-performer Reesjan Pasitoa rising from No.44 last year to No.17 in today's countdown.
Genia topped last year's popular rankings yet has since retired from Test and Super Rugby.
This is also not just a list of players in the Queensland Reds squad when a Queensland product like centre Sam Johnson (Scotland) is excelling in the Six Nations and former State of Origin forward Ben Te'o (No.26) is playing Super Rugby for Japan's Sunwolves.
The rise of women's rugby with the Queensland flavour to Australia's defence of the rugby sevens gold at the Tokyo Olympics means Emma Sykes (No.46), Vani Pelite (No.39) and Emilee Cherry (No.14) have already been recognised.
Follow our countdown to Friday's unveiling of our Top 10 to find out just where players rank.
20 SAMU KEREVI
THE 2019 Reds captain made the tough call last year to switch to Suntory for a rich multi-year deal in Japan.
Putting his impressive Queensland career on hold also means he's not eligible for the Wallabies because his 33 Tests is well under the 60-Test level which would allow him to be picked from overseas.
Reds fans will miss his bullocking runs and 80-minute efforts.
Kerevi will have a shot at silverware with a strong Suntory side.
19 HARRY HOCKINGS
THE tallest member of Reds squad at 2.06m, he towers like two goalposts strapped together.
The young lock has excellent hands, dominates lineouts and contrinutes with a busy game around the field.
Only 21, he has already played 23 games for the Reds and been given a taste of Wallabies squad camps as an extra.
A broken bone in his hand has delayed his start to 2020.
18 LUKHAN SALAKAIA-LOTO
THE powerful forward played 10 Tests last season when former Wallabies boss Michael Cheika invested strongly in turning the lock into a blindside flanker for the World Cup.
Salakaia-Loto, in turn, worked on being fitter and more mobile than ever before.
With 21 Tests now in the bank, this should be the season some of his immense talent really starts dominating and winning games for Queensland.
Some better running angles and the strapping backrower-lock will start breaking more tackles and unloading more effectively.
His best is still ahead and 2020 is the time to produce.
17 REESJAN PASITOA
THE ACT Brumbies swooped on the Nudgee College standout of 2017-19 and have him under contract.
He's already played trials and Brumby Runners games at flyhalf and inside centre to get him accustomed to senior rugby.
Just 18, the intelligent youngster is lapping up everything he can learn in Canberra to refine his training habits now he's in a full-time professional environment.
He's already leaner at 94kg and has put in work to improve his speed.
He may not get a minute of Super Rugby this season but Pasitoa is an definitely an exciting prospect for the future.
16 SCOTT HIGGINBOTHAM
WHEN "Higgers" retired as a Queensland Red last year after joining the 100-Game Club, it seemed he was heading to France for a cosy superannuation season or two.
He's ripped in with Bordeaux, helped the club knock off champions Toulouse and is enjoying second spot on the Top League table.
The skilful backrower is 33 and part of lapping up this new life is watching infant son Aubrey speak his first words of French.
15 SAM JOHNSON
THE Dysart-born centre has become a star in Scotland.
In just 12 months, he has won 11 caps for his adopted country and played at the World Cup in Japan.
He has bumping, swerving power as a runner in midfield as well as being a hustling, in-your-face defender.
He was one of Scotland's best in their opening Six Nations loss to Ireland and made one superb surge against England.
He was never in peak physical shape when he made two brief appearances for the Reds from the GPS club.
14 EMILEE CHERRY
THE first-time mum has taken positive strides towards her second Olympics campaign as a key cog in the Aussie sevens team.
Her return for the recent tournaments in Hamilton and Sydney showed just what the Australian team has been missing.
The footwork, the evasive running, the pinpoint passing, the rapid transition to attack from an opposition turnover... it was all there.
Cherry has scored 131 career tries in World Series events as one of the true superstars of sevens.
Life is a juggle with baby daughter Alice demanding mum's time as well.
13 IZACK RODDA
THE big forward is a now a senior member of the Wallabies pack with 25 Tests under his belt.
He'll take on that role in the Tests against Ireland and the All Blacks that will shape the opening stages of the international season under new Wallabies boss Dave Rennie.
Missed out on the captaincy at the Reds but it hasn't stopping him being a key leader because he always sets high standards.
12 LIAM GILL
ONE of the great talents seemingly lost to Australian rugby.
He played all 15 of his Tests off the bench when still a backrow pup in 2012-13.
He's dominating as an openside flanker with leaders Lyon in the French Top League.
Gill is still just 27 and a wise scout would find a way to lure the former Queensland Reds player back to Australia.
11 MATT TOOMUA
THIS could finally be the season where Toomua runs the Wallabies unchallenged in the No.10 jersey.
He has the experience of 52 Tests behind him but just what new coach Dave Rennie thinks of all his flyhalf options is the great mystery.
Toomua will enjoy being able to play at No.10 for the Melbourne Rebels to get in the groove as the main playmaker.
TOMORROW: The Top 10