Luke Morahan in action for the Bristol Bears.
Luke Morahan in action for the Bristol Bears.

Part two: QLD’s top 50 rugby union players

THE Hottest 50 of Queensland Rugby is back with a look at who's hot and who's hotter among rugby union players with links to Queensland.

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 playing at home or on the radar abroad.

An exciting young player on the rise may earn a higher spot in these power rankings than a seven-season stalwart.

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Will Genia (No.1) and David Pocock (No.2) topped last year's popular rankings yet have both since retired from Test rugby.

Where do you rank them while they are still influential players for clubs in Japan?

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 is playing Super Rugby for Japan's Sunwolves.

Rugby editor Jim Tucker. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Rugby editor Jim Tucker. Picture: Mark Cranitch

The rise of women's rugby with the Queensland flavour to Australia's defence of the rugby sevens gold at the Tokyo Olympics means female players definitely qualify.

You'll have to follow our five-day countdown to No.1 to find out just where all the players rank in The Courier-Mail's Hottest 50.

Today, 31-40.

Karmichael Hunt in action for the Waratahs. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Karmichael Hunt in action for the Waratahs. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

40 KARMICHAEL HUNT

Credit to the veteran centre. He's rebooted his career at the NSW Waratahs. He's jumped from No.50 on this list last year, when his future was very much a mystery, to No.40 after his productive 2019 when he won the Waratahs' best back award.

At 33, he's a key cog at inside centre to mentor rookie flyhalf Will Harrison. Hunt has also turned himself into a positive influence around the squad off the field.

Australia’s Vani Pelite makes a break in the Women's Gold Medal Rugby Sevens match at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Australia’s Vani Pelite makes a break in the Women's Gold Medal Rugby Sevens match at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

39 VANI PELITE

A staple in the Australian women's sevens squad and one of the players who has improved since sharing in the Olympic gold medal triumph in Rio four years ago.

The utility played a key bench role in Rio and her pacy, skilful package is much valued.

She had a season with the boys playing junior rugby league in the Under-13s for the Deception Bay Raiders and tackling was one of the appeals when she took to rugby sevens.

 

38 ANGUS SCOTT-YOUNG

The flanker is an unsung yet non-stop worker in the Queensland Reds backrow. Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika mentioned Scott-Young's name last season so decision-makers at the highest level were taking note.

He's not a bullocking ball-runner but a handy ball-carrier. He's part of the reliable glue to the Reds pack because of his tackling, his bustle and his attention to detail.

At just 22, he's a role model for all codes when it comes to players pushing themselves to be defined by more than just football.

Sporting and academic excellence can mix because he has ripped into his studies to complete a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science already rather than idle with brain-dead hours playing Fortnite.

Angus Blyth during a Reds training session. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Angus Blyth during a Reds training session. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

37 ANGUS BLYTH

The big lock has gradually built his profile from reserve forward to reliable starter when needed by the Queensland Reds. At 2.04m, there is no way you are going to miss him.

The Wallabies selectors certainly won't once the 21-year-old builds on his tight five craft in the seasons ahead.

He has natural aggression, lineout ability and mobility so the raw ingredients are there.

The Reds certainly like his rugby genes because they've signed his younger brother Wilson, another tall graduate from The Southport School, on a developing squad contract until 2022.

James Slipper is on the brink of 100 Tests. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
James Slipper is on the brink of 100 Tests. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

36 JAMES SLIPPER

"Slips" has found a new lease of life in Canberra with the Brumbies. He's perched on 96 Tests so the honour of joining the 100-Test Club is on the horizon this year.

The prop seems to have been around forever but he's still just 30.

He has been asked to play on both sides of the scrum for the Brumbies this year which adds to his versatility.

Playing a Super Rugby semi-final with the Brumbies last year and two wins from as many starts this year has made rugby fun again.

Will Chambers has switched back to rugby union. Picture: Kelly Defina/Getty Images
Will Chambers has switched back to rugby union. Picture: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

35 WILL CHAMBERS

The former State of Origin centre has made a second flip to rugby union by taking up with Suntory in Japan after finishing his decorated premiership-winning NRL career with the Melbourne Storm.

There always seemed more potential and ambition for rugby in Chambers than the Queensland Reds were able to extract in his 2010-11 stay at the club under Ewen McKenzie.

At Suntory, Chambers has shared centre minutes with another import, Samu Kerevi, because Top League regulations limit the number of foreigners you can have on the field at any one time.

Rob Simmons continues to develop. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images
Rob Simmons continues to develop. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images

34 ROB SIMMONS

The pack stalwart is still learning new tricks and has to as a regular captain at Super Rugby level for the first time.

It's a wonderful sign of how he has contributed to the NSW Waratahs that he should be selected for the role after being a nine-season pillar at the Queensland Reds.

"Simmo" is in his third season at the Waratahs, organises the lineout like a pro and shares the experience he has learnt in 100 Tests.

Last year, there were more bustling running angles to go with all his regular work.

Hamish Stewart in action for the Reds. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Hamish Stewart in action for the Reds. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

33 HAMISH STEWART

Stewart won the nod as Queensland flyhalf to start last year but coach Brad Thorn did a sharp U-turn just two games in. He was re-deployed as a fullback.

By the end of 2019, the Reds' coaching staff had another shift in thinking to turn him into a tough-tackling, direct inside centre with a bit of thunder in his kicking game.

He worked on his game as a centre in the National Rugby Championship and was given a start in the No.12 jersey in Round Two against the Lions in Johannesburg.

The Reds love the heart and commitment that Stewart always throws at the game as well as his physical side because the former schoolboy flanker has made numerous try-saving tackles with his hustle and pinched a few turnovers.

Campbell Magnay still has time to develop his game. Picture: Dianne Manson/Getty Images
Campbell Magnay still has time to develop his game. Picture: Dianne Manson/Getty Images

32 CAMPBELL MAGNAY

It was an upbeat sight seeing "Mango" back into stride off the bench for the Melbourne Rebels in Canberra in Round Two of Super Rugby. He's big, fast, a natural line-breaker and Australian rugby has fingers crossed that this can be a breakout season.

He can have equal impact at outside centre or winger and just needs his body to help out.

A dodgy hamstring was the latest injury he had to repair. He is still only 23.

Consistent performances week after week is his only way forward.

Morahan offloads for the Bristol Bears. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images
Morahan offloads for the Bristol Bears. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images

31 LUKE MORAHAN

The try-hungry winger is highly valued for his finishing in the English Premiership with the Bristol club.

What pushed him higher in these power rankings was his surprise appearance at training with the Australian sevens squad before the Sydney Sevens.

With the English season in recess, Morahan again showed how much ambition he still has to be involved in gold, this time as a potential wildcard for the Tokyo Olympics.

He was given just two Test chances by former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika despite plenty of training time and left for England unfulfilled as a Wallaby.

 

TOMORROW: The Countdown continues...Nos. 21-30


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