Forgotten winger in running for Reds return
IZAIA Perese's desperate bid for a Reds recall started with a rapid 30-minute drive across Brisbane before scoring the match-turning try for his Easts club last Saturday night.
Coach Brad Thorn loves players who will do anything to wrestle back a Queensland jersey and winger Perese could not have made more of a statement.
If there is a door ajar for Saturday night's clash against the Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium, it is the prospect of Perese leapfrogging Filipo Daugunu.
It seems a strange thing to suggest Daugunu's spot is under threat after the huge strides he has taken from club footy last year to Super Rugby.
He is the Reds' top tryscorer with five this season and has a knack for long-range specials but rugby at this level is played on both sides of the ball.
The number of tackles he has missed ticked past 30 last Friday night when Hurricane Ben Lam got the better of him just a week after Sunwolves finisher Hosea Saumaki did the same.
Perese has thrown up his hand for selection in that slot because the other wing is securely in the grip of eye-catching teen Jordan Petaia.
When the Reds flew home from Wellington at 5pm last Saturday, Perese had a lift waiting to race him across town to Sci-Fleet Stadium at Toowong.
He tossed on the Easts' No.23 jersey for the second half.
He hit a flat pass hard to scythe over for a trademark try that locked the scores at 27-all in a 34-27 win over Wests.
"It didn't go unnoticed how keen Izzy is just to play footy and he's in the mix for selection," Reds backs coach Paul Carozza said.
"It's very close between our wingers and that competition is what we want to bring out the best from all of them."
In February, the season seemed to be one of limitless possibilities for the tackle-busting force after being a standout at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.
When he scored the matchwinning try to beat the Fijian Warriors in a trial it was only magnified but a knee ligament injury and slow return put a stutter in his season.
The big test for the Reds is to bring the same authority and decisive play to Saturday night as they showed for four tries when beaten 38-34 in Wellington.
"It shouldn't take being embarrassed to front up in the next game," flyhalf Jono Lance said of the response to the 63-28 collapse against the Sunwolves.
"Our breakdown work and the supply of good ball was much improved against the Hurricanes and we have to keep the improvements going."
Fullback Hamish Stewart trained yesterday as a strong pointer that he will be fit after a knee knock.
Centre Chris Feauai-Sautia is still feeling the lingering effects of concussion 10 days ago and his position is in doubt.
Key No.8 Caleb Timu will have a full-scale run at training today to test his recovery from an ankle injury.
His running game would be a huge plus to throw at the Highlanders.