Hamish Stewart has a steep climb ahead of him to regain his Queensland Reds starting berth after coach Brad Thorn revealed he was dropped from a star-studded backline to face the Brumbies because of a discipline issue.
The No.12 had finally found his place in the Reds’ set-up last season after being tried at No.10 and fullback, defending strongly and complementing James O’Connor with his hard-edged, versatile skill set.
Despite that, Stewart faced intense competition for a spot with the arrival of winger Suliasi Vunivalu from the NRL in 2021, who will start for the first time on Saturday in a move that will shift Jordan Petaia into the centres at Stewart’s expense.
But Stewart did himself no favours, understood to have reported for a rehabilitation session after their win over the Rebels a fortnight ago in an unfit state and displayed a general tardiness at training.
Junior Wallabies centre Josh Flook has been added to the bench with Stewart set to play club rugby this weekend.
“It was around a discipline issue internally about our standards, but it’s allowed us to see that Wallaby combination together and a guy we rate very highly, Josh Flook, to be named,” Thorn explained.
“Hamish we rate highly (but) never open the door at this level for someone else, that’d be my thoughts.
“Hamish is a great guy, he’ll be back involved but you don’t want to give guys an opportunity – that’s competitive rugby.”
With winger Filipo Daugunu, halfback Tate McDermott and O’Connor all playing Test rugby late last year it’s a backline Thorn admits packs a serious punch.
But the dual international wants to see results after error-riddled wins over the Melbourne Rebels and the NSW Waratahs to begin the season.
He added that he hoped to see a progression in both Paisami and Petaia’s kicking and passing game to complement their strong reputation as ball carriers.
“There’s some specimens there,” Thorn said.
“Suli is continuing his learning and this will be another step and that centre combination we saw a touch of in the Test series.
“You can have names on paper but it’s how they work together.
“So we’ll keep pretty grounded there, let’s see some actions around how we play because like I said we haven’t been happy.”