Bundaberg-born Queensland Reds star Tate McDermott was back in town this week with winger Filipo Daugunu on the Reds to Regions tour.
Tate is confident his team can capture the Super Rugby AU title it narrowly missed last year.
The gifted halfback is a key figure in the team’s bid to claim the trophy that eluded it following last year’s 28-23 loss to the ACT Brumbies in the final.
Tate said only ill-discipline at crucial stages of last year’s decider cost the young outfit the title, but believed the team was poised to go one better this season which kicks off with the Reds’ clash against traditional rivals NSW Waratahs on 19 February.
“It was only minor things last year that cost us the grand final, it was a discipline factor,” Tate said.
“I’m really confident that we can continue to build on what we did last year. We’ve put together a similar squad and we’ve brought in a few new players.
“(Former Melbourne Storm winger) Suliasi Vunivalu will be a massive inclusion for us this year, so having he and Filipo on the wings will be really good for us. I’m really excited to see what this squad can do.”
Tate said the Reds to Regions tour, which features 35 Reds stars visiting 28 country areas throughout Queensland over three days, was a valuable promotional exercise which was enjoyed by the players.
“I was up here (in Bundaberg) last year for this brilliant initiative by the Queensland Rugby Union,” Tate said.
“We’ve got boys across the state learning what it’s like to represent Queensland and getting to know who we represent, and Filipo and I are lucky enough to be in Bundaberg.
Tate and Filipo spent Wednesday afternoon working on a macadamia farm before being guests of honour at that night’s Reds to Region dinner at Waves Sports Club.
On Thursday they conducted a meet-and-greet with the public, a fun activities session with BUSHkids and a visit to Kalki Moon gin distillery.
“We were on the tools all (Wednesday) afternoon,” Tate said of the farm experience. “We were actually putting in a bit of irrigation piping.
“My old man’s into sugar cane so he’s probably not keen to see the sugar cane getting demolished and the macadamias going up,” he laughed.
Although he and his sister were born in Bundaberg to their agronomist father and teacher mother, Tate’s family left for the Sunshine Coast soon after in support of his father’s career.
However, Tate said he felt an affinity with the Bundaberg Region and was pleased to return.
“Whenever I can come back here, it’s good. Dad knows a lot of people up here and people are showing me old photos of him playing for the Turtles (rugby union club), so it’s really good.”
After coming off the bench for Australia in two Tests against New Zealand’s All Blacks last year, Tate has a taste for more Wallabies action this year, but said his immediate focus was on helping the Reds to the Super Rugby AU title and success in the following trans-Tasman series.
‘It’s very tough to talk about the Wallabies because I’ve got a job to do for Queensland first,” he said.
“I did get two gigs off the bench and would like to play a bit more but, in saying that I was really happy with the opportunities I got.
“Once I’m playing consistent, good footy to maintain my Queensland jersey, then I’ll set a goal of that Wallabies 9 jersey.
“But at the moment, my sights are set solely on Queensland and that’s where they should be.”
“Working on the farm was pretty hot, but I enjoyed it,” he said. “This is my first time (to Bundaberg), but I am happy to be here.”
BUSHkids Bundaberg team leader Emma Cullum said the session with the Reds players had been a great opportunity for children participating in the organisation’s programs.
The children participated in fun physical activities that also enabled an occupational therapist to monitor their motor skills through running, jumping, and climbing exercises.
“Also, with two sporting people that they can aspire to be like, to play with and be involved with, it’s great to have that happen locally.”
BUSHkids is a non-profit organisation with an allied health team that provides free support for children with delayed development and a National Disability Insurance Scheme team that helps families and children access community support via NDIS funding.