Hamish Stewart admits there is considerable pressure on his shoulders after Brad Thorn’s decision to choose him over Quade Cooper as Queensland’s chief playmaker.
But the Reds’ new all-for-one, one-for-all ethos under Thorn means he isn’t feeling it – not yet, anyway.
Stewart played every minute of Friday night’s internal trial at Ballymore, calling the shots in a mostly first-choice XV that fought out a tough 14-14 draw in slippery, sloggy conditions.
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The 19-year-old Toowoomba product showed glimpses of the talent that has convinced Thorn he doesn’t need the services of long-time stalwart Cooper in Super Rugby.
He provided the highlight of the night, beating two defenders on a neat 15m run to score what looked to be the winning try, while also steering the play with authority.
“There’s obviously a lot of pressure,” Stewart said plainly of Thorn’s call to back him instead of Cooper.
“But the squad we have now, everyone’s just a single person.
“If everyone does their job, it makes everything a lot easier at the end of the job.
“We’re in this as a squad – there’s no individuals.”
Thorn will have other options, like the injured Jono Lance and Ben Lucas, but Stewart looks likely to get first crack at the No.10 jersey in Queensland’s season opener away to the Melbourne Rebels.
He’ll resume his partnership with halfback James Tuttle, who he played with during Queensland Country’s run to the NRC premiership last year.
“We’ve got to lift our standards to be the best,” Stewart said.
“(Our combination is) going along well but there’s always room for improvement and that’s what we strive for.”
There were a couple of other surprises in the Red team with Brandon Paenga-Amosa chosen at hooker, Chris Feauai-Sautia at outside centre and Sef Fa’agase preferred over Taniela Tupou at tighthead.
Thorn only has two more opportunities to fine-tune his selections – at next weekend’s Brisbane Global Rugby Tens, and then a final trial against the Fiji Warriors.
“Ideally, you’d play Super Rugby teams,” Thorn said.
“I’m not going to hide that, that’s what I’d prefer, but that’s what we have and that’s what it is.
“Full respect to the Fijian guys … that will be a good hit-out for us.”