Ex-NRL ranks swell at Ballymore
Photo Source: AAP
The Queensland Reds could well field a back three full of ex-NRL experience next year after adding Lachlan Maranta to their Super Rugby ranks.
Maranta joins the Reds after five seasons with the Brisbane Broncos, where he was their leading tryscorer in 2015 and was recently crowned their clubman of the year.
The 24-year-old - the grandson of one of the Broncos' founders - played the 15-man code as a junior and will provide cover for Karmichael Hunt at fullback as well as more depth on the wing, where Eto Nabuli is poised to build on his first season of Super Rugby.
If the trio ever get on the park together it could be quite the NRL reunion.
Hunt starred for Brisbane, Queensland and Australia in rugby league before his code switch to the AFL, while Fijian-born Nabuli played 13 games for St George Illawarra.
"I hadn't really sat down and thought about it like that," Reds coach Nick Stiles told AAP.
"Karmichael's been with us for the last couple of years, it's been a long time since he played NRL.
"Eto's had his first year under his belt, a transition time - we saw patches of what we can produce but I've got no doubt that second year in rugby he's going to be much more natural.
"And Lachie's been in the Broncos for the last five years but did play schoolboy rugby and is a very good footballer."
Add in back-rower Caleb Timu - lured from the Broncos under-20s program last year, only to suffer an ACL injury in one of his first training sessions - and it appears the Reds have fared very well in recent attempts at luring former rugby juniors back to the game after dalliances with the NRL system.
Stiles said Maranta was still wanted by the Broncos but decided to "challenge" himself, coming to Ballymore on what is understood to be a cut-price deal.
"That's what you want - someone who's going to compete, take a risk and want to be the best," he said.
Fringe Wallaby Hunt, meanwhile, is firmly on the road to recovery after sitting out the entire National Rugby Championship to get his troublesome groin right, once and for all.
"There was the lure of the Test series against England for him and we did everything we could to give him a chance to play in that, but unfortunately he couldn't get up for it," Stiles said.
"Since then we've gone about making sure it won't be an issue. He's coming along really well."