Country selection a Super boost
FORMER Wallaby prop Glenn Panoho has endorsed Coast product Haydn Hirsimaki, who is eyeing a contract with the Reds following his selection for Queensland Country in the National Rugby Competition.
The NRC is a nine-team competition consisting of two sides from Queensland, four from New South Wales, and one each from the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia, and will showcase some of the best emerging talent in Australian rugby.
For players, it will provide another pathway to Super Rugby and national selection.
Super Rugby players not selected for Australia are made available to play in the NRC.
It is prop Hirsimaki's most recent coup in an impressive run of accolades.
He was picked to play for Queensland and NSW Combined Country against the British & Irish Lions last year and represented the Australian Barbarians against Argentina this year.
"The last couple of years have been good, so to get this reward now means a lot," Hirsimaki said.
"It is a fantastic opportunity and another step forward towards a Reds contract."
The former Nambour Toad and Sunshine Coast Stingrays captain will start NRC training at the end of his Queensland Premier Rugby season with Sunnybank.
Hirsimaki (pictured) said playing against Super Rugby and international players would give him a good indication of his professional rugby credentials.
"It is a good gauge, I guess, and a good opportunity from an individual point of view to see what I need to work on," he said.
"Every footy player wants to play at the highest level possible, and to push for a Super Rugby contract is in the back of my mind, but at the same time there is still a lot of work to do."
Panoho, who coached Hirsimaki at the Stingrays, said his former charge had all the attributes to earn a Super Rugby contract.
"He has it all and could make it in Super Rugby," Panoho said.
"But the thing about guys like Haydn is that they are competing against guys that are professionals, who have been brought into these academies and everything else.
"Ninety per cent of guys are that talented they are always going to make the teams, such as the Tim Horans and Ben Tunes who are so bloody good.
"Then there are the 10% of guys who they say are never going to make it, and I would put Haydn in that type of class.
"They have the talent to make it, but haven't had the breaks that the other guys have had, so to see him make it would be fantastic."