2022 Shute Shield GF: Meet the Teams – Gordon
Gordon captain James Lough and team manager Ace Naati take us through the Highlanders’ 23 man squad for tomorrow’s Shute Shield grand final showdown against Sydney University…
All player photos by Andrew Quinn
1. MOKANI FAUVAO: AKA ‘Gunz’, the veteran of the front row. While his size may not show it, Gunz has been a powerhouse for us in the scrum since joining us last year, one of the friendliest guys you will ever meet off the field but a brutal workhorse on it.
2. MAHE VAILANU: What can you say that hasn’t already been said about Mahe? We would dare say he is one of the most influential players to put on the Tartan in the last decade, with the impact he has on the field both in games and at training driving our forward pack to consistently perform. Quietly spoken but always makes the loudest actions, Mahe is a fan favourite and loved by our juniors.
3. TRISTAN FULI: The ‘Kung Fu Panda’ from Otago, Tristan is in his first season of Shute Shield rugby but has wasted no time in making his mark. Starting in every game this year and averaging 80 minutes, Tristan has been one of the leading powerhouses in our set-piece, rarely taking a backwards step at scrum time. His work in defence and ability to rack up a tackle count is something that amazes us each week, and he’s also dangerous with ball in hand. A welcome addition to the club in 2022.
4. JACK MARGIN: The tall timber of our lock unit, Jack has been part of the Gordon clan since he was a colt. Plays with his heart on his sleeve and is one of the remaining members of the 2020 Premiership winning team.
5. OLA TAUELANGI: Powerful and versatile, Ola joined the club in 2020 and has grown into his own over the last two seasons. Powerful and dynamic with ball in hand, he is one to watch on Saturday and in the future.
6. MILAN BASSON: Another Gordon Junior having a breakout season. Your typical big South African backrower – tall, powerful, quick, and very skilful.
7. JAMES LOUGH (c): Gordon’s very own Captain America, or Captain Highlander as it were. A workhorse of our team who leads by example, is powerful over the ball and relentless in defence.
8. JORDAN GODDARD: Despite a horror run with injury this season he has worked hard to get himself back on the field. A leader of men as he’s often described as, Jordy has a presence on field that players gravitate towards, and together with James he leads our men into battle.
9. HARRISON GODDARD: Cool, calm and collected with skills the match, Harrison will control the game from #9. Returning to the Tartan after a successful stint overseas to join the Waratahs, Harrison bring a championship pedigree to the squad.
10. JACK McGREGOR: Gordon’s prodigal son returned home in 2022 after six years with both the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force. In his debut season in the Shute Shield Jack has settled in quickly and hit the ground running. He is highly skilled and dynamic in attack, whilst also calm and collected.
11. WILL TERRY: Another Gordon junior enjoying a breakout season in tartan. Injury and Covid hampered Will’s game time both last year and this season, with injury keeping him out until Round 11 this year. But since returning he has been Mr Reliable on the wing and at outside centre. Big, quick and powerful we can always count on him to make his tackles and get us over the advantage line.
12. JACOB ABEL: Now in his fourth season with the club, Jacob made the transition from halfback to 12 this year as we faced a backs crisis through injury. Since making the shift he has been a lightning rod to our backline in both attack and defence.
13. BARRIE KAREA: Originally from the UK, Barrie is a product of the Exeter Chiefs Academy who hopped on a plane and flew to the other side of the world to chase the Aussie sun and Shute Shield glory. A powerhouse in defence and dynamic in attack.
14. BEN POLLACK: Another Gordon junior and a young gun making his mark in 1st Grade. A Junior Wallaby and one ear-marked for higher honours in the future, Ben has been Mr Versatile this season, shifting between flyhalf, centre, wing and fullback when required. One of the youngest in the squad, he has a wide arsenal of skills include a big left boot. Look for him to make his mark in this grand final.
15. REECE MACDONALD: AKA ‘Nemo’, the hero of the 2020 grand final has yet again been one of the squad and competition’s top performers. Quietly goes about his business and is a livewire in attack and defiant in defence.
16. WILL BREMNER: ‘The Short King’ – A former flyhalf turned hooker, Will is a proud Gordon junior that is getting the chance to fulfil a childhood dream. Never short on energy, always has a smile, and is being mentored by Mahe Vailanu. Will brings a dynamic skill-set, is dangerous with ball in hand, and over the ball look for him to inject some energy when he gets on.
17. NICK FRASER: ‘The Scotsman’ – Scrum time hero from 2020 Nick is your traditional Euro prop – powerful and skilled in the dark arts of scrum tech. Has played over 100 club games for Gordon, mostly in 1st Grade.
18. RHYS BRODIE: Part-time professor of the dark arts of scrum tech and part-time body builder. Rhys has built a name on scrum dominance and we will be looking for his impact at scrum time.
19. JOHN AKAU’OLA-LAULA: There was a point in the last 18 months where John was told he would never play again due to a medical condition. But he defied the odds, jumped through all the medical hoops required of him and got himself back to playing top level rugby. A towering powerhouse, we will be hoping John provides some arial dominance at lineout time as well as some damage with ball in hand.
20. BRENDAN MITCHELL: The Last Dance? A veteran of over 150 1st Grade games across three clubs – the Sunnybank Dragons, the Sunshine Coast Stingrays and now over 50 1st Grade games with Gordon – Brendan knows the highs and lows of club footy all too well, He will look to hang up the boots at the end of this season, but as is always the story in rugby, it’s a door that will never fully close.
21. HARRY EMERY: Quite possibly the tallest scrumhalf in club rugby, Harry is easily over 6ft but uses his height and size well. A dynamo at halfback, he’s never short on energy, skill or a smile. Look to see him bring that energy when he gets on.
22. ALESANA POHLA: A physical specimen of a human. With a PB squat over 250kg and a standing vertical leap of over two metres, Alesana or ‘Alex’ is a sight to behold and has set the competition alight in 2022. With his ability to fend half a team in a single run with footwork that has the grace and balance to make a ballet dancer jealous, look to Alesana to light up the game when he gets on.
23. OLIVER ARCUS: Oliver is in his debut season with Grade after a dominant time in Colts and has impressed right from the start. From dominating the Sevens fields in Kiama and Hamilton to busting out in numerous whole field efforts to score some amazing tries, he is still young and is one to watch for the future. For tomorrow, he will look to inject some of his high flying to help get us over the line.