Perese steps up as Hunt’s replacement
REDS saviour Izzy Perese has thrown up his hand to solve Queensland's fullback dilemma with his high-octane blend of fearless running and tackle shredding.
It's a left field idea that no one outside the Reds inner sanctum had even thought of but this option to replace the tarnished Karmichael Hunt is pure excitement.
Perese's superb have-a-crack attitude was dripping from all the Reds' best moments at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens at Suncorp Stadium and his own bold call to be considered at fullback is another.
On Saturday, he stepped through two tackles, including the clutches of Berrick Barnes, for one try, dashed 60m out of his own quarter in counter-attack and sliced through for a second touchdown in the 38-7 pool win over Japan's Panasonic Wild Knights.
Perese is a Wallaby winger-in-waiting and has played outside centre at National Rugby Championship level but he admits he's a novice at fullback.
The open spaces of 10-a-side rugby really spiked his zeal to inject himself into the play from anywhere, anytime, and that is the beauty of fullback.
"I'd love to give fullback a good crack because you can attack both sides (of the field), just roam around and do whatever you like," Perese said after guiding the Reds into the top-six finals.
"Beggars can't be choosers so I'll take what I'm given position-wise."
Perese, 20, said empowering words from new Reds attack coach Paul Carozza had given him the confidence to be a menace at the Tens for rival defences as we was against the Rebels on Friday as well.
"I think a big thing for confidence going into this year was knowing he had already given me the licence to roam where I want," Perese said.
Perese will almost certainly end up on the wing for the Super Rugby opener against the Melbourne Rebels on February 23 but the fear is the Reds will be unable to get him the ball often enough.
Finalising a deal with Aidan Toua has given the Reds extra cover at fullback from a motivated player with "unfinished business" in Queensland.
The livewire attacker seems certain to be swung into action for Thursday night's trial against Fiji at Ballymore.
Having Toua, Ben Lucas and a wildcard like Perese as fullback options show how equipped the Reds are to move on from Hunt if circumstances warrant it.
Toua is not coming in cold because he has been doing non-contact drills with the Reds for several weeks.
Completing his switch from Japanese club Honda Heat means he can now go full-on at training from Monday.
Toua, 28, played 30 games for the ACT Brumbies in 2016-17 to prove his body was up to the knocks and stresses of Super Rugby after a frustrating run of injuries restricted him to 10 games at the Reds (2011-14).
"My previous time wasn't too successful injury-wise and it's nice to have this chance to resurrect my Reds career when there is a sense of unfinished business," Oua said.
"It's awesome to be back and I hope to have a positive influence with things I've picked up in France, at the Brumbies and in Japan over the past few years."
Toua is a left foot kicker which also adds some variety to the Reds' kicking game.