GPS Rugby: Reds snap up BBC flyhalf
WITH the celebrations for GPS 100 this season, The Courier-Mail is providing extensive coverage of the nine-school rugby competition and its rich history.
BRISBANE BOYS' COLLEGE
GPS premierships: 1
Most recent: 1954 (shared)
BRISBANE Boys' College flyhalf Carter Gordon has been snapped up by the Queensland Reds at just 17 for their rebuilding plans.
His two-year development contract is a strong signal of his natural skills and keeping one of the state's best young flyhalf projects in Queensland.
The new GPS rugby season will provide more valuable grooming for the Queensland Schoolboys' chief playmaker when BBC host Gregory Terrace on Saturday afternoon.
The Mooloolaba product is a tall, lean No. 10 with a slick pass to maximise the pacy thrust of BBC's back three, Xavier Savage, Jack Bowyer and swerving Shayden Stevens.
One of Gordon's best assets is his balance, on and off the field, because he has entry to a business course at university in his plans as well.
"The GPS competition is a lot of fun but you also know that every game is like a final because you can't drop a game," Gordon said.
"It's a nice thing (to be signed by the Reds) because it doesn't make me feel any pressure on what's ahead."
Last year produced a fine six-win season when a late 17-15 loss to Nudgee College ultimately cost BBC a share of their first premiership since the one-off of 1954.
The quest for a second rugby premiership has been an overblown obsession, a balanced part of healthy school life and every shade in between over the past 64 years.
"As a rugby school we were really good at rowing," former Wallaby Roger Gould said of his 1974 finishing year when the BBC First VIII won the Head of the River.
Champion Wallabies halfback Will Genia and 2011 World Cup captain James Horwill were BBC schoolmates together.
Genia credits BBC and zealous training on his pass with coach Chris Lane for transforming him from a shy boarder from Papua New Guinea.
"I started at the school as a fat little winger," Genia said.
"Everyone got into the GPS competition.
"BBC would get bagpiped down the hill on the way to their home games and it felt like the Super Bowl.
"The thing I enjoyed about BBC was that they did not push sport as the be-all. It was about having fun with your friends on Saturdays."
School captain Jack Gallagher is back at lock where BBC have to fill the void left by Trevor Hosea, who has already graduated to the Australian Under-20s and the Melbourne Rebels squad.
10 OF THE BEST: Will Genia, James Horwill, Roger Gould, John Roe, Angus Cottrell, Dane Gagai, Bruce Brown, Stu Gregory, Richard Leslie, Mitchell Palm.
TOOWOOMBA GRAMMAR: What you see is what you get
GPS premierships: 6
Most recent: 1956 (shared)
IT WILL surprise no one at the Queensland Reds that the young Hamish Stewart was a tough-tackling flanker in his early Toowoomba Grammar days before his shift to flyhalf.
When rivals came scooting for breaks down his channel, they didn't meet a turnstile but a rattling hit and a player happy to help the forwards with a bit of ball pilfering.
Stewart, 20, is not long removed from his First XV days in 2015, when he remembers how valuable the grounding was at his old school.
"You cherish the memories, especially playing with the mates you see every day and it's the base where it all starts," said Stewart, now with 18 Reds caps.
Skilful lock Will Chaffey, selected in the Australian Schoolboys squad last weekend, is at the forefront of this year's crop for the new season in the 100th year of the GPS Association.
"What you see is what you get from Toowoomba Grammar … always giving 100 per cent effort and never treating a bigger opponent as unbeatable," Stewart said.
When Reds twins JP and Ruan Smith attended TGS some teachers could not tell them apart, and swapping of classes was part of their larrikin ways.
Never imagine that Saturday's bye in the nine-team GPS competition is a rest day because it puts up in lights the annual rivalry against Downlands for the O'Callaghan Cup.
Two young Darling Downs products Jason Little (TGS) and Tim Horan (Downlands) duelled five times through school days for two wins apiece and a 6-6 draw.
The close mates were just 21 and sharing in the Wallabies' first World Cup triumph just four years later as one of Australia's finest centre pairings.
Little was a wonder, playing for Queensland at 18, a whiz at hurdling and once top-edging a hook for six off Ian Botham in country cup cricket.
The undefeated 1948 side was the springboard for prop Ian Hatherell, who played two Tests against Fiji in 1952.
10 OF THE BEST: Jason Little, Ian Hatherell, Jonah Placid, Matt Willshire, Hamish Stewart, JP Smith, Ruan Smith, Phil Potgieter, Mark Farrelly, Jordan Drew.
THE SOUTHPORT SCHOOL: Where dreams happen
GPS premierships: 10
Most recent: 2017 (joint premiers)
WHEN Tom Van der Schyff left Durban as a nine-year-old, he never imagined following in the footsteps of Wallabies Nathan Sharpe and Rob Simmons at The Southport School.
Just like that dominant duo, young lock Van der Schyff, 18, is the pillar of a new TSS pack as the Gold Coast school embarks on another season of GPS rugby.
Hosting Churchie on Saturday will be a testing start for fancied TSS, even with four boys fresh from being named in the preliminary Australian Schoolboys squad.
Van der Schyff excelled as Queensland Schoolboys captain in Sydney last week beside ginger-haired halfback Spencer Jeans, hooker Tyrell Kopua and prop Zane Nongorr.
"It was a real privilege to be captain and an honour to be among the (14) Queensland boys picked for that Australian squad," Van der Schyff said.
"We really jelled as a Queensland squad and it's going to be hard, in a way, to now play against those same boys who have become good friends.
"The TSS boys are all close. We grew up playing together and we've reaped the rewards.
"We love the close rivalries in GPS rugby and the respect it has, especially in a year like this when it's the 100-years celebration."
TSS has become a powerhouse in GPS rugby with six premierships this century, including the golden years of 2006-07.
Reds fullback Jono Lance and Ben Tapuai, James Slipper and Luke Morahan, all to become Wallabies, were part of the 2007 side.
Simmons shared in the 2006 premiership and remembers a team coach going on stage at TSS and motioning towards the photo of old boy Sharpe.
"He said, 'guys like this had the dedication to go on with it'," Simmons said.
"I thought 'whatever'. I was just enjoying that we'd had a good year and was certainly not thinking of Wallabies."
Now, 85 Tests and a bent nose later, Simmons knows how wise those words were.
10 OF THE BEST: Nathan Sharpe, Tom Lawton, Rob Simmons, Mat Rogers, James Slipper, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Grey, Ben Tapuai, Luke Morahan, Wally Fullerton-Smith
IPSWICH GRAMMAR: Rugby's best in the west
GPS premierships: 8
Most recent: 1993 (joint premiers)
IZACK Rodda credits his crucial development at Ipswich Grammar as the springboard to becoming a Reds player at 20, and a Wallaby at just 21.
The towering lock was plucked from the small surfing town of Evans Head, in northern NSW, to spend Year 11 and 12 on a rugby scholarship which opened his eyes.
"It was massive," he said. "I'd never even really jumped in lineouts until I went to Ipswich Grammar and I'd always worn plastic studs back home.
"Those were fun days, almost a glimpse at what being semi-professional was like, training three or four times a week and the whole school behind you when we played.
"Mum made heaps of sacrifices and the home loan got extended to get me to boarding school to help my rugby. "
Rodda's pathway to the Australian Schoolboys in 2014 mirrors the experiences of the best from the proud school, which will again try to ruffle the bigger colleges when the GPS rugby season kicks off on Saturday in the 100th year of the GPS Association.
World Cup-winning Wallabies flanker David Wilson was a pivotal figure in the 1985 premiership side, and State of Origin coach Kevin Walters was halfback beside twin Kerrod, at inside centre, in 1984's joint premiership.
Former Wallaby Berrick Barnes was a wicketkeeping-goalkicking all-rounder at Ipswich Grammar when the Brisbane Broncos swooped in 2004 with a contract offer.
The foot race between wing speedsters Ken Donald, the 1950s Wallaby, and 2011 Super Rugby winner Rod Davies would have been electrifying.
First XV coach Steve Nance is proud of the heritage and Ipswich Grammar punching above its weight with a small school population.
"There's not the silver spoon upbringing of some other schools, we want to be very competitive and enjoy everything a great competition offers," Nance said.
Sparky halfback Kalani Thomas (ankle) will miss Saturday's opener against Brisbane Grammar, but fly half Meli Dreu, centre Jordan Carriera and prop Romeo Tanielu will be sharpened by a week with Queensland Schoolboys.
10 OF THE BEST: David Wilson, Berrick Barnes, Ken Donald, Alan Ware, Barry Wright, Izack Rodda, Rod Davies, Eric Francis, Craig Polla-Mounter, Kevin Walters
BRISBANE GRAMMAR: Churning out captain after captain
GPS premierships: 7
Most recent: 2012
NO SCHOOL in Australia has produced more Wallabies captains than the seven of Brisbane Grammar, from the colourful Bob McGowan in 1899 to Stephen Moore.
The school has a history as an academic powerhouse as well as one rich in sporting lore.
No one better encapsulates that than the great Tommy Lawton Sr, both a Rhodes scholar and a wonderful flyhalf who went on to play 14 Tests (1920-32). He was known as the "Loping Ghost" for his long-striding gait which sometimes appeared slow until his deceptive moves kicked in.
Rugby icon Alex Evans won premierships both as a player and as a First XV coach in a long association with the school.
The school's director of rugby is Phil Mooney, who absorbed part of his rugby ethos from the legendary Evans.
"We make no secret of what we are about with our focus on being a top academic school and having a well-rounded sporting experience," First XV coach Paul Warwick said.
"We've tried to dispel a few myths in the last few years (against the stronger schools) with our resilience and not being intimidated before you get on the field."
Last year's upset of Gregory Terrace was a high point and Grammar will head into this season with Queensland Schoolboys Emile Tuimavave and Dennis Waight at the forefront. Prop Alex Davies is the son of Bruce Davies, a compact, broad-chested Reds prop in his day.
"The GPS rugby system is fundamental to Queensland rugby's success and I'm not sure Queensland rugby does enough in the schools because you can't take it for granted," Warwick said.
McGowan's name is sometimes only whispered because he fell from grace after an unsuccessful plunge on Phar Lap in the 1929 Melbourne Cup which led to jail when money went missing from a trust fund.
10 OF THE BEST: Tom Lawton Sr, Stephen Moore, Dick Marks, Andy McIntyre, Cameron Lillicrap, Greg Martin, Alex Evans, Bill Ross, Chilla Wilson, Graham Noon.
Tomorrow: The Southport School