Queensland Reds rising star Zane Nonggorr has some big shoes to fill this season, after Wallaby Taniela Tupou was injured during last year’s end-of-season tour.
While Nonggorr is by no means a certain starter, he is eager to make the most of any opportunities to play more in Super Rugby Pacific.
The tighthead prop was a schoolboy sensation at The Southport School, and later starred for Bond University in Queensland’s Premier Grade competition.
Heralded as a future star of both Queensland and Australian rugby, Nonggorr was given his first chance to play Super Rugby in 2020.
But his opportunities have been limited – until now.
Wallaby Tupou, known around the rugby world as The Tongan Thor, has been ruled out of this year’s Super Rugby season after rupturing his Achilles.
The injury may see Nonggorr, who was nicknamed Baby Thor, play regular minutes for the Queensland Reds this season.
“Losing Nela (Taniela Tupou) before the pre-season (was a) big loss, he’s a pretty special play,” Nonggorr told reporters on Thursday.
“We’ve been working really hard as a whole front row group to improve ourselves as collective and individually.
“I’ve been working extra hard trying to fill the hole that he’s left, and hopefully put my name down to start for Round One and make a mark in that tighthead spot.”
After a long and gruelling pre-season, the Queensland Reds will take the field this weekend for their first hit out of the year.
Queensland are set to travel from the east coast to the west, as they prepare to take on the Western Force.
“We just really want to put into practice what we’ve been doing all pre-season.
“It’s been a very competitive pre-season within the group, everyone’s competing for spots.
“We’re just really keen to put into motion what we’ve been working on and see how that goes against a good competition like the Force,” he added.
“They’ve obviously got a couple of new signings in the front row and the back five, so we’re expecting a pretty physical and competitive game.
“They’re a quality side so we’re not taking them easy by any accounts.
“We’re excited for the physical match but we know we’ve gotta respect what they’re gonna bring and they’re gonna be tough so pretty pumped for it.”
The pre-season clash against the Western Force kicks off on Saturday afternoon at McGillivray Oval, Perth.