Quade key to unlocking Rebels’ finals drought
The Dad's Army gag that Will Genia trots out every time his rekindled partnership with Quade Cooper is mentioned is a smokescreen because he doesn't believe it himself.
Halfback Genia revels in chasing "firsts" and being part of the first Melbourne Rebels team to reach the Super Rugby finals this year will keep him youthfully energised.
Having flyhalf Cooper, 30, as a playmaking partner just lifts the whole look of the Rebels because the 53-game investment in Jack Debrezceni turned out to be a fizzer.
It's not as if 83-year-old Des Connor is running out at halfback beside him.
Genia celebrated his 31st birthday in January but he's as sharp a player and brain as there is in Australia's four teams.
Opening the season against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday night will be thorough test for the old firm and the Rebels.
"(Laughs) I'm 31 and he's 30 so we are definitely a lot older," Genia said of the partnership with Cooper that began at 18 at the Queensland Reds.
"We'll try to create ... some ... magic.
"It's been easy (to get the combination working again at training) because we do know each other's games inside out.
"It's been more about trying to fit into the structure we want to play as a team and the pretty specific game plan we want to play against the Brumbies."
Wallabies greats George Gregan, 31, and Steve Larkham, 29, were of a similar vintage when their ageless class steered the Brumbies to their 2004 Super 12 title.
The trophy may be beyond Cooper and Genia but rising from ninth to the finals is a must.
"I think Quade will make a huge difference to our team ... to an extent he is the missing link," Genia said.
"His biggest strength is his organisation, communicating the game and how he wants people to shape up, which we probably lacked a bit last year."
Cooper hasn't played Super Rugby or this pace of game since 2017, because of his exile at the Reds last year, so expect him to improve as the season goes on.
The Genia-Cooper show can maximise the chances for backs like Dane Haylett-Petty, Jack Maddocks and Reece Hodge, when he returns in a few weeks from ankle surgery.
Former Reds prop James Slipper is nursing a rib injury but has indicated he'll make his debut for the Brumbies on Friday night.
The NSW Waratahs are tracking towards a 22,000-plus sellout at Brookvale Oval for Saturday night's clash against the Hurricanes in Sydney.
It would be instant reward for taking games to different grounds over the next three seasons while Allianz Stadium is redeveloped.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND ONE
Friday: Chiefs v Highlanders, Hamilton, 4.35pm; Brumbies v Rebels, Canberra, 6.45pm.
Saturday: Blues v Crusaders, Auckland, 4.35pm; Waratahs v Hurricanes, Brookvale Oval, Sydney, 7.45pm; Sunwolves v Sharks, Singapore, 8.55pm.
Sunday: Bulls v Stormers, Pretoria, 1.15am; Jaguares v Lions, Buenos Aires, 7.40am
TV: All Live on Fox Sports