Re-jigged Queensland Reds locked in for Super start
Matt Faessler is proof the Queensland's "next man up" mentality is more than just talk as the Super Rugby Pacific side deals with a different positional dilemma for their season opener.
The opportunistic hooker was your average punter when Richie Asiata broke his arm in a pre-season trial last year.
He had just left town for NSW's Shute Shield, but with fellow hooker Josh Nasser also sidelined he was rushed back to Ballymore and thrust into the big time.
Faessler finished the season on an Australia A tour with a new Reds contract and is set to start in the front row ahead of Asiata against the Hurricanes in Townsville on Saturday.
"I watched the trial when Rich broke his arm and you sort of wonder if you'll get the call," he said after Monday's gym session.
"It ended up being the case. A lot of people get their opportunities that way.
"Rugby is a fickle game; I was just playing club footy, minding my own business and then was thrown into the deep end. But I've loved every minute."
It's at lock where the Reds are now scrambling, with recruit Luke Jones (neck) an unlikely starter, Ryan Smith (shoulder) an outside shot and Angus Blyth (ankle) no chance of playing.
It's likely versatile backrower Seru Uru will be thrust into the lineout, the Reds' flanking stocks coming to the rescue of coach and former lock Brad Thorn.
"As it was last year at hooker, it's just next man in," Faessler said of the side's lock stocks.
"Seru is a bit of a taller dude and good in the lineout so we can rely on that."
No.10 James O'Connor is also doubtful, the pivotal playmaker still to prove his fitness after off-season ankle surgery kept him out of the Reds' two trial games.
The Townsville clash represents a golden chance for the Reds to stop the rot after going winless in all six games against New Zealand opposition last season.
Their brave quarter-final loss to the Crusaders last season, without James O'Connor and Taniela Tupou, made it 20 straight defeats to Kiwi teams away from home.
But their 2021 win over the Chiefs in Townsville broke a run of 15-straight New Zealand victories against Australian opponents.
"I wouldn't say it's a monkey on the back, but we do want to show everyone what we've been working on," Faessler said of their record against New Zealand sides.
"Everyone wants to put a statement on the competition in the first round."