Reds star Quade Cooper was suspended for last week's loss to the Jaguares.
Reds star Quade Cooper was suspended for last week's loss to the Jaguares. DAVE HUNT

Youngster has pedigree to star for the Reds

GOOD breeding runs in the family of teenage bolter Hamish Stewart who is literally the bold punt the Reds had to make for Saturday night.

Exploring the back-up options for the banned Quade Cooper has led to a little-known 19-year-old who has played only a few top grade minutes as a replacement for Bond University.

The promising discovery from the Queensland Under-20s now faces an unexpected Super Rugby debut off the bench behind Jake McIntyre against the champion Hurricanes at Suncorp Stadium.

The youngster is the son of noted Darling Downs racehorse breeder Neville Stewart and led the family's yearlings in the ring at the Magic Millions sale earlier this month.

Toughness from his early footy life as a flanker, a cool head and all-round skills are a start for any No.10 but having a cannon right boot is what the Reds have been desperately short of.

The Stewart punt is a regular 50m-plus compared to McIntyre's inconsistent kick which he has worked hard to upgrade from a popgun over the past two years.

Young Stewart will wear the lucky old headgear passed down by brother Alistair and proudly carry into action memories of their late sibling Alex.

Alex was just 16 in 2009 when he lost his life in a tragic quad bike accident on the family property outside Toowoomba.

"It's special hand-me-down headgear from the boys days at Toowoomba Grammar and we are all pretty sentimental as a family," proud father Neville said.

"Like I tell Hamish, Alex is in his heart and with him all the time.

"When I first got this (selection) news, it gave me goosebumps from head to toe as a dad."

Reds coach Nick Stiles has brought back the experience of Test-toughened hardheads George Smith and Rob Simmons for Saturday but has no qualms about throwing in a rookie too.

"We have better balance on the bench with a specialist No.10 like Hamish should Jake get injured," Stiles said.

"If the conditions are wet, it's going to be advantageous having a tough rooster with a good boot like Hamish who we like to think is a player of the future."

Stewart has excelled for the Queensland Under-20s and will back up on Sunday from 2pm in the national final against NSW at Ballymore.

In-form fullback Karmichael Hunt said he accepted rugby's new strict penalties around high tackles.

His frustration, and that of players and fans alike, is over penalties like his for a good chest-high hit in Buenos Aires last weekend.

"You brush anyone across the ear in AFL and it's a free kick, the shoulder charge is out in rugby league and rugby has changed too like all the combat sports," Hunt said.

"You've got to be careful but I'm not going to take any sting out...my style is not going to change too much."

News Corp Australia


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