He’s yet to make his Plus500 Brumbies debut, but if Bayley Kuenzle’s recent performances for the Canberra Vikings in the NRC are anything to go by, he’ll not be waiting in the wings for long.
The Sydney-product joined the Brumbies for the 2019 season, but didn’t see any action in Super Rugby, Kuenzle instead plying his trade with Southern Districts in the Shute Shield.
Brumbies fans got one of their first glimpses of the budding flyhalf’s talents in the Viking’s 41-28 win over the Fijian Drua two weeks ago, when he started in the number ten jersey, then again last Saturday as Canberra bested Sydney 36-26.
Steering the Vikings brilliantly, Kuenzle has shown himself to be more than capable of pulling the strings for a backline that could all feature heavily in Brumbies’ colours in the looming 2020 Super Rugby campaign.
“It’s been really good, and it’s felt natural which I’m happy with,” Kuenzle said of his outings in the Vikings colours.
“I had played with Ryan Lonergan before at U20’s but to get out there with Irae (Simone), Toni Pulu, Leni (Ikitau) and Tom (Banks), it’s been really enjoyable.
“Even just playing with Bobby (Valetini) and Pete Samu, those types of guys, getting those combinations together is something I’ve enjoyed.”
A former Junior Wallaby, Kuenzle’s reputation at the Brumbies has been steadily growing, his work in training and form for the Brumbies Runners, key indicators that Kuenzle has the right stuff to make the leap to the next level.
“It was an awesome year, my first year at the club,” Kuenzle remarked.
“Obviously, it was my first professional year so I just tried take everything I could from it, and I’ve loved it honestly.
“Playing in Sydney, that was my choice and I was really grateful that Dan McKellar allowed me to play Shute Shield and I think that helped my rugby, taking that challenge on.”
Christian Lealiifano’s departure from the club has left a void at playmaker, which McKellar has maintained will be filled by the young core at the Brumbies.
Noah Lolesio is perhaps Kuenzle’s nearest competition to fill Lealiifano’s jersey, though Kuenzle sees it as more of a partnership than a rivalry.
“I’d love to make my Super Rugby debut this year,” Kuenzle said, with confidence.
“I believe I’m ready, and honestly it’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid and now, it’s awesome that I can actually see it happening. Now it’s on me to make it happen with a good preseason and with performances for Vikings or wherever else.
“With Noah, we work together all the time, we bounce ideas off each other and just try to make each other better every day.
“I don’t look at it like we’re competing for the same jersey, even though I suppose we are. We’re teammates at the end of the day, and we might play together at some point in the future.
“The team is what matters most anyway, so if it’s me or Noah, whoever, we want to win and we’ll both do our best to make that happen.”
With Kuenzle, Lolesio and others ready to step up in 2020, playmaking stocks are clearly, in good health at the Brumbies.
You can see Kuenzle in action this weekend as the Vikings NRC Semi-Final with the Fijian Drua will take place on Sunday 20 October at Viking Park in Erindale with kick-off at 3pm. The day will also be the Vikings Family Fun Day with a jumping castle and face painting available from 2pm.
Pre-match action is provided by the U18 teams from Gungahlin Eagles and Melbourne Brothers with that match starting at 12pm.
Entry on the day is via a gold coin donation with all money raised going to Rural Aid.