Christian Hazard is the type of player who was brought to the Seagulls for what is in store in the next month for Ben Woolf’s team, starting with what is a virtual play-off for sixth spot and a home semi-final against Easts Tigers at Piggabeen on Sunday.
The 24-year-old who was chosen for Queensland Residents this year for the second time, has settled in well in his switch from the halves to hooker and his combination with Ash Taylor could become a prime asset for the Seagulls as they head to the finals.
Hazard felt an intensity in the team’s winning performance against Ipswich Jets last Sunday that hadn’t quite been there is previous week, brought on by pressure of having to win to shake off the Jets as the one team who could knock them out of the finals.
Now that seems virtually secured, he feels the Seagulls are set to return to the form that saw them beat top five teams Townsville Blackhawks and Norths Devils earlier in the year – if they concentrate on the “little things” and curb their errors.
“I think the way we defended when they had quite a few shots at our line in the last 15 minutes, and got the win, will really build confidence,” Hazard said.
“But, individually, we still have to cut out silly errors or those little slip of concentration things.
“When we had that run of five wins straight we were completing at 80-85 percent and that’s what it needs to win the big games. We weren’t beaten by much when we hit a losing run and we can point to the difference was the drop in possession from our errors and not taking the big moments.
“Easts will be fired up after being touched up by Redcliffe (43-0) last weekend, so we have to be ready for that.
“But now we’ve pretty much cemented a finals spot, the first time since 2014 which is great for the club, we can just concentrate on just playing how Woolfy wants us to without that extra pressure and hopefully it will bring out the best in us.”
Hazard has been in NRL systems with South Sydney Rabbitohs, Gold Coast Titans and Newcastle Knights while yet debuting in the NRL and it was his Titans under-20s coach of two seasons, Woolf, who lured him to Piggabeen. At his best, he is one of the most dangerous and versatile players in the Intrust Super Cup, having scored 20 tries in 57 appearances.
He missed the first three games because of an elbow injury before playing in the halves and returned last week after missing three games with a hamstring injury after getting used to the extra physical demands of playing hooker after six games there.
He has the skill, explosive power and strength to be danger to opposition defences and says having Taylor, also 24 but with 80 NRL appearances to his credit, to fire dummy-half passes to has been a late season bonus for the Seagulls.
“You can see the boys admire him for what he has done and how he reads a game and leads us around; everyone knows how good he is and he’s really fitted in well too,” he said.
“But it is up to us forwards to give the halves something to come off the back of, everyone knows that, and we have to do that consistently. I thought we did a pretty good job against Ipswich.
“It would be great to have a home final and go into it confidence we can compete with anyone, but we just have to stick to what Woolfy wants from us and not get ahead of ourselves.
“And that starts with backing up our win in Ipswich with a good performance this Sunday.”