When Tate McDermott first cracked the Queensland Reds in 2018, it gave Sunshine Coast kids like Louis Werchon the belief they could make it from outside Brisbane.
It was a powerful message that young Werchon, 21, has carried all the way from Sunshine Coast Grammar and the Maroochydore Swans to his own Reds’ chance at halfback. Werchon’s quick-tap play to set up a try for debutant Joe Brial was sharp thinking in last Saturday’s heat in the opening trial against the Western Force at Ballymore.
“This year, I feel so much more comfortable being around the boys and in the whole professional environment. Last year, I didn’t speak up but now I feel the extra confidence to have a crack,” Werchon said.
The blond-haired halfback and Kalani Thomas are the two quality back-ups at No.9 behind Wallaby McDermott in the 2024 Reds squad.
“Tate has really done well for the Sunny Coast and opened up a lot of pathways,” Werchon said of McDermott, an old boy of his school.
“He’s given a lot of kids hope they can make it from the Sunshine Coast. Youngsters in rugby on the Sunny Coast definitely identify with him because we had a big thing where every Sunshine Coast kid would leave and go to a GPS school in Brisbane.
“I know I was contemplating it before I spoke to Tate. I took on board what he said, ‘If you’re good enough you’ll make it from anywhere’, which made me feel more at ease with staying at home with my family.”
Werchon’s left boot is variety in general play and it is well-grooved from the extra work put in when he played Aussie Rules for two seasons.
“There was no Aussie Rules at school but because my dad (Rob) is from South Australia he just asked me if I wanted to try it,” Werchon said.
“From that, I played rugby on Saturdays and Aussie Rules on Sundays for two years at 15 and 16. It has helped my rugby heaps.”
Werchon has already tasted some highs in club rugby. He kicked the late field goal that won Brothers the reserve grade premiership in 2022 and played for Wests in last year’s StoreLocal Hospital Cup Grand Final.
Next stop for the Reds is Roma and the Santos Festival of Rugby where the NSW Waratahs are up on Saturday night.