2016 Queensland Reds Season Review - Green and Gold Rugby
Queensland Reds

2016 Queensland Reds Season Review

2016 Queensland Reds Season Review

The Rugby experience can be an immensely personal one. Whilst the game is a fantastic unifier, the experience and perception of that experience can vary dramatically from one fan to another. This web site, and the attached forum, is a wonderful case study of this as a game (or even a moment in a game) can result in any number of reactions from any number of people.

I know personally I have a great passion for the game. This passion extends to both the Queensland Reds and the Australian Wallabies. I know that my passion for them can sometimes get in the way of a perhaps impartial perspective of these teams. I also acknowledge that my viewpoint on them can be at times too critical because of my loyalty to them, and at other times arguably too lenient (or perhaps optimistic) due to this same loyalty.

Like I said. A personal response. So now, a few days after the season has completed, it’s time for my personal Reds season review. Since Jim Tucker stole my completely original theme of “Good, Bad and Ugly”, I’ve tried to approach this a little differently.

What I’ve loved this season:

Wallaby Debuts:

Everyone seems to bemoan the fact that Australian Rugby doesn’t replicate the more centralised model that New Zealand Rugby boasts. If we did then perhaps the results wouldn’t matter so much as the Wallabies we create.

So putting aside the results for a bit, I was stoked to see Nick Frisby and Samu Kerevi (a couple of Finsbury Girls from the GPS club) run out for their test debut in front of a home crowd at Suncorp Stadium.  Both selections were completely deserved and the two will hopefully be hanging around Ballymore for many years to come as they are key leaders within the team, as well as vital attacking weapons.

Rookie Emergence:

At the other end of the scale we saw a number of rookies making their Reds debuts this season, or backing up from debuts made last year.  Whilst it’s always a risk trying to guess which ones will make it and which ones won’t, there’s certainly a handful that caught the eye.

Taniela Tupou is the obvious one with three memorable performances towards the end of the season.  Campbell Magnay actually played a handful of games last year, probably too early, but in 2016 showed maturity in his game as well as energy and raw ability that indicates he has much to offer at this level. Duncan Paia’aua was another who featured last year, albeit in just one match, but displayed a more accomplished game when given the chance this year. Whether 10 ends up being his spot may rely on other signings, but he’s Super Rugby quality for sure.

Andrew Ready has been a wonderful performer in 2016 building on from his 2015 debut, and was rewarded with selection in one of the iterations of the Wallaby squad mid-year. Throw in the likes of James Tuttle, Michael Gunn, Lukhan Tui, Henry Taefu, Alex Gibbon, Junior Laloifi and Matt Mafi and the QLD Rugby production continues to breed hope.

The Season High(landers):

Remember this? It’d be a shame to have the memories of this fantastic win fade into the fog that was the rest of the season. Well, at least the first half. Gilly over within 3 minutes. Kerevi putting Nabuli away to set up Pickle, and then Eto returning the favour and putting Kerevi over. Three tries to zip at half time! It took us all by surprise none the least, it would seem, the Reds. Because in the 2nd half it was like your regular broadcast had resumed as the Landers stormed back into the match. Putting behind them two disallowed tries the table topping Kiwis put the Reds under all sorts of pressure as our boys clung on for a one point win.

New Boy Nabuli:

This is kind of an outlier for mine as I haven’t really stood anyone out on their own but I feel the need to do that for Nabuli.  Let me make it clear, I’m not saying he was our standout player, but I loved what he did for us this year. I knew nothing of Nabuli prior to this year. Saw some highlights once he’d signed and read some stories. Nine or so months later, he’s copped a little bit of flack and I think a lot of it’s unfair.

He seems to have been targetted for his defence despite his tackle success rate putting him 4th amongst all Australian wingers (behind the Waratah trio of Naiyaravoro, Horne and Guilford) and he seems to have paid the price for two of the more embarrassing missed tackles (v Crusaders and v Rebels). But give me a big and fast winger who misses a tackle or two, over a pedestrian attacker who can tackle, any day.  Reds fans who have been crying out for the return of Digby should get over him, because Eto could be the new man in town.

What I left me shaking my head:

The Coaching machinations:

Soooooo many questions.  But here’s the top three.

  1. Richard Graham was reappointed in the off-season but then axed two games in – why reappoint him in the first place if just two losses are all it took? It nullified an entire pre-season and just weakened the reputation of QRU head office. I think the answer comes in the fact that different people were in senior positions at the time of the different decisions, but it was a shocker regardless.
  2. Why Co-Interim Head Coaches? It remains one of the most bizarre titles, let alone appointments in sport and I am sure the QRU regretted it almost immediately. When the Head Coach is axed for, among other reasons, confusing the messaging then surely appointing two head coaches isn’t going to make it clearer?
  3. What happened in June? The season can basically be broken down into three portions. Take a look below:

Reds Coaching

So basically, we won nothing under Graham, improved dramatically after that (our three wins of the season, a draw and two bloody close losses) and then the test break happens. And we come back and our results were worse than under Graham. Now I think our structures were still better and we showed more enterprise (we at least scored some tries) but the game went downhill, most notably our defence. Was it a fitness thing, more mixed messaging or were the off-field distractions just too much? I don’t have the answers but it’s a massive wake up call for whomever coaches next year.

WTF CFS:

Look, I don’t want to single out Chris Feauai-Sautia here as the guys still a kid (22!) but he would have to be one of the most confounding players in Australian Rugby. I don’t think anyone will dispute his abilities or, dare I say it, potential, but despite making his Super Ruby debut five seasons ago (and his Wallaby debut a year later) it’s hard to see that Chris’s game has developed at all.

In one moment we see glimpses of brilliance such as his scintillating try against the Hurricanes. The next minute (and too often the minute after that, and then the next minute too) he’s being found out of position or seems to be making no effort to chase a kick or defender. I don’t know what the answer is and I’m not convinced it’s a season in Japan as is rumoured to be happening but if we can find a coach who can find his “On” switch, it’d be nice.

Goromania:

Yeah ok, I fell for it. Put it down to a little bit of that blind faith I spoke about earlier. We needed a goal kicker right? Yep, and this one kicked a few at the RWC. I’d never seen him before but he scored that try v the Boks! Could be a handy fullback with Karmichael an option in the centres.

But yeah, then reality. But not before a barrage of marketing and media all tailored directly at the Japanese market and our newly signed doorway to the Asian market.  I’ll be fascinated to see how Goro goes at Toulon and whether this was just a massive form blip, because he really was quite average. Slow and non threatening in attack. Defensively lacking in technique. Even his kicking was pretty average.

I’m not sure which office at Ballymore went after his signature in the first place,  but I hope there were lessons learnt regardless.

What made me angry this season:

The exodus:

To me Liam Gill is the type of man you build a franchise around. I know there are always two (or more) sides to a story, but to me Gill is a player you bend over backwards to keep. He would’ve been my captain from the off-season (assuming he would’ve wanted it) and I still find it hard to believe he’s leaving. Greg Holmes doesn’t have as much rugby left in him as Gill but when we are signing players like Steve Moore and George Smith for their experience, then  I would’ve liked to have Homer around a little longer.

All up we’ve lost 600 odd caps this season on top of the 800 odd last season. That’s a fair bit of experience, culture, and winning success that’s gone. That stuff is hard to replace. And on the other end of the scale? I still think we’ve lost a goodun in Sam Greene. But I’ll just have to wait and see on that one.

Skills Void:

For mine the most glaring issue across the season was our poor skill level. Our handling was terrible and the stats back it up. We finished the season with the 2nd worst stats with 268 handling errors. Is it any wonder that our attacking figures (metres run, tries, clean breaks) were all towards the bottom of their respective tallies?

Unfortunately our work on the other side of the ball wasn’t too crash hot either as we came fourth on the missed tackle list behind the other cellar dwellers Kings, Sunwolves, Force and Reds (and equal with the Jaguares). I suspect getting a specialist defensive coach would be a top priority for the new Head Coach. As should up skilling the squad on the basics of catch and pass, as Mick Byrne had to do with the All Blacks to dramatic results.

The law of diminishing crowds:

It just hurts me to see how small the crowds have become. The last round against the Rebels was reported as 14,000 or thereabouts, but those in the know suggested it was nowhere near that and would go close to the all-time lowest Reds game attendance.

It hurts me, but I get it. There was mass outcry last year across the QLD Rugby family boycotting the re-appointment of Graham. The outcry was real and the crowds were small all season but the last game of 2016, a farewell to some Reds favourites, told a story that was pretty clear and damning.  There is a lot of bridges to be rebuilt to get that crowd buzzing again at Fortress Suncorp.

My 2016 Reds Super Rugby Awards:

Player of the Year:  Liam Gill
Best Back: Samu Kerevi
Best Forward: Hendrick Tui
Most Improved: Andrew Ready
Rookie of the Year: Eto Nabuli

 

  • Ev

    Reg, an excellent summary of a bewildering and painful year. The only point I’d add is the unwavering commitment to McIntyre seemed unwarranted. He may develop into a super rugby player but is a very long way short of that now. Obvious questions seem to be: Why did they persist with him so far into the season, why did they let Greene go, and why did the extended squad not recognize that they may need an experienced 10 at some stage in the season. I feel a lot of strong work up front was let down by inexperience (thought of some other words) at 10

    • RugbyReg

      agree. The list management was a bit of an issue. To rely on three young flyhalves (McIntyre, Greene and then Mason) was a little too much to ask

  • John Tynan

    Thanks Reg. I could lift your opening couple of paragraphs and put it in every forum post as a disclaimer I reckon. A number of miscellaneous comments below in no particular order.
    I predict the Nabuli point will raise a lot of discussion, but IMO it is really just reflective of the rest of the Reds season – pretty flaky with a couple of highlights.
    I think the Gill decision to leave was Graham’s final straw moment with the board, and while I would love him (Gill, obviously! Not Graham…) to stay, I respect his decision to follow through on his commitments made. Seems rare “these days”.
    I also agree on the “Co-Interim Coaches” or whatever it was. Ridiculous, contractual machinations so as not to trigger any get out clauses I’d say.
    I was pretty happy with what I saw from DPA, and I think he will be fantastic in 12 with Kerevi outside him. Add Quade to 10 and I reckon it’s starting to come together. I am still to be convinced on the backrow plans. Tui was a demon in the dirty stuff, but if he takes the same workload forward, he won’t be playing many consecutive games I reckon. Obviously will miss Gill at open side, and I was disappointed to see Browning join the exodus – I thought he had finally found his spot at 8 and was growing into it with a consistent run at it.
    Unfortunately for the Reds organisation, I am seeing more ambivalence this year in terms of renewing season tickets etc than the angry protests forced away last year. Lots of “Dad’s Army” comments, plenty more about who is going to be coaching. They really need to nail down their coaching strategy and get the communication of a playing/team strategy right for next year, or else people are not going to stump up again. I probably still will (see your opening paragraphs…), and I guess my son, but my wife and daughter probably won’t go through it for much longer, and I know the people we’ve been sitting with for the last 7 years or so are re-thinking.

    • RugbyReg

      Thanks mate. Agree that Nabuli will cause some discussion. Digby was flakey too remember. I like that flakey sometime

      • John Tynan

        Sorry, should have said “Flakey, with highlights”, but added that there’s opportunity/potential as well.

    • RobC

      Yup, ditto about CB.

  • Brisneyland Local

    RR, great article. I like you am pretty despondent. At the beginning of the year I refused to renew my Reds membership until they sacked RG. They did and true to my word I renewed my decade long membership. We seemed to move forward, there was a positive vibe. The Reds fans seemed enthused and energised. And then we blew it out of our arse!
    My Points in no particular Order:
    – Losing Liam F’in Gill is a cardinal sin.
    – Too many other good central and culturally strong players walked out the door.
    – The QRU are either inanely stupid or take us members for mugs.
    – Stiles / Connor, neither of them can be the coach moving forward after those last three matches. It is evident that there is either no plan, or the players cant execute it, which means it is not sticking.
    – Goromaru could have worked but we never really saw him play.
    – Getting Rid of Sam Greene was a mistake.
    – Persisting with Jake McIntyre was silly.
    It was clearly evident that our basic skills of passing and catching are not at Super 15 standard. Be brilliant at the basics they say. I would have been happy with average at the basics this year.
    It is clear there is a lot of rebuilding to be done. Hopefully with Brad Thorne, George Smith, and if I had my way Todd Blackadder, we can develop a strong and winning culture.
    So frustrating.

    • Seb V

      George smith will most likely with improve the breakdown work of team, Thorn will get the forwards working hard too. I’m still worried about the basic skills of the backs though.

      • Brisneyland Local

        Yep you are preaching to the converted there. I am hoping that Quade is coming back and will provide some drivee there in the back line. But our basic skills across the board are bad and need some improving.

      • Willem Labuschagne

        Brad Thorn is one of those good guys one has to like, but don’t imagine for a moment that he will improve the skill level among the forwards at all. In the All Blacks he was allowed to do his thing because of his seniority and basic grunt. But all he ever wanted to do was push in the scrum, lift in the line out and hit people with a strong shoulder. The fine points of effective rucking bored him silly, as did the intricacies of defensive structures and pods in the attacking line. He’s really a prop by temperament, in a stretched prop’s body, who ended up at lock because he needed to be in the team but was too slow to be a loose forward. His disastrous stint with the Highlanders in 2013 suggests the Reds should not expect too much.

  • Jy

    What’s going on with Mick Byrne at the moment? Is he doing anything with the ARU or just going on Rugby 360 occasionally? Every Aus franchise could do with him at the moment, not to mention the wallabies!

    • RugbyReg

      I think he actually spends a fair bit of time at BAllymore would you believe? Not with the Reds though. Working for some Rod Kafer owned rugby academy. He says he doesn’t want to coach against the All Blacks just yet. If I was the QRU I’d be doing everything to bring him into the system though.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Mate, that’s an awesome summary. I really feel for the Reds supporters and I hope things turn around. I haven’t seen all the behind the scenes stuff but something smells up there and it needs to be fixed. Their last game was almost a parody of their season. Crap start where it looked as though they didn’t want to be there, then Bang! some really good exciting play, then it was almost like they got scared and lost confidence and back to their worst again. If I was a supporter I’d be demanding changes from the top the management have made some really stupid decisions; Graham (employing someone with such a crap record to start with and then backing him when it was obvious to everyone else that he wasn’t up to the job), Goro, O’Connor, 2 head coaches, lies and backstabbing of fans……. the list goes on.
    Get a new management, bring in a good head coach, sort the shit recruiting out, get some bloody skills going and prove to the supporters week by week that you are improving. That would at least be a start.

  • Who?

    From the little I saw of the Reds this year, half the issue with catch/pass was pass. Dropped balls were a symptom of poor passing. Even when the ball wasn’t dropped, half the time it was behind the man. Quade would help with that, but it’s really not that hard to get it fixed across the team, and it should’ve been priority #1 for O’Connor.

  • muffy

    If you ever get involved in Queensland rugby at any level, it stinks. I absolutely hate the way it runs. People involved act like they have an ownership of the game, as opposed to a custodianship and this come right through from the bottom and gets worse the higher up the ladder you look.
    If you ask me, Queensland have an obsession with a back that can pull of flashy plays at training, throw in a sidestep or two and generally look fantastic in out in the open. We forget that we need proactive decision makers, guys that have a passion for the game and the state and of course those that will absolutely put their body on the line. To me (in the backs) Ant Faingaa, Kerevi and Magnay tick those boxes, players like CFS need to ride the pine while they decide what they actually want to do. I don’t have too much criticism for the pack, as I felt they were the ones actually doing business. But dont get me started on the complete disgrace that losing LFG, Holme, shatz etc is.

    The season was an embarrassment in a market that has the cowboys, broncos and now even the titans to compete with. We would have lost kids wholesale to league. The last thing Queensland needs is more sleeves!

    So what’s the answer?

    It’s simply culture, I live in hope Brad, George and whoever comes in (it has to be new blood) reward effort over potential and get some pride into the jersey.

    I can’t wait for next year (he said lying openly)

    • Happyman

      Hi Muffy and did you know that those highly performing Reds players are not playing for there clubs this weekend as they have obviously had a really tough season and need the break.

      • RugbyReg

        I think that’s a RUPA thing mate, representing the players, rather than the QRU. RUPA insisted on a 2 week break after the Super Rugby season for players. Of course some players will make the choice to play themselves, but I don’t believe it is the Reds.

        • Happyman

          Fair enough it makes no sense to me but for the sake of the QPR It would make add some spice to a disappointing year of Rugby
          The Bank would have perhaps Taufa, Holmes Gill, Simmonds ,
          Souths Kerevi,
          Brothers Brothers Talaki and Thor
          UQ don’t need anyone.

    • HK Red

      “Reward effort over potential” – all day, every day. Would much rather have a bloke that you know will give 100% in everything and will learn from any chance given at SR level, than a guy who is likely to try something flashy and it might come off. Too often we start guys on what they might do, rather than what they will do.
      .
      LFG – that situation just makes me so bloody sad.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Muffy I hope Brad is able to bring in some of the culture he brought to the All Blacks and every other team he played for. It may take some pain and if players aren’t meeting the culture then regardless of their status they should be shown the door. I love that even the Canes dropped 5 players in a crucial game because they acted against the culture. It’s that commitment that actually drives the culture in the first place. Good luck for next season mate and I hope the management listen to you and the rest of the fans

    • Jonny Boy Jnr

      I am actually in the camp that is looking for key flashy backs that can beat other players one-on-one as well as setting up those around them. Ant Faingaa’s limitations in attack have drawn my ire over the years but I do commend him on his best season ever this year and note the stability he gives the backline
      Where I draw the line is a player like Schatz. He does some hard yards in the ruck and is an effective 3rd jumping option in the line out however his inability to cross the advantage line with ball in hand is unforgivable for a back-rower. Browning is the player I would like to have seen given another season

  • Happyman

    Great Article RR as a Reds fan I can only echo many of the thoughts laid bare in a thoroughly disappointing season. I am with you losing Gill was a cardinal almost Berrick Barnes sin for those with long memories. I am hoping that the new CEO will sweep the broom through the place and that the reason there has been no word from the Reds coaching is that Blackadder has already agreed to terms and they are just waiting for the end of the Crusaders season.

    I am hoping the Reds will just go down a path of saying we are going to get a young team with some older guys in it and we are going to build a team and culture that will make the supporters proud win lose or draw. We as supporters don’t expect just a winning team but a team that we can be proud of. We want them to be skilful and determined and as passionate as we are.

    I honestly believe at the moment the recruiting is too blinkered there are good players in the Brisbane club comp who are not contracted to the reds who IMO probably beat this team at the moment.

    PS It would also be a good thing if the Reds players actually got out to Junior clubs occasionally to interact with he fans who idolise them. You know that old chestnut community engagement.

    • Who?

      Losing Barnes was nothing on losing Gill… Gill’s younger than Barnes was, with more experience, and there’s no equally young or younger feasible replacement for Gill as there was for Barnes (Cooper). Instead, they’ve dragged in a bloke who’s been playing professionally for half his lifetime.

      • Happyman

        I was using the example of how the Reds have consistently let quality people go. From my reading of Liam Gills statements seem to be he is going mostly due to the hopeless running of the Reds and who can blame him. I am a rusted on fan and will continue to support but it will be from hope not an expectation.

      • 30 mm tags

        Gill left, from my understanding, because he went through with his word that if RG was re- appointed then he would not stay.
        He decided his declaration had to be followed through. I suspect he also had lost faith in the QRU Decision makers.

  • RobC

    Thanks Reg. A good wrap, also heartfelt – I can def relate

    I thought, this year is much better than last. Because the chairman, ceo and coach has been finally removed. The year was written off the moment they renewed RG and signed Goro and lack of adequately experienced players.

    What we witness this year, is the wake. The mess we watched is like looking at entrails of a slaughtered animal. The parts are good, but torn apart by incompetence.

  • Harry

    An excellent review of another awful season. I do take issue with your praise of Nabuli however – I have watched him closely all season and his work off the ball and around the field simply isn’t good enough for a professional rugby player. You rightfully scratch your head on CFS, well Nabuli is the same.
    Despair that Gill, Holmes, Browning (who IMO was the rookie/great improver of the year) and Green were all allowed to leave.
    Karmichael Hunt … began playing well and must have been close to a Wallaby jersey until his injury. Now a real dilemma – IMO the odds of him ever coming back to his consistent best after effectively 4 years out and by next year over 30 are very low, perhaps better to cut the losses and release him? Certainly the Reds owe him nothing loyalty wise.

Queensland Reds
@RugbyReg

The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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