Queensland Reds 2019 Season Review - Green and Gold Rugby
Queensland Reds

Queensland Reds 2019 Season Review

Queensland Reds 2019 Season Review

Expectations weren’t particularly high for the Reds this year given the lack of significant off-season signings and the turmoil that was season 2018. When young gun Jordan Petaia went down early in our 2nd game, the hopes were dashed further.  A tough draw to start the season proved the case and we were never able to rebound from it.  But it was an odd season. Some of our stars from last year were disapointing, while new players stood up and took their opportunity.  We won the same number of games as last year but finished further down the ladder.  We never got spanked, but we rarely took control of a game.  And in the end we’ve had to farewell Samu Kerevi.  Sure we say goodbye to Scott Higginbotham and a few others as well, but Kerevi’s departure is devestating.  But let’s focus on the season gone and try to get some clarrity on it.

Once again I’ve brought in some support.  Just like last year, I’ve thrown it out to some of our regular Reds contributors to add their voice to mine. Unfortunately, just like the Reds’ crowds our numbers have dwindled.  But that won’t stop us.  Joining me will, again, be Shane “Sully” Sullivan,and  Ben Marczyk to look back on season 2018!

SEASON RATING:

Sully: C+ I was tempted to stay with my C from last season. But while most Reds fans can see that some kind of corner has been turned the fact is we won the same amount of games as last year. And in the end that’s the only test that matters. So if there was gains they were marginal at best. Last year I spoke harshly about the culture at the Reds but my fears seem to have been unfounded. I’m very glad to be wrong.

Ben: C-  At the start of the season I predicted a 50/50 win loss and sneaking into the finals as the second Australian team. They ultimately went 6-10, falling 2 games short of my target. I know you can always look back in hindsight and say that “if only”, but the two games against the Highlanders and Chiefs stand out as prime examples of these. The Waratahs game at home could also have been won if Bryce Hegarty’s normally reliable boot (he was kicking at 80% entering that game) had been firing.  A more experienced, wily outfit would have been able to turn these into wins. To balance out the positivity, you could argue they snuck wins against the Blues (only leading for the last three minutes) and the Sunwolves in Tokyo when the opposition went missing in the second half.

Reg: D+ So a grade down on last year.  We’ve ended up with the same result as last year (6 wins and 10 losses) but we finished a further spot down at 2nd last.  It was just the Sunwolves behind us in a season they played 2nd fiddle to their national team and blew up once they were announced as being a dead team walking. The biggest factor was that we didn’t really improve on last year and if you’re not going forward, you’re going back.  We never got pounded like last year, but losses are losses and we had too many of them. Our backroom was boosted in the off-season with some tremendous coaching appointments, but it seems we only saw glimpses of improvement on the field.  

SEASON LOW POINT:

Sad Taniela Tupou  Reds v Rebels 2019

There were plenty of disappointments in 2019

Sully: I could talk about paying for player at the Brumbies, Rebels and Waratahs. I could talk about crowd figures. But by far the low point for me was Samu Kerevi leaving the Reds. I know players have to earn while they can. I know family comes first. But Samu is a man the Reds could build a dynasty around. The Wallabies could build a team around. And now he’s gone. Moore, Sharpe, Barnes, Higgers, Big Kev, Quade, None hurt more than Kerevi.

Ben: The positive from this season was that the lows were never as low as seasons gone by, although the four game losing streak just when finals football was still a remote chance stung. Out of those losses though there weren’t any losses that were truly galling, other than perhaps the closeness of the Waratahs game.  The truly insipid Red performances of yore (Sunwolves in Tokyo 2018) comes to mind just weren’t there. If you had to be picky, the first loss to the Waratahs away in March was perhaps the worst performance in the season.

Reg: Our performance against the other Aussie teams. In the common maxim is that in the conference system, derbies are effectively worth double. As such our 1 and 5 performance against the other Aussie teams was disastrous. As a secondary point the early season injury to Jordan Petaia was heartbreaking.  He looked sublime in his first outing of the season so to get hobbled in the 2nd game, was almost criminal.  Think of the season we could have had with Jordy running off Samu Kerevi all year long. Oh and yeah, Samu confirming he was leaving was quite shite as well.

SEASON HIGH POINT:

Scott Higginbotham scores his second try

Scott Higginbotham scores his second try to help his side to a rare win v the Blues

Sully: The win over the Brumbies? Or the Sharks? Or the Blues? Higginbothams try record? All great moments, but it was the losses I’ll remember. Well not the losses but the attitude of the players in those losses. In the recent past heads would have dropped and there would be blowouts. Not this year. The players never gave up no matter who we played or how big their rep was.

Ben: In the same ways that the lows weren’t as low, there was a sense that the highs weren’t as high. Given expectations were generally increased there was a feeling that some of the wins were also expected along with the performances. If you had to put a game to it then it would probably be the Blues game. Even though the season was lost, the fight to win a game when previously the Reds would have found any way possible NOT to win it had to be heartening. It also broke the hoodoo of not having beaten an NZ team since 2016, which can only be a good thing going into 2020.

Reg: This is damn tough to pick.  An away team against any South African team is memorable so the 21-14 victory over the Sharks at Durban was great regardless of how terrible the home team were. Another hoodoo breaking win over the Blues in the 2nd last round was also enjoyable, albeit against a poor Blues team.   I’ll go with the home win against the Brumbies, our only against an Australian team, when we won 36-14 at Suncorp.  It was a win based on resolute early defence and some scintillating attack.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Samu Kerevi scores

Samu Kerevi scores against the Stormers

Sully: Shout out to Scott Higginbotham, thanks for coming back and guiding a young pack. To Izack Rodda, What a step up man. To Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, what an effort playing in two positions. But the stand out without doubt is Samu Kerevi. No one came close to him. Every team targeted him and the still fell off him like he was covered in spiders.

Ben: I don’t think I am going to go out on a limb and nominate Samu Kerevi here. In nearly every game he was the key to a strong performance by the Reds. If he wasn’t busting tackles and making metres himself, he was attracting defenders and opening space around himself for others. What has impressed me the most this year has been the massive improvement in his pass/catch skills. A few seasons ago when he made a bust it was lineball if we would have the ball by the next phase such was his poor passing and offloading. There would be times when catching a pass seemed a herculean effort. However, this season was a totally different story, picking his moments to go into contact or offload much better.

It is clear he was a ‘lead by example’ leader and in that sense he couldn’t do much more. He led or was close to the front of all Super Rugby in about four or five categories. I will go out on a limb here and say he was not just Qld’s best player, but he was Australia’s best, and close to the best in the comp. Honourable mention goes to Liam Wright who came on very strongly in the second half of the season after an unspectacular start to become someone who looks like the long term option at 7 we have been craving.

Reg: It can only be one can’t it? Samu Kervi. The development in Kerevi’s skillset of late has been phenomenal.  No longer is he just a crash ball bandit as his kicking game was both prodigious and astute, while his off-loading game (pre and post tackle) at times was sublime.  If the Reds had finished higher, and made the finals, you’d suggest he was a certainty for the Super Rugby Player of the Year.  As it is, he should get it for the Australian teams.  As for other candidates amongst the Reds Tate McDermott played at a high standard despite being under all sorts of pressure; Liam Wright is an unsung hero and worked tirelessly all season; Izack Rodda was a force to be reckoned with,  while Bryce Hegarty was somewhat of a surprise packet for me and was perhaps our best recruit in the off-season.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:

Jock Campbell

Jock Campbell surprised many with his performances in 2019

Sully: Feao Fotuaika’s story is inspirational, Fraser McReight is said to be the future of opensides. But the guy who put his hand up for the Reds this year was Isaac Lucas. The kid clearly has class to spare in multiple positions. His work at the U20 World Champs is more proof of what we already knew. Put him on a long term contract.

Ben: While there were a number of rookies played this season, most of them seemed to only play 3-4 games (or less) before getting injured, dropped or sent off on Junior Wallaby duty. If you are going to pick a rookie based solely on games played, then it would be Jock Campbell who came to the starting side during the injury crisis that rocked the outside backs in South Africa and held his place for the remainder of the season. He was good and solid but not exceptional.  However, the rookie that had the most impact and looked the most like the star of the future was Isaac Lucas. Shuffling between fullback and flyhalf, Lucas looked elusive, brave and possessed the spark that most of the rest of the backline lacked. How he develops (and in what position) will be crucial in the Reds progression over the next few seasons.

Reg: Isaac Lucas is going to be a very special player (if he isn’t already) and his try against the Rebels was nigh on orgasmic.  But he didn’t quite play enough footy to claim this title for me.  Feao Fotuaika is close to the story of the season given the transformation he made in the off-season.  He proved he can cut it at this level which is a credit to the talent identification work of Cameron Lilycrap and Brad Thorn.  However, I’m going to give this to Jock Campbell who I personally thought was just a capable club player who benefited from being at the end of a very good QLD Country backline in the NRC.  But he proved me very wrong and he looked very handy in his seven starts.  He’s not blistering fast and that probably cost him two or three tries, but he was composed and adept on his feet which gained him plenty of metres.  His off-load to Scott Higginbotham for his first try v the Blues was lovely stuff. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE MORE OF IN 2019:

Tate McDermott scores a try

Tate McDermott one of many highly skilled young players to shine

Sully: In 2019 there was a clear skills development within the playing group. We saw torpedo kicks, long passes from surprising players, kicks from unexpected players. I want more of that. For years I’ve watched players come into Super Rugby and leave years later with little skill development and their weaknesses still firmly in place. I want the Reds Players to keep developing their game.

Ben: Other than people at the game? More of the consistency that was starting to creep into the team over the season. It is clear Brad Thorn has taught the team to fight through the game and the defence is also broadly improved. What we do need though is spark in the backline.  Any real consistent attacking threat was led by Samu Kerevi for the most part. None of the players that filled the 10 shirt had any real ability to create something out of nothing on a regular basis. Hamish Stewart, Bryce Hegarty, Matt McGahan all were serviceable but not spectacular. Isaac Lucas had some limited chances before being spirited away to the U20 World Championships.  When players with the pace and flair of Sefa Naivalu and Filipo Daugunu are almost invisible, questions have to be answered as to what is happening inside them. The forward pack were again solid, abrasive and aggressive. If this group can be largely kept together, then good things will happen.

Reg: The premise of this question was intended to be ‘what was good about this year that you want to see next year’. It puts a different spin on answering it.  Everyone knows that the Brad Thorn era at Ballymore has been about an injection of youth.  This year it was declared that the youth of the team was no longer and excuse for losses.  Fair enough too because in my eyes, the young guys were consistently the best performances.  Obviously take away Samu and Rodda, and the consistent standouts were Liam Wright, Angus Scott-Young, Alex Mafi, Tate McDermott, Isaac Lucas, Jock Campbell, Harry Hockings, Angus Blythe, Harry Hoopert and Feao Fotuaika.  So I want to see those guys continue to be the standout performers and keep the likes of Paenga-Amosa, the Smiths, Feauai-Sautia, Hegarty, Tuttle and Salakai-Loto on their toes.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE FIXED NEXT YEAR:

Samu Kerevi

How do you fill a Samu-sized hole?

Sully: I think the Reds are only a couple of player off being a pretty good team. Their big issue, especially without Kerevi, is creating line breaks and building scoreboard pressure. Isaac Lucas, if he’s ready, could provide some of that. Petaia might help too. There’s a decent hole to fill at inside centre that needs to be filled as well. I’m not sure anyone from within the Reds is ready to fill it although Hamish Stewart has always struck me as more of a 12 than a 10 or 15.

Ben: The old adage is that success brings fans, but at some point there needs to be more promotion to get people there. To be blunt, the crowds were terrible and it showed in a lack of atmosphere at Suncorp Stadium.  Getting 12,000 odd people to the NSW game spoke spades for how poorly the sport is performing overall in the attendance race. To me it really struck home in the last game against the Blues. A few years ago, the Blues played at Suncorp and 31,000 came. This time it was less than 10,000.

And we all know if the crowds aren’t coming, neither is the money, and it becomes a vicious circle. Look up at the corporate boxes which are the big money spinner and huge chunks of them will be unoccupied. I honestly believe that if there were a smaller stadium that was up to standard in Brisbane, the Reds would be playing there.  Off-field woes aside, what needs to be fixed is the backline. No Samu Kerevi in 2020 makes me wonder where points will come from and how they will be created. You can have the best pack in rugby and if there is no finishing then it is pointless. The best sides in Super Rugby have multiple ways to finish you off and we are still too one-dimensional to truly test the top echelon of Super Rugby.

Reg: I’ve said for a while that Australian Rugby has a high performance problem.  Our teams rarely perform at the highest level when they’ve most needed to – be it the Wallabies, our Super Rugby sides or even our 7s teams.  That was until this most recent Australian Under 20s team.  This Queensland Reds most definately didn’t. The derbies are case in point. The one win against the Brumbies early was brilliant, albeit against a misfiring Brumbies team. Each and every other derby was a shank of a performance. We could have won all of them.  Should have won half of them at least.  We won none of them. Because we played poorly.  That’s what needs to change.  We need to play with the intensity and confidence of that Junior Wallaby team. With their smarts and commitement to the cause.

SEASON IN PICTURES:

We are fortunate to have some very good photographers up here in QLD who also volunteer their time for the site and provide us sensational photos.  Personally I think Stephen Tremain is one of the best in the business.  What better way to finish the season review with a look back at some of the best shots taken this season.

 

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Reg and a nice write up team. Bang on for me. I think things are developing well for the Reds but next year there has to be some better results. Consistency in selection is a must and people need to be able to make mistakes and learn from them not be sacked for them. Kerevi is a big loss but on the other hand it’ll force others to step up and require a game plan that doesn’t start and end with “give it to Kerevi” which is easy to nullify.
    Some didn’t deliver a lot, like Tupou who I thought was very poor for most of the year. I think Scott AY has to step up more and not be dominated so easily and I’d like to see Hegarty stay at 10.
    I’m hopeful for next season, not excited for it yet but still hopeful

    • Jason

      Do you really think they are deserving of a C- average?

      I feel like everyone is judging them by the same criteria as the Waratahs and Rebels when the Reds clearly aren’t the Waratahs or Rebels (granted that is largely self imposed). While yes the Reds don’t have the ability to Take Games, and are only just figuring out how to Steal Games, they were still within a converted try for 4 or 5 games, just half of those puts them in finals contention. Two games away from Finals isn’t a bad season for the Reds.

      I think it’s really important for us to judge the Reds by what they are, they aren’t a Blue Porsche 911, or a Purple BMW M2, or even a Green Ford Mustang. The Reds are a Red Mazda MX-5 they are undoutbablly punching above their weight, but they just don’t have enough to give.

      • Greg

        I think any team has to be judged against the best. This is, imo, the crusaders and C might be generous.

        Another measure, which is also very interesting, is “how well are we going with what we’ve got?”. This is perhaps more aligned with your thoughts above but leads to the killer question…. “how did we get to where we are?” A good season in 2020 also needs an answer to the last question.

      • disqus_NMX

        You can’t dump QC, and then complain about being compared to the Rebels.

        • Jason

          But dumping QC is why and because they should be judged the way they are. Let’s look at the position the Brumbies, Rebels, and Waratahs find themselves in right now… what flyhalf do they have on the books for next season… Between all three of them they have Matt Toomua, Mack Mason, and Will Harrison. The Reds wanted to change direction, they wanted to develop young players so they could actually have a future. And it’s working the Reds will probably have the best flyhalf of any Aussie team next year. They got time into Stewart, found a good option in McGahan and have a really competent utility back in Hegarty.

          You don’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, don’t judge the Reds by the same criteria as the Crusaders, the Crusaders just scrape into 8th and bounce out at quarters that’s a very bad season — the Reds scraping into 8th and getting rolled by the ‘Saders is a very good season!

      • Singapore Sling

        So the Reds shouldn’t be compared to other franchises? Maybe SANZAR shouldn’t have a points table and every team gets a trophy. Thorn is the best supported coach in the history of QLD rugby. He was given a mandate others including Link would be envious of and still finishes second last.

        Sure a forensic investigation of statistics will reveal an improvement yoy and I’ll grant that but the fact is results and crowd numbers paint a bleak picture. It’s like a financial advisor convincing us we’ve done well in a bear market because our portfolio is down 35% when the index is down 40%. Could always be worse should be on the Reds crest.

        Players leaving after a RWC is nothing unusual however if these same players felt they were about to be part of something special they’d stay. I’ll still fly down from Singapore for at least three home games because I refuse to let my cynicysim stop me and I’ve done the same thing for twenty years.

        • AllyOz

          Looking at the official SANZAR stats page and I really don’t think there was that much overall between the Rebels and the Reds.

          The Rebels were clearly better in the two matches they played against each other and I think the Rebels best was, perhaps 10 points better than the Reds best (thanks just a feel thing). Ironically though its only the games the Rebels won against the Reds that put them ahead on table as there is only one game in it.

          When you look at the final table the Rebels only had 1 win and 2 bonus points more than the Reds and the Waratahs and with the two end of season blow outs, the Rebels were worse on points differential and 13th overall on that measure. The table was very close and I am not sure you could give anyone other than the Brumbies higher than a C and I think Reg’s D+ is more accurate. However, with the financial ratings like AAA etc they tend to give a comment as to the expected future trajectory. I would score both the Waratah and the Reds with D or D+ but i would be a bit more upbeat about the Reds at this time. They are bringing through juniors, now have an experienced coaching support system and I think they are getting a few things in place. The Tahs will lose even more senior players and have lost both their senior coaches so it is a bit of an unknown. I am not sure what to say about the Rebels – I would have had them at B- until the last two games with the Brumbies at B+ but then they had those two very heavy losses to finish.

        • RugbyReg

          A really good point AllyOz, in terms of the trajectory of the Tahs and Reds. I have felt really hopeful about the team this year, but tried to look at this review someone independently of that.

        • idiot savant

          The thing about the Rebels wins over the Reds is that the Reds were never in either match. The Reds coaches had no answer for the fast round the corner recycle ball. When they met the second time I thought the Reds might have come up with a plan but if anything they were worse.

        • Jason

          What I’m more getting at is the Reds are in a rebuilding phase (not sure if this year or next year will be the last year of the rebuild). The Waratahs are probably going to be rebuilding next year too.

          When you are rebuilding you have different goals. The Reds meet those goals, they found out who on their young roster can play at Super Rugby level, they signed a few talented backs (and lost Kerevi — that was always going to happen without ARU support) and continued to develop their strong forward pack (noting that Tupou went backwards this year).

          They went forwards (largely because they are young and were always going to get better based on age.

        • AllyOz

          Tupou’s salary is headed in the right direction :) . Actually I think he finished reasonably well after an off start and that hopefully means his best rugby this year will be for the Wallabies.

          I agree that the Reds are in a different phase. Not sure how much longer that will be an excuse. To have truly improved they probably needed another win or two but there were a lot of stats (that were discussed in another article today) that showed a number of attacking areas where the Reds were actually 8-9th. However, that hasn’t translated yet to more wins. Certainly they have a lot of players who are 20-25 years old who are now a lot more experienced at Super Rugby and hopefully that means that we will begin to see that improvement reflected in additional points and wins next year.

          Apart from the Brumbies , there is little on the stats that separates the other three teams and, unfortunately, I don’t know that we can claim that that is because they have all improved or they are all playing as badly as one another.

        • Jason

          Yeah, I think perhaps he’s been focused on gearing up for the RWC, but overall I’d say he had a fairly average season.

          I agree it’s not an excuse, but it should be the criteria they are marked by, you don’t give a kid in year 12 their university exams, you judge them by their merits, I can see arguments that the Reds are a C team on their merits; but D and C- is a bit rough.

          I think the Reds almost have the be the best/second best aussie team next season just looking at the number of players who are leaving the Brumbies, Rebels and Waratahs next year. So it won’t be an excuse next year, but hopefully a few key players bringing experience can help them succeed.

      • Woodsman

        If the Reds want to play Super Rugby then of course they should be compared to the other franchises. Judging the reds with different criteria is an odd idea, If players clearly aren’t up to super standard then they just shouldn’t be there.

        • Jason

          I’m not saying don’t compare them to the other teams.

          A successful season for the Waratahs next year will likely be finding 2 to 4 young guys who can play at Super Rugby level. It shouldn’t really matter how many wins they have, how close their games are. The Waratahs need to find their players for the future, find their style and systems going forwards.

      • sambo6

        All the teams in the same comp should be judged by the same criteria. You start talking about more lenient ‘reds standards’ and that’s a slippery slope to making mediocrity acceptable.

        If the owner of an MX-5 wants to race a 911, then he’s going to keep getting smoked until he upgrades his car. He gains nothing by saying…”well, I only lost by two laps, which is okay because i just drive an MX-5, and by that standard all is well”. If thats his attitude then he shouldn’t even be in competition with a 911, and should go join Global Rapid MX-5 racing (dont get upset with this analogy Force fans:))

        I suspect what you are perhaps trying to talk about is more the concept of ‘delivery versus expectations': Even on that basis , I think the reds dissapointed this year – as the guys have alluded to in the article – there really wasn’t any major improvement in any key facet of the game versus last year. Most fans would have expected to see more progress than we saw.

        • Jason

          So the Reds making semis is a failure of a season — because that’s what you are saying. If we judge everyone by the criteria we judge the Crusaders by anything but winning a Super Rugby Grand Final is failure.

          What we need to do is look at the team and consider where they are in their cycle. The Waratahs this year you’d expect them to make semis at least, potentially win the comp — next year they just need to find a few young players who can play Super Rugby.

          We can’t judge every team by the same criteria because every team is not the same, every team isn’t at the same point of their development cycle. The Rebels and Waratahs this year were grand final or bust, the Reds were 2 years into a rebuild (that you’d expect to be 3 or 4 years).

  • Jason

    Bit harsh lads, I think we have too much of a tendency to grade everyone by the same test, and especially in the context of Aussie Super Rugby Teams it’s simply not the case. The Reds shouldn’t be held to anywhere near the standards of the Waratahs or Rebels even Brumbies. By the ‘Reds Standards’ I think they are probably a B. They had 5 games within a (converted) Try and another few (3 or 4 IIRC) within two. Unless we are giving the Waratahs and Rebels both F’s and D’s respectively I don’t think a pass mark is where the Reds were at. (Another 3 wins has them probably playing finals football.)

    Reds are at a stage where hanging in a game is what’s expected of them, while inwardly you’d never let them know that because taking the step to take the game away from their opposition is where you need them to be. You can’t look at their place on the ladder and use that to tell the story, you can’t just look at their for and against or number of wins. The Reds must be judged on the character they showed on the field and all things considered it was exactly where you want it to be. They’ll struggle to make up for the Samu sized hole and they still haven’t truly found a solution at 10 (although apparently they’re going to be the closest next season).

    IMO B- because they are letting Samu walk and while Speight and TK are nice gets unless they pick up JO’C (sounding less likely every day) they will have gone backwards.

    • Brumby Runner

      TK?

    • The Reds only lost three games by a converted try or less.

    • RugbyReg

      we finished 2nd last in the competition. I can’t figure out how you could give them a B?

      • I’m not saying I agree, but his argument was that they’re a team part way through a rebuilding process. Winning 6, getting 3 losing bonus points – which means that’s 3 more where they had an absolutely genuine chance of winning, is better than a C for a team at that phase in their off-field development.

        Personally, I’d say somewhere between a C+ and a B- but for a different reason. They are a young side, and it showed in their inconsistency and how they would fold against some of the good teams. But as Saturday showed, even the best can fold against a better team sometimes. But from the bits I saw early season, and the whole games later, there is a definite improvement and something to build on in Redsville.

        Will they make the finals next year? I’m not going to confidently predict that. However, they’ve got a strong nucleus and with a bit of smart recruitment, they should get up to 8 wins which this year would have got them there.

        • Jason

          For the Reds next season they don’t make finals then they get a failing grade from me.

          But you are right my point is looking at where they are in their rebuild they did better than they probably should have done, they were 2 wins away from genuine contention for a playoff spot and had probably 3 games they were genuinely a chance of winning. Player development should see them improve 2 or 3 games next year and while you can’t judge next year by this year, this year that would have seen them doing enough for finals.

      • Jason

        So everyone who doesn’t win the comp gets an F… because that’s the goal right… we already have a system that counts how good the teams are in relation to the other teams — it’s based mostly on wins but also takes some account of how close you were in your scores… it’s called the competition ladder. But to judge a team purely on that is daft, it doesn’t tell you the full picture of the team.

        For Japan at the last World Cup Winning one game against South Africa was exceptional, for Japan just missing out on pool stages would have been amazing! For England only just missing out on finals was terrible.

        A player goes out next week and creates three tries and stuffs a fourth have they had a good game or not… If it’s James O’Connor probably not, if it’s Will Harrison it probably is…. If it’s a Bledisloe Cup game they both probably have, and if it’s against an U9’s girls team they both have probably had a bad game.

        You can’t judge everyone by the same criteria because they aren’t the same. The Reds didn’t go out this season to try to win Super Rugby they went out to try to make finals, improve on last year and find some consistency. They didn’t make finals, but they were more consistent and relative to the whole comp improved on last year and they are signing a few players to help fill the gaps in their roster. Sure I’m not giving them a AAA+ but they did well enough.

        • RugbyReg

          “The Reds didn’t go out this season to try to win Super Rugby they went out to try to make finals, improve on last year and find some consistency. ”

          Then they failed. They didn’t make finals, they didn’t improve on last year and they weren’t consistent.

  • AllyOz

    I think it’s a decent assessment. The comments around the impact of Kerevi’s loss are pertinent and I also think, while there are some great young talents developing in the pack, picking up an experienced 4/5 and 6/8 to continue to develop the pack would be of great benefit.

    JOC might make some sense with a young and inexperienced 10 -15. He is not exactly the polar opposite of Kerevi but a very different type of player. There is plenty of talk about him maturing as a young man but I am not sure how much he has matured as a player as I just haven’t watched him. Is he the sort of player who can help bring out the best in JP and Isaac Lucas – he just might be (personally I would love to see a player like CLLF as the Reds 12). With JOC at 12 he wouldn’t be tempted to overplay his hand and he could be a good balance for the more direct play of JP (certainly different from the 1…2 punch that Kerevi and JP gave).

    I think Brad Thorn would see Wayne Bennett as a major mentor. One thing Bennett has is a capacity to get the best out of players who have had poor off field records early in their careers. Lodge, Wendell Sailor, James Roberts are just a few. As Thorn progresses, hopefully he can not just set a culture by cutting all those who don’t fit into it but by bringing in players and getting them to conform to and positively changea culture.

    Overall, despite the losses of Kerevi and Higginbotham, and the fact that they finished on as many wins as last year, I am more positive about the Reds season this year and am strangely (perhaps read deluded) hopeful for further development next season.

    • Singapore Sling

      Bennett has proven himself a master coach tactically and psychologically. Bennett and Bellamy are exceptional “player whispers”. Thorns approach is 180 degrees from his mentor and I think his discipline is an overcompensation for other deficiencies.

      • AllyOz

        Fair enough to this point in time Sling but Bennett and Bellamy are career coaches with 20 years plus experience. Thorn is still in his coaching infancy so I hope as he grows in experience as a coach he will mentoring and soft skills will also grow. Fingers crossed

    • idiot savant

      Thorn did wonders for the off field behaviour of Cooper, Hunt, and Slipper. They have gone on to be consistent performers.

      • Christopher

        I don’t think Cooper is anymore consistent than he was. Slipper kept being Slipper (i.e. Solid). Hunt continued to do what he has done; Be largely consistent glimpses of great and the odd go missing from time to time.

    • From NooZealand

      Just a question: how come Wayne Bennett (exceptional coach) and Bellamy are mentioned in relation to the Reds. What did I miss? Cheers.

      • AllyOz

        I was saying that Bennett would likely be a Thorn mentor (or at least someone that he would admire) and that he should perhaps aspire to Bennett’s ability to turn around players who have had off field failures. Bellamy seems to have a similar ability to Bennett in that respect but no direct link to Thorn as far as I am aware.

        • From NooZealand

          And thank you very to you sir. (Hope I am gender correct) ((:))

  • nmpcart

    Holding the win over the Brumbies at Suncorp as a high point is to me overlooking the conditions on the day. It was extremely hot and the Brumbies melted – they were awful that day. Yes both teams had to play in the same conditions but the Brumbies massively underperformed that day. Wins against teams that are playing badly like the Sharks and Blues should be recognised for what they are and wins against the Sunwolves are soft points. There was enough experience and internationals in the squad to expect better and as Reg noted, the coaching squad was very strong. If relying on Kerevi to make all the plays is a weakness then it’s up to the coaches to change the game plan, but they didn’t.

    Selections were confusing. Naivalu was poor most of the time, cc already signed elsewhere so lacking motivation, a lazy defender yet still got picked. Maybe he was forced on the Reds by RA. Stewart was chopped and changed and then discarded, same with Sorovi. Campbell was a bright spot, good to see him stepping up. McDermott shone and I hope his development continues. CFS managed to stay uninjured mainly but didn’t really show anything special. Hegarty kicked goals well but got shifted around. McGahan….?

    Now they are getting Speight and JOC. Who knows what positions James will be called onto fill.
    Progress? I’m not so sure.

    • We’ll disregard the hot win at Lang park if you don’t count the win in freezing conditions in Canberra. It’s called home ground advantage for a reason.

      • AllyOz

        I think playing in those conditions at Lang Park may have cost the Reds the following week – or at least partially explain why they were so very flat.

      • nmpcart

        True, but the Brumbies were unusually bad that day, that is the point. Did the Reds particularly suffer in the cold of Canberra so that they didn’t play as well as they normally would? I can’t recall but yes home advantage helps with climate at times.

  • idiot savant

    Nice write up Reg, Ben & Sully and pretty accurate. My thoughts on the Reds season:

    Culture
    There was some noise on this site about disgruntlement early in the season which may have been imaginary. I had a completely speculative theory at the time that there could have been a judgemental culture engineered by the coaches that might have made going to work unpleasant. The coaches are all very confident people, some of whom talk endlessly about how hard they are / were and who have talked about the softness of the modern pathways and how young players need to harden up and be forced to earn it. That may be true but if you go to work every day and get told you’re not good enough that can eventually make it a place thats no fun to be around. And if you are not a devout Christian would you feel on the outside at the Reds? Who knows. But hopefully thats all BS and everyone is happy as Larry. I will say that if Thorn buys JOC, it makes him a complete hypocrite. If you were a mate of Slipper’s and saw that someone who had been arrested in Paris for buying cocaine was considered OK while a 10 game club man was not that would make you think the culture was a crock.

    Performance & Coaching
    You cant fault the effort of the players. They really put in. I think there are question marks about some of the coaching. The line out is not as good as it was before Thorn took it over. The scrum is still good but went backwards this year. The defence really improved. The forwards work rate is impressive. I still think their breakdown work is slow particularly when they have the ball. They are vulnerable to sides who are skilled in slowing the ball.

    They were strategically and tactically limited. I guess this is partly a function of a young side and it is to be hoped that this will improve with player experience. Thorn was prepared to give game time to young forwards and this will pay dividends. I couldn’t fathom the the approach to the backs. Id have to say Jim McKay has been underwhelming. The Reds tried 4 flyhalves and 4 full backs (the same 4 players) and due in part to injury shifted the centres around. I dont recall seeing a pattern of play or uses of alternative patterns of play. It was grind them in the forwards and catch and pass when they went to the backs which was never often enough.

    The treatment of Stewart is perplexing. He was given very little time as first receiver in the two matches he played at 10 – two of the Reds best performances both against NZ sides. I thought perhaps they were educating him to back play by putting him at 15 but he never played another second at 10. Hardly the game time you need to develop a 10. Does that mean they have decided he wont be a 10 at the Reds? If not its a strange development process. I thought he ran some good lines at 15 and the best the Reds attack looked all season was when he was 15 and Hegarty was 10. The treatment of Sorovi was also perplexing.

    How do they get better?
    I think they need to develop smarter decision makers in key positions. I feel they lost a couple of games they could have won by not taking the right options – mostly sticking blindly to forwards led attack and not using the backs. Its pretty clear that it is a coaching directive. The Reds are one of the leaders in the comp for pick and go. Every side they play against knows thats what they’ll do from 20 metres out. Is that coaching? Or did Hegarty just not realise he had overlaps and Kerevi outside him and call for the ball?

    They need to use speed. You cant win super rugby consistently with a big pack of grinding slow forwards. How many comps have the big sides of beef from the high veldt won lately? You can maintain possession for long periods and stay close to your rivals but you cant blow them away. Which is what happened all season. Speed comes in two ways and they need both – speed of ball movement and speed of player. The Rebels and the Tahs easily had the Reds measure because of their quick ball movement. The Reds were more competitive against the Brums because the Brums also have a big pack and can get sucked into the grind. The Reds were also competitive against kiwi sides because kiwi sides love a forwards grind. But they have to make quick breakdown ball a priority next season. I still feel they need some quicker forwards. They have power but gee a quicker 7 and or 2 would make a difference. Someone like Hooper behind this pack with Wright at 6 would really be a weapon.

    They need a 12. Obviously. Thorn has made it clear he wants a big bopper there, not a playmaker like DPA. Which doesn’t necessarily give you quick ball movement. Remember last season before Kerevi became a confident distributor? Whats the point of buying Speight if you cant get the ball to him in time to have space? And while we are on that, Ive said before thats a strange buy. I like Henry but he will be too old and slow by the time the Reds hope to contend (2021, 2022). All he will have done is take development time away from younger wingers like Campbell and Daugunu.

    The style I thought Thorn was developing was the old Highlanders. A powerful set piece with a kicking 10 to play it down the other end backed by a great defence that would force errors and the ability to counter attack. This might still work and McGahan is a kick first and ask questions later style of ten. But they do need to coach the players to take more options. Look what a difference an all court game has made to the Brumbies. If the Reds are to go to the next level, they will need to develop more variety.

    • RugbyReg

      a cracking contribution mate. Hard to argue against any of that!.

      Top shelf

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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