Reds 2018 squad announcement: We Are Managing Expectations - Green and Gold Rugby
Queensland Reds

Reds 2018 squad announcement: We Are Managing Expectations

Reds 2018 squad announcement: We Are Managing Expectations

The Queensland Reds have announced their squad for the 2018 Super Rugby season with a number of new faces in both the playing personal as well as the coaching team.

There are no massive big name signings from other teams, with Force signings noticeably absent. An apparent focus on building from within, perhaps due to limited finances but also in recognition of the promise available.  Given their success in the NRC this year, there is a significant representation from the winning Queensland Country team.

In total there are 36 players named, with Queensland Rugby keeping the window open to add more prior to the season’s commencement next February.  Let’s take a walk through the squad by position:

Props:

Existing Players: Sef Fa’agase, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Markus Vanzati

New Signings:

Harry Hoopert – An Aussie Schoolboy rep just two years ago, Hoopert came close to a Super Rugby call up last year under coach Nick Stiles.  Still a teenage but a tough country style of prop.

JP Smith – an experienced ‘old head’ with plenty of Super Rugby experience with both the Brumbies and Stormers. First immigrated to Brisbane from South Africa before making the move to Canberra in 2014.

Taniela Tupou in space

Taniela Tupou in space

Hookers:

Existing Players: Alex Mafi, Andrew Ready

New Signings:

Brandon Paenga-Amosa – a standout in the last two years of the NRC for the Rams in 2016 and the NSW Country Eagles this season. A no-fuss hooker, he’s spent time with both the Tahs and Rebels and will manage a Super Rugby call up if required.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa charges for NSW Country Eagles v Canberra Vikings NRC 2017 (Photo courtesy ARU Media)

Brandon Paenga-Amosa has moved north for opportunity

Locks:

Existing Players – Kane Douglas, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Tui

New Signings:

Angus Blythe – A 204cm, 19 year old lock forward with plenty of physicality to his game and a couple of years under the tutelage of Thorn in the Under 20s and NRC.

Harry Hockings – Just as young as Blythe, and a wee bit taller, this North Queensland product has some pretty silky skills for a big man. Could well surpass Douglas as the #3 lock.

QCHockingsW1810sportography

Harry Hockings offloads with skill

Back row:

Existing Players: Michael Gunn, Reece Hewat, Scott Higginbotham, Adam Korczyk, George Smith, Caleb Timu.

New Signings:

Angus Scott-Young – Son of Sam! A hard working backrower, seemingly without the short fuse of his old man, but with the same intensity at the breakdown.  Was a unheralded star for QLD Country in the NRC.

Liam Wright – toured with the Wallabies a development player after an exceptional NRC which saw him lead the league in turnovers. A natural leader and complete professional, all at the age of 20. Could be a breakout star in 2018.

Liam Wright

Liam Wright – handy over the ball and with the ball.

Scrumhalves:

Existing Players: Nick Frisby, Moses Sorovi, James Tuttle

New Signings:

Tate McDermott – A Sunny Coast product McDermott first got a chance in ‘big boy’ rugby with the Aussie 7s team and proved a player of undoubted skill.  Was brought in close to the Reds squad in 2017 and will now be even closer in 2018.

James Tuttle clears the ball.

James Tuttle clears the ball.

Flyhalves:

Existing Players: Quade Cooper

New Signings:

Hamish Stewart – Another Toowoomba product (alongside Hoopert), after securing the 10 jersey for the Aussie Under 20s, Stewart was arguably the standout flyhalf in the NRC. His combination with Tuttle and Paia’aua could see him pressure Cooper the Reds spot.

Hamish Stewart distributing the pill.

Hamish Stewart has all the skills.

Centres:

Existing Players – Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Duncan Paia’aua

Chris Feaui-Sautia holds back Denis Piligateau.

Chris Feaui-Sautia was in career best form this NRC.

Outside backs:

Existing Players – Karmichael Hunt, Lachlan Maranta, Eto Nabuli, Izaia Perese

New Signings:

Filipo Daugunu – lit up the NRC when he debuted in Round 4 with a double against the Rays, including a memorable solo effort from a kick-off. Scored 3 v Melbourne the following week and then four a couple of weeks after against the Rams. Lightning quick, a decent boot and plenty of defensive quality.

Duncan Paia'aua beats the defence to Filipo Daugunu's chip through

Filipo Daugunu – NRC’s leading tryscorer

Coaching Team:

Head Coach: Brad Thorn
Assistant Coach: Tony McGahan
Assistant Coach: Paul Carozza
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach: Niklas Superina
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Daniel Cooper

Squad Questions:

New coaching team dynamics

There’s been a complete clean out of the coaching team in 2018 with Brad Thorn bringing in his QLD Country off-sider in Paul Carozza, to join Tony McGahan as Assistant Coach.  Thorn and Carozza, who has been around Ballymore for decades now, formed an effective relationship during the National Under 20s and the NRC this year, but McGahan is new to the fold. As the former Melbourne Rebels Head Coach, McGahan joined the Reds back when his mate Nick Stiles was coach as the “Senior Assistant Coach” with a focus on defense. How he fits within the Thorn-Carozza partnership will prove an interesting sub-plot.

The other question marks are amongst the relative unknowns in the S&C team. It’s an area where the Reds (like any Aussie rugby team) has struggled of late and there were dramas last year with key staff leaving mid-season. Thorn loves his gym work so you can only assume this lot is handpicked by him and have a similar sensibility. I can’t say I know too much about these lads other than what’s on the web site. Niklas Superina has spent a fair amount of time between Japan and Italy mostly with rugby, but with a little extra as well.  Daniel Cooper is a little unique with his experience being as a Special Forces Operator and High Performance Coach.  New voices are valuable in Australian rugby so let’s hope Superina and Cooper bring value to the squad.

-6914RebelsVCheetahs

Tony McGahan from Head Coach to Snr Assistant Coach

NRC Springboard

QLD Country were awesome this year in winning the NRC with a very young side.  It has seen a whole bunch of their players snag Super Rugby contracts and the coach (and his assistant) do the same.  But does it mean the success will flow to the Reds next year?

Brisbane City won the NRC in 2014 under Nick Stiles and, from that team, we saw 2015 Super Rugby debuts for Marco Kotze, Sam Talakai, Sef Fa’agase, Pettowa Paraka, Michael Gunn, Adam Korczyk, Andrew Ready and Jake McIntyre. The Reds, meanwhile, finished 13th.  Brisbane won again that year, this undefeated, and 2016 Super Rugby debuts followed for Henry Teafu, Waita Setu, Junior Laloifi, Matt Mafi and Alex Gibbon.  This time the Reds finished 15th.

So NRC doesn’t guarantee success nor does the natural progression of NRC stars. We’ll no doubt see plenty of debuts next year from this QLD Country team through the likes of Harry Hockings, Angus Scott-Young, Liam Wright and Filipo Daugunu. Can Thorn, with no Head Coaching experience above NRC and Under 20, use his limited experiences to gel this squad together into an improved outfit on recent years?

Photo Credit: Chloe Krause

NRC success doesn’t guarantee Super Rugby success (Photo Credit: Chloe Krause)

Veteran impact

With the Reds development pathways continuing to spew out quality talent, last year’s squad was noticeable for some of the veterans brought in. Stephen Moore, Scott Higginbotham, Quade Cooper, Kane Douglas, Leroy Houston and George Smith were bought to provide a mature head and help re-establish a professional culture.  Moore’s recent retirement comes on the back of Houston’s early release and news of a potential serious injury to George Smith. While Douglas has yet to find his form of RWC2015, Cooper and Higginbotham had their moments in 2017 but without the consistency required, either through injury or otherwise.

Now a year older, what will be their impact this year? Each are now, rightfully, being put under pressure by a young star. Izack Rodda and Lukhan Tui have both already leapfrogged Douglas while who’s to say that Hamish Stewart and Caleb Timu won’t, respectively, do the same to Quade and Higgers this year?  Will the veterans continue to set the example when they no longer own a starting spot? You can be sure of one thing regardless of whether he plays or not, King George will be a brilliant coach/mentor for the two young opensides in the squad being Michael Gunn and particularly Liam Wright.

George Smith in traffic

George Smith was the Reds’ best in 2017. What role will he play in 2018?

Centre Support

There is a notable sentence in the Reds release announcing this squad for next year. “Reds fans should keep an eye out for further player announcements prior to the 2018 season.” It’s good to know because, on the face of it, this squad looks dramatically short in the centres. Make no mistake there is some quality there with Samu Kerevi, Duncan Paia’aua and Chris Feauai-Sautia all high quality players.  There’s also a little coverage elsewhere through Karmichael Hunt, Hamish Stewart and Izaia Perese.

But we still seem a little short.  It will be interesting to see who the coaches are considering as options there with a few potential options. Campbell Magnay is off in Japan and, with their season finishing earlier next year, may be an option.  Most of the standouts from the NRC are already taken up elsewhere with Denis Pili-Gateau of the Rams perhaps an option. Aussie Under 20 utility, and Brisbane City squad member, Dylan Riley is rumoured to have been offered a development contract but is ‘considering his options’. Another option may be to pick up a Drua player, who would sit outside the salary cap. There are standout options aplenty with (acknowledging I don’t know their current contract status) centres Eroni Sau, John Stewart and Eroni Vasiteri strong options. Alternatively more fullback depth could assist, given Hunt’s versatility, with the likes of Apisalome Waqatabu or Peceli Nacebe excellent considerations.

Samu Kerevi scores in the wet

Samu Kerevi will be key to the Reds in 2018.

Possible Match Day Squad:

15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Filip Daugunu 13 Samu Kerevi 12 Duncan Paia’aua 11 Izaia Perese, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 George Smith, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper

16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18, JP Smith, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Chris Feauai-Sautia

Season Tip:

My catch cry for season 2018 is “Manage Expectations”. Don’t believe the hype. There’s a lot to like about this squad make no mistake, but that’s just on paper and they need to perform on grass.  The Rebels and Brumbies will start the season undoubtabley more favoured to top the conference, while the Sunwolves will be more formidable next year. Who knows what the Waratahs will throw up as their squad is still largely a mystery.

For mine there are still far too many questions around this squad and the structures around it to be able to have any confidence in a massive turn around in performance next year.  We can all live in hope, but be wary of any of the marketing hyperbole.  As for a tip? It’s too early. But if we make the finals I’ll be thrilled and, quite frankly, surprised.

 

  • Garryowen

    Good review Reg – be interested to see who has been let go since end of season and where they have gone.
    Agree – Centres very light – and we are an injury away from issues. Not sure from what barrel that backup will come from.
    With Smith managing a back injury – could be sooner rather than later for the young un’s and this will be a challenge – which we have to expect!
    That aside – i hope we just see some smart play from the team on the field. 2017 had so much promise – but mistakes and lapses on the park led to the results and demise of both coaches and players.
    I just want a consistent effort and if we get beat by better teams so be it – but rather play with greater consistency and accountability – something we saw in patches in 17, but these rules also apply to the front office…

    • RugbyReg

      Thanks mate. This is what I think is the list of departed players:

      Sam Talakai (Rebels)
      Stephen Moore (retired)
      Cadeyrn Neville (Japan I think?)
      Rob Simmons (Tahs)
      Hendrick Tui (Japan)
      Leroy Houston (France)
      Jake McIntrye (France)
      Henry Teafu (France)
      Campbell Magnay (Japan) – TBC???
      Chris Kuridrani ???
      Jayden Ngamanu ???

      Phil Kite & Kirwan Sanday both were capped last year and don’t feature either.

      • Gottsy

        Sad to see Neville go, I remember being impressed by him every time he ran out for the reds but never got much of a chance.

        • McWarren

          Yeah agree, I never got why Douglas was rated higher than him, or Simmons for that matter.

        • Jack Mallick

          He fell out of favour with the Rebels as well after a strong debut season. Who knows…
          but he is athletic and aggressive, what more do you want. Sad to see another tight forward with unrealised potential depart Aus.

        • Simon

          Yeah it’s disappointing. He was excellent for Brisbane City in the NRC, and particularly fast for a giraffe. It’s not often you see a lock galloping down the sideline to score a runaway try. He didn’t quite have the physicality at Super level but then neither did certain others who started ahead of him, who also lacked his athleticism.

    • Sammy dullard

      Will have to disagree with you both on the reds being light on centres. All three mentioned have played for the wallabies plus add hunt into that mix. If anything light on fullback. I think you will find nabuli on one wing also. But hey I’m no gagr writer.

  • With the limited game time I’ve seen of Brandon Paenga-AmosaI think he’s a great signing.

    • RugbyReg

      agree. An excellent recruit. Let’s hope Ready still stands up and returns to form too

      • juswal

        He stood out for Southern Districts in the Shute Shield in 2017. He could be a case study on the progression from fourth tier to third and then second.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Sorry, put this in the wrong article. Here it is again.

    Hey GAGR’s I am generally not much for the Rugby.com.au propaganda, but this interesting video surfaced today.
    Brad Thorn reminds me of an old boss I used to work for, who walked quietly and carried a big stick!
    I am looking forward to next year!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYqcfraGHEo

    • Bernie Chan

      Thorn carries a mighty big stick…! Don’t think the Reds will be ‘soft’ in the contact area…George Smith apparently carrying a back injury but Gunn and Wright can only improve by watching him and listening to him. Young squad, perhaps lacking a bit of depth, but next year should be worth watching…this year, rugby in Oz was a proverbial train wreck.

      • Brisneyland Local

        Yep, I think they will be competitive this year and 2-3 years provided all goes well will be primed for an attack on the title.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I really hope he does well. He’s certainly got the respect of the team and I think that’s been missing for a long time. I just hope those idiots up there in the management team give him time to build his team. I hope he uses the older players as motivators more than playing as I think most of them offer more in mentorship and development than they do on the field these days.

      • Brisneyland Local

        Couldnt agree with you more.

  • Simon

    That first XV matchday squad looks very strong and give a good account of itself, at least against the other conference teams. But the depth in the squad is fairly limited, they’re only a few injuries away from some very green players in the starting side.

    Hopefully a rebuilding year, built around rising talent, good leadership and a bit of belief that’s been lacking, instead of the previous approach of buying a few magic beans like JOC to cover up systemic problems and hoping for the best. Hard to resist making parallels to 2010 – dreams are free, after all!

    • Simon

      Also… Jimmy T to take over the goalkicking duties from Cooper?

      Simon says yes.

  • Mart

    Amazing to see George Smith still have super rugby contracts. He’s unstoppable
    Frisby should be let go

    • Bernie Chan

      Don’t think Frisby will have a ‘walk up start’…when fit, Sorovi pushes him anyway (I think Sorovi has a better pass and runs the ball better…) and Tuttle has done well under Thorn in the NRC. Tuttle also kicks for goal…so suspect Tuttle maybe has the “inside rail” run at the moment…? Nice to see guys graduate from the NRC with Super Rugby contracts…BPA, Dauganu, Scott-Young, Hocking, Blythe…young and inexperienced at the next level, but with the right coaching and mentoring the basis for a decent team.

      • Sammy dullard

        Frisby has been let go, along with quade

  • idiot savant

    Thanks Reg. I think you are smart to promote the idea of managing expectations, particularly with such a young side. Indeed smart management would seed that idea in the press….

    The truth is that all the other Australian sides look more experienced on paper. The Tahs should really win the conference with their talent which includes 5 of the 7 first choice Wallabies. It is hard to imagine that they wont shamed by last year and intent on turning everything around. The Force will have the other 2 of the 7 first choice Wallabies and at least a dozen Wallabies in the starting side and more on the bench (Timani for eg will probably be a bench player for them this year). Then there is the Brumbies with the best forward coach, a killer back row and the best Australian defence.

    It will be interesting to see the odds when they come out but on paper the Reds should be the longest.

    • Bernie Chan

      Haha…should the TAHs have 5 of the 7 first choice Wallas…?

      • idiot savant

        The more I think of it, the Reds should come last when you consider the opposition. Consider how they will go against these sides:

        Force: Haylett Petty, Naivalu, Tuipolutu, Hodge, Korobete’ Lance, Genia, Mafi, Fainga, Hardwick, Phillip, Coleman, Faulkner, Uelese, Ainsley

        Tahs: Folau, Nayavoro, Hegarty, Beale, Clark, Foley, Phipps, Dempsey, Hooper , Hanigan, Staniforth, Simmons, Robinson , Latu, Kepu

        Brums: Banks, Speight, Kuridrani, Llefano, Peni, Hawera, Powell, Naisarini, Pocock, Valenti, Carter, Enever, Sio, Faiinga, AAlatoa

    • McWarren

      The Force? Is that what we call the Rebels now? Makes sense.

  • Gottsy

    Good preview, and I like the look of that match day squad. I don’t think we are going to set the world on fire, especially if we pick up some injuries, because the depth past that 23 doesn’t look all that great. Lots to look forward to with the young guys, I certainly don’t have high expectations to be playing finals though.
    Was there nobody else at the Force that we could have added to the list? Like, starting wallabies hookers? ;)

  • Bernie Chan

    Would be great if some of the Drua lads who lit up the NRC managed to get a Super Rugby contract…even if it is with a club others than the Reds. Fantastic that the NRC has been a pathway to Super Rugby for some players…BPA has earned his chance and good luck to him. Ready and Mafi won’t have it all their own way for the #2 jersey.

  • Ad-O

    Manage expectations? This squad doesn’t leave me with many anyway. Our young guys have talent, and there’s class in the outside backs, but I just don’t see them all stepping up often enough, if at all. And the veterans are another year past their prime.
    Most of all I’m baffled by the positivity surrounding the coach. I don’t buy that the Reds were lazy last year. They were in with a shout in most matches after all. What I saw was a group of players lacking organisation, fitness, discipline and tactical awareness. Much like the Wallabies in that respect. It’s those aspects of the Reds play, and how he moulds the young talent, that will prove to me whether Thorn is worth his salt. Not whether he can kick a player in the back side.

    • McWarren

      I think you’ll find Brad Thorn very rarely kicks a player in the backside. Challenge them yes, but you won’t see him lose his cool or publicly shame a player.

      I think your correct in the sense we shouldn’t get excited about next year, but if we can use it to positively effect the young guys in the squad and then retain them, then I’ll be excited. And retaining talent may well be Thorns greatest asset.

      • Alister Smith

        I think he builds the players own expectations for themselves. I see him as a bloke you want to play for and you don’t want to disappoint.

    • RugbyReg

      thanks for just summarizing my article for me…

      • Ad-O

        No worries. Feel free to run your next one by me too. ;-)

  • dru

    Love your work, Reg.

    Too many years with preseason hype. The quiet work in the background in this preseason is a relief. Big question on Thorn, especially with the S&C imbroglio last season, but you have to say that the (coaching team) team is looking promising. Let’s hope that Tony finds his niche. As long as it works out, it’s no bad thing for him to feel pressured – any less than the rest of the coaches.

    Seems like we’ve been rebuilding since Link, but just maybe, it means something this time.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Looking forward to how they go this year under Thorn. I still see the biggest weakness being McGahan. Why the hell the Reds would bring in the biggest loser in Australian rugby after Woody Graham is beyond me. Someone in that recruitment team is on drugs.

    • From NooZealand

      KRL, read my mind: why McGahan?

    • I think Thorn is a great start for putting the Reds back to their best. I’m actually looking forward to the season.. ;)

    • Jason

      Yes, McGahan didn’t have success with the Rebels but he had success with Munster, and is a former Wallabies Assistant Coach, as well as Australian U19’s side. The next thing I’d point out is that you take a look at that Melbourne team he had, the team on paper wasn’t awful but he quite obviously had interference from owners who wanted him to play various combinations. Moreover the team had massive cultural issues, just look at the capitan Nic Stirzaker at no point did the captain make it look like he was doing anything more than collecting his paycheck.

      You look at McGahan’s strengths — they are having a motivated team do well tactically. With a Premiership team that’s not a problem, when you are coaching with/under Brad Thorn that’s not a problem.

      I’m not over the moon about McGahn, but I think having poor performance with the Rebels isn’t going to be the best representation of his coaching ability.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I’m starting to get that mate. When it was announced I was shocked as it seemed like the past all over again. I must admit though I’ll have to see changes to be convinced

        • Jason

          With the recent Quade saga, maybe it’s more ‘mad’ than ‘mad genius’. Only the QRU and time will know.

  • Chinese Dave

    All this hype about Brad Thorn reminds me of when Roy Keane took up coaching after retiring as a Man United legend. A hard man, admired by all in the dressing room, he even had some initial success as coach before fading into the the night. I truly hope this isn’t the same case, I look forward to hating the Reds instead of feeling sorry for them, but the similarities are uncanny.

  • Alister Smith

    If Thorn can regenerate the Reds in his own image in terms of approach, ethics, effort and determination then I expect the Reds to be the big improvers in Super Rugby, even more so than the Rebels. They don’t necessarily have the issues of blending squads that the Rebels do (although there are so many things imported from the Force that this is possibly not going to be an issue). He appears to be building a “no excuses” team around him. Smith and the S & C team will also assist in building that culture, a Special Forces operative isn’t going to be too interested in players excuses.

    I think there is a real opportunity for some of those experience players who are still there, particularly Douglas and Higgers and perhaps also QC, to relaunch their careers if they buy in to this, and for some of the younger blokes who are just starting their journey and have yet to develop the habits associated with losing games over a long period of time. My hope is not necessarily that the Aussie teams finish higher spots wise but that they develop real grit, improve the way they play and train. If they can all do this it will be reflected in results anyway.

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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