Red lament: The ballad of Quade and Genia

Andrew Roar Pro

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    2011. The Queensland floods, Christchurch and Japanese earthquakes, the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Amy Winehouse, Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France, ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’, and most important of all, planking.

    It feels like it was decades ago, with the above listed events looking like relics dug up from a primary school oval time capsule, all grainy black and white photos of iPhone 4s, Julia Gillard, and planking (in case you haven’t noticed, the fact that planking was a thing still blows my mind – in 2017 we look back on it like it was people in the 1950s playing with a cup-and-ball).

    The catalyst for this sepia-tinged reminisce of 2011 was not an old photo, song or alcohol-induced embarrassing flashback, but the recent news that the Queensland Reds will be releasing Rob Simmons at the end of the Super Rugby season. That 2011 Reds team and season was the happiest I’ve been watching rugby in the past ten years, and it will live long in the memory of any Australian rugby fan, especially those based north of the Tweed.

    With Simmons’ release, one of the last tenuous ties to that glorious period has been severed.

    The fulcrum of that exciting team was the Will Genia-Quade Cooper axis at scrum-half and fly-half, a classic odd-couple pairing straight out of central casting.

    This meant Genia playing the strait-laced, statesman-like, sensible one, a factory outlet version of George Gregan. Quade was the unruly, messy cousin, Carlos Spencer’s most extreme tendencies re-incarnate, who put bums on seats and heads in hands in equal measure – The Fresh Prince of Ballymore if you like.

    Genia’s style was powerful, puncturing, direct, and at that stage, relatively box kick-less, his beautiful solo try in the Final against the Crusaders the perfect nightcap to the entire season’s slow-burn, all-day drinking session. Quade’s style on the other hand was like the reaction from too much acid – random, non-sensical and exciting, with blind cross-field kicks to wingers, hospital flick passes in his own in-goal and missed tackles here, there and everywhere.

    Add in Digby, Rocket Rod, Radike, Big Kev, Beau and the Fainga’a boys, and not only did people in Queensland get right on board with this team, they were bloody fun to watch, and they looked like they were having fun.

    By 2013 Will Genia was arguably the best scrum-half in the world, a man at the peak of his powers able to focus his team and make the correct decision in almost any circumstance. The chaos that engulfed both the Wallabies and Reds in the following years stagnated his progress, but the 2015 World Cup run with Bernard Foley and Matt Giteau alongside him re-invigorated his play.

    We will see in the next two years pre-2019 World Cup if he can get back to that golden plane of play that Conor Murray and TJ Perenara currently occupy.

    Of course Quade is running around for the Reds again, however his subsequent Wallaby exile and stint at Toulon has resulted in a different Quade steering the team at Suncorp Stadium, a more functional, mature, controlled playmaker.

    Watching Quade now is like seeing your mate who used to drink pubs dry, stay up on three day benders and flirt with anyone and everyone come back from a stint living in Europe espousing the benefits of hygge, chai tea and cycling. Jesus wept!

    Watching Genia and Quade in Wallaby gold against Fiji last week (albeit not simultaneously) was to watch two men who have come out the other side of difficulties with an exponentially more grown-up, content view of how they fit in. They have less baggage and more confidence in themselves – a very Queensland via Auckland, Port Moresby, Paris and Toulon rugby version of Andy and Red meeting on the beach at the end of Shawshank Redemption.

    If Will and Quade fulfil their destiny on the second of November 2019, bust out the celebratory planks and Gotye CDs – the 2011 Reds will be partly to thank.