Frustrated, sure, but Reds’ revival in good shape

Brett McKay Columnist

68 Have your say

    They did everything right – enough to win, right up until the start of the 80th minute. Yet the Reds walked off Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night knowing they let a massive opportunity slip.

    Even when Crusaders replacement scrumhalf Bryn Hall scored the first of his two late tries, the Queenslanders still led 20-12 in the last quarter of the match.

    They were the better team on the park, even if they hadn’t added to their halftime tally.

    Yet somehow, when push came to shove and the Reds found themselves with the numerical advantage, it was them, and not the Crusaders, who pulled the turtle head back into the shell.

    Somehow, the Reds lost all their run.

    And this is typical of a rebuilding team. They’ll get themselves into a winning position, but inexperience will conspire against them in some weird way, and they’ll lose a game they probably shouldn’t in a manner they can’t explain.

    It’s hard to remember a more aggressive – and more successful – off-season recruitment and repatriation program than what the Queensland Rugby Union undertook during 2016. They found out the hard way last season that youth alone wasn’t going to rebuild success, and that some proper ‘old heads’ were needed to guide these punks along the way.

    So while the QRU had, and still have, some unbelievably exciting talent on their roster, it wasn’t until the return of Stephen Moore, Scott Higginbotham and Quade Cooper, and the addition of George Smith, that teams on notice.

    And with good reason. Add upwards of 500 Super Rugby games of experience to any side, and you’ll quickly adjust expectations.

    Reds Super Rugby player Quade Cooper

    But after three games, it’s interesting – and really encouraging, if we’re honest – that the Reds’ best players have been the young guys: Duncan Paia’aua, Izack Rodda, Adam Korczyk, and even James Tuttle.

    The presence of Paia’aua at inside centre is not new; he played there toward the back end of last season, and spent a lot of time there during the 2016 NRC. But he’s taking pressure and focus off Cooper, and to a lesser degree, Karmichael Hunt. In doing so, he’s allowing these guys to become a more dangerous prospect in attack when they do take the ball to the line.

    And it’s bringing out new elements in the Cooper and Hunt games. Cooper is learning to play without having to be the primary playmaker. Hunt is ghosting into attack and through defences like he used to off Darren Lockyer back at the Brisbane Broncos.

    Paia’aua already has a strong combination with Samu Kerevi, and it’s clear that Paia’aua and fellow young gun Izaia Perese enjoy playing off each other. This is all a huge improvement on the at-times cluelessness the Reds’ attack showed last season.

    Perhaps more importantly, Paia’aua has added some serious starch to the midfield, as Crusaders and All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty found out several times on Saturday night.

    Coach Nick Stiles said in his Fox Sports interview at the start of the second half (which is way more insightful than anything a player has tried to breathlessly utter walking off at halftime) that his side was “finally playing the way we want to play”, and there’s no doubt the Reds enjoyed the best 40 minutes of the season.

    Though he didn’t say it, Stiles would’ve been rapt with who was leading the way.

    Rodda’s promotion to the starting side for the Crusaders game put the appropriate shot across the bow of Rob Simmons and Kane Douglas, and it was notable that both had much-improved games, with Douglas coming on after halftime in place of Rodda. The message to a couple of Wallabies locks is clear: there’s a 20-year-old kid here equally as capable of doing the job; lift your game.

    Korczyk started the first two games of the year effectively, and has shown himself to be equally home on either side of the scrum, making him an excellent bench sub for Smith or Hendrick Tui. And as many Roarers have noted – or demanded, in some cases – you do wonder how far from a well-earned start Tuttle is.

    That they couldn’t finish the job on Saturday night will annoy the young Reds all the way to South Africa and most of this week as they prepare to take on the Lions at Ellis Park. That’s a good thing.

    The hunger of that loss, coupled with the experience they’ve now gained and the follow-up discussions that will inevitably be had on tour with the ‘old blokes’ is where the game is really learnt. And it’s at this prospect that Reds fans (and Australian rugby fans prepared to put pointless parochialism to the side) should be getting excited.

    Judging by Roar regular Rhys Bosley’s piece yesterday, that excitement is already there in Brisbane; they’re just waiting to let it all out properly.

    It’s clear that this squad is a long way off being the finished product. It’s also entirely possible they’ll come home from South Africa and Argentina in two weeks’ time with nothing but passport stamps.

    But if they can put more performances together like the first 79 minutes against the Crusaders, with the young guys leading the way and the older guys supporting them so well, this Reds side will win more games this year than they don’t.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (68)

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2017 @ 4:38am
      Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:38am | ! Report

      Great piece, Brett!

      Hope it comes true…

    • March 14th 2017 @ 5:39am
      mania said | March 14th 2017 @ 5:39am | ! Report

      totally agree with you brett. this reds squad imo could honestly save aus rugby and lead the ARU out of the rutt its gotten itself into. especially with these young guys begining to shine.
      whats scary about this reds team is quade still has a lot to bring to the table.
      i’m a big fan of kHunt. he was a legend in NRL and i expect him to bring his intelligence to the reds.

      unfortunately reds made the classic mistake of trying to protect their lead. in those situations you dont close shop, you attack. better to lose whilst trying to be positive and constructive than to lose being defensive and protecting a lead. but this comes with experience.

      good luck reds.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 11:28am
        Jibba Jabba said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        Hunt is a mystery – correct to say he ghosted into attacks cos i didn’t see him do that so he was invisible. He is an enigma currently having not lived up to all the hoo ha but at the same time just crossing the eyes and dotting the ts ! He doesn’t make many mistakes but is very reliable – but he has not yet set the world on fire… yet –

        Liked the look of the young Rodda, very effective and large as well, good future there – and the hard hitting centre – and Brett how can a team with Moore, Slipper, Smith, Cooper . Simmons, Douglas et al with about 50000 games between them alone – suffer from ? inexperience ???

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2017 @ 6:02am
      Nobrain said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:02am | ! Report

      Two weeks from now I will be in Velez watching the game against Jaguares and I let you know.

    • March 14th 2017 @ 6:25am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:25am | ! Report

      Where is the article?

    • Columnist

      March 14th 2017 @ 6:39am
      Nicholas Bishop said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:39am | ! Report

      Good article Brett!

      I’d agree that the Reds are the main hope for the Australian Conference this season, they just need to keep their kicking game and kick chase together for longer than they did against the Saders. With ball in hand they are going to give every defence problems…

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 8:31am
        Fionn said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        I agree. I unfortunately can’t see my beloved Brumbies getting the better of them by the end of the season. May it require Frisby to be dropped to the bench though though? Frisby tries to do too much. He needs to accept that he has to do less himself and just get the ball to Quade.

        By the way, Nick, may I ask, having seen a few of the Reds’ matches this year how do you feel about Kerevi being switched to 12 (at least for the Wallabies and preferably for the Reds too), he’s developed his kicking game, has a decent passing/offloading game, and he isn’t a selfish player. His defence is good too, so can back up Quade there but I’m a little concerned by his defensive positioning at 13.

    • March 14th 2017 @ 6:41am
      Daveski said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      Yep I can’t see the article either !

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