Samu Kerevi’s announcement that he will be leaving Australia for Japan after this international season was undoubtedly a sad day for rugby fans all over Australia, but especially so for those of us who support his Super Rugby team, the Queensland Reds.
Undoubtedly every one of us was hoping for a last-minute miracle deal to keep Kerevi in red, but it didn’t work out that way and he is off to ply his trade at Suntory Sungolith. So, for now at least, all we can do is to remember the four fantastic years of rugby he has given us and hope he returns.
From the moment Kerevi started with the Reds in 2015, the class and his future as a Wallaby was apparent to all who watched, with a characteristic bullocking run and silky offload for a try assist against the Western Force being one of the first memories he gave us.
He topped many of the Reds attacking statistics that year and was a serious contender to bolt into the Wallabies for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He didn’t make that World Cup squad, but made the Wallabies in 2016 and has done both the red and the gold jerseys proud ever since.
Kerevi’s superpower is terrorising hapless defenders with his blockbusting ball running and silky skills. He’s scored five tries this season, assisting six and leading Super Rugby in terms of metres run (1438) and offloads (29).
But it isn’t his natural gifts that really set Kerevi apart. Rather, it is his character apparent to all who watch him that he has really bought to the Reds.
One standout indicator of this was that whenever Kerevi was interviewed after a good game early in his career, he would refuse to dwell in a backslapping session with the reporter, but rather would talk about aspects of his game he needed to improve.
He had a fair bit of trouble with defence over the first couple of years, but worked relentlessly on it until it improved, just as he also worked hard to improve other aspects of his game including kicking and playmaking.
His work rate has also always been phenomenal, he could be seen going into contact and offloading, leaping to his feet and chasing the ball to the opposite side of the park for the next attacking opportunity. As such, he inevitably topped the runs and metres run counts for the Reds, demonstrating phenomenal fitness for a big unit and an even more phenomenal will to win.
Off the field and in the media, he has always been passionate about his team but also a gentleman. Both these traits were amply demonstrated on one occasion where he slipped up and inadvertently swore on camera, immediately apologising to his mum.
Kerevi was made captain of the Reds this season and it is hard not to notice how his positive attitude has made a major contribution to the positive team culture forming in the Reds. Sure, the Reds table position isn’t great (with six wins and in 14th place), but this Super Rugby season is incredibly tight, with all but the top four teams and the last-placed Sunwolves having between five and seven wins.
The Reds points difference, tries for and tries against statistics have all considerably improved over last season and they aren’t suffering the regular humiliating floggings they did for a number of years now.
Kerevi’s example of how to be a genuinely professional rugby player will surely have been a major factor in the improvement and hopefully will have permanently rubbed off on the talented group of players who will stay in Queensland, hopefully to take the club to greater things in 2020 and beyond.
Reds fans have one more Super Rugby game this season in which to enjoy watching Kerevi play, for the time being at least, when the Reds take on the Brumbies in Canberra tonight. The conference leading Brumbies are expected to win, but they had better watch out for a Reds team determined to give their great captain the send-off he deserves.
Whatever the outcome, Kerevi can be confident that after four years he has left a legacy at the Reds and, hopefully, we will see him back once he has had his overseas experience to make some more great memories.
Cheering on talented gentlemen like Samu Kerevi is one of the great pleasures of following a rugby team and we will look forward to doing so a lot more, whether he is wearing red or gold.