Reds heading forward with youth

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 09:14
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SUPER RUGBY PREVIEW 2018 - TEAM-BY-TEAM:  In the 12th instalment of our 15-part build-up to the season we look at the next Australian team - the Reds.

No team has had as tumultuous an off-season as the Queensland Reds.

There have been more dramas at Ballymore than an episode of the Kardashians. The turnstile of head coaches continued with the appointment of Brad Thorn last year, ending the short stint of Nick Stiles, who ousted co-coach Matt O'Connor, both of whom replaced Richard Graham.   

Thorn stamped his authority early, promptly telling scrumhalf Nic Frisby and beloved flyhalf Quade Cooper they won't be required for the upcoming season, creating a firestorm of media attention and fan backlash.

Things went from bad to worse when Karmichael Hunt became embroiled in his second off-field drugs scandal, and to top it off Wallaby legend George Smith was arrested in Japan.

After everything the fan base has been through the last few years, things couldn't get any worse.

Amid all the noise, what Thorn has done is draw the line in the sand. He has been the first coach to make proactive personnel moves seemingly against the decisions made by Reds recruitment manager Sam Cordingley.

With Cooper only one year into his three-year AU$800,000 per season contract, dropping him to club rugby is a lot of dead money for the cash-strapped Reds which shows Thorn is hell-bent on starting a new era.

A spate of high-profile, short-sighted signings have glossed over poor performance in recent years - Karmichael Hunt, James O'Connor, Ayumu Goromaru, Stephen Moore, George Smith, Leroy Houston and league converts like Lachlan Maranta have renewed hope but underwhelmed.

Each year they have banked on short-term (and often expensive) fixes, instead of taking a hit and building around young talent for the long-term. This is what is finally happening at the Reds - Thorn is preparing to re-build around his young charges.

He has regenerated the forward pack by upgrading a number of youth system players; Angus Blyth, Harry Hockings, Harry Hoopert, Angus Scott-Young and Liam Wright - most of whom played under Thorn in the Reds' Under-20 team.

Quade's replacement is 20-year-old flyhalf Hamish Stewart, who debuted last year. The 21-year-old James Tuttle looks to be the number one scrumhalf and the most experienced backs from last season, midfield pairing Duncan Paia'aua and captain Samu Kerevi are still only 23 and 24-years-old respectively.

The few signings they have made, are all ironically former players that were unwanted or squeezed out at some stage. Jono Lance, Ben Lucas and Aidan Toua aren't splash recruits, but will bring valuable experience and key positional depth to the side at flyhalf and fullback to cover for the loss of Cooper and Hunt.

The Reds nursery is one of the best in Australia - they run talent at a surplus but often export the best of it to other teams - see David Pocock, Sean McMahon and a young James O'Connor (pre-braids and cornrows). Eventually, the system will re-produce quality Super Rugby starters.

With less focus on high-profile recruiting and more on retaining talent, a Reds turnaround shouldn't take too long, just don't expect too much this year. Although with just four, three and four wins in the last three seasons 2018 could still be an improvement.

2018 Predictions
Australian Conference Placing: Fourth
Player of the Year: Samu Kerevi
Rookie of the Year: Angus Blyth
Breakout Player: Duncan Paia'aua
Best Signing: Ben Lucas
Super Rugby Placing: Thirteenth

Franchise History

Best finish: Champions in 2011
Worst finish: Fifteenth in 2016

Squad movements

In: Angus Blyth (Bond University), Filipo Daugunu (Queensland Country), Harry Hockings (University of Queensland), Harry Hoopert (Brothers Old Boys), Tate McDermott (Queensland Country), Brandon Paenga-Amosa (NSW Country Eagles), Angus Scott-Young (Queensland Country), JP Smith (Brumbies), Liam Wright (Queensland Country), Ben Lucas (Verbitz), Jono Lance (Worcester Warriors), Aidan Toua (Brumbies).  

Out: Leroy Houston (Bordeaux), Phil Kite (Vannes), Chris Kuridrani (Brisbane City), Campbell Magnay (Sungoliath), Jake McIntyre (Agen), Stephen Moore (retired), Caderyn Neville (Toyota Industries Shuttles), Jayden Ngamanu (Brisbane City), Rob Simmons (Waratahs), Kirwan Sanday (Queensland Country), Henry Taefu (Colomiers), Sam Takakai (Rebels), Hendrik Tui (Sungoliath), Quade Cooper (released), Nick Frisby (released).

Squad: Angus Blyth, Filipo Daugunu, Kane Douglas, Sef Fa'agase, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Michael Gunn, Reece Hewat, Scott Higginbotham, Harry Hockings, Harry Hoopert, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Adam Korczyk, Jono Lance, Ben Lucas, Alex Mafi, Lachlan Maranta, Tate McDermott, Eto Nabuli, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Duncan Paia'aua, Izaia Perese, Andrew Ready, Izack Rodda, Angus Scott-Young, James Slipper, George Smith, Jean-Pierre Smith, Moses Sorovi, Hamish Stewart, Caleb Timu, Aidan Toua, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou, James Tuttle, Markus Vanzati, Liam Wright.

By Ben Smith, RugbyPass

* Don't miss the rest of the Australian conference this week.

Other previews:
 * Lions
* Stormers
* Sharks
* Bulls
* Jaguares
* Crusaders
* Hurricanes
* Chiefs
* Highlanders
* Blues
* Brumbies


Bulls vs Rebels
sast: 15h05 | local: 15h05

  • 7 | 0
Sat, 21 April 2018
Leinster v Scarlets 14h30 Dublin
Sharks v Stormers 15h15 Durban
Zebre v Ospreys 16h45 Parma
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 17h05 Kingspan Stadium
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 18h05 Kingspan Stadium
Sun, 22 April 2018
Brumbies v Jaguares 06h05 Canberra
Racing Metro v Munster 14h15 Paris
Fri, 27 April 2018
Gloucester v Bath 22h00 Kingsholm
Dragons v Scarlets 22h00 Rodney Parade
Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors 22h00 Myreside
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys 22h00 Cardiff Arms Park
Connacht v Leinster 22h00 Sportsground
Munster v Ulster 22h00 Thomond Park
Worcester Warriors v Harlequins 22h00 Sixways
Wasps v Northampton Saints 22h00 Ricoh Arena
London Irish v Saracens 22h00 Madejski Stadium
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons 22h00 Welford Road
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks 22h00 Sandy Park
Kings v Cheetahs 22h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Treviso v Zebre 22h00 Stadio Monigo
Hurricanes v Sunwolves 07h35 Wellington
Stormers v Rebels 13h00 Newlands
Sat, 28 April 2018
Reds v Lions 05h05 Suncorp Stadium
Blues v Jaguares 07h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Crusaders 09h45 Canberra
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 8 5 1 2 24
Rebels 6 4 0 2 20
Brumbies 7 3 0 4 14
Reds 8 3 0 5 13
Sunwolves 8 0 0 8 2
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 8 6 0 2 29
Hurricanes 7 6 0 1 27
Highlanders 7 5 0 2 24
Chiefs 8 6 0 2 26
Blues 7 2 0 12
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 9 6 0 3 30
Bulls 7 3 0 4 14
Sharks 8 2 1 5 14
Stormers 8 3 0 5 13
Jaguares 6 2 0 4 8