Rugby – Super 15: It’s going to be a long season for the Reds


Bugger me. It’s the 24th of March 2012 all over again, and rugby fans all over Queensland have stepped onto a Tangalooma Flyer sized Tardis and been transported to Pretoria, so that we can watch our State team the Reds turn it up and play like spineless maggots. Well the forwards at least, because the backs didn’t get to touch many balls, other than their own, in that game so you can hardly blame them.

That night in Cape Town was, we all thought, the absolute nadir for Queensland Rugby. Smashed up, bashed, bruised – we all thought that it couldn’t get any worse. And then, on the 2nd of May 2014, the hapless Auckland Blues smashed us up by 44 to 14 – in a game where the penalty count was even and neither side won a line-out – and the sickening realisation dawned upon us that no matter how bad it is, it can always get worse.

Entering that disaster we had won only two of our seven previous games – one against a below-strength Stormers at Suncorp; the other a narrow victory, again at home, against a woeful Cheetahs outfit battered and bruised and at the tail end of a series of games on the other side of their world.

After the flogging against the Blues our boys rallied, and after a narrow loss to the hopeless Rebels they won two in a row; first knocking off the Highlanders in a single-try victory (again at home), then winning the return bout against the by now injury-racked Rebels. Suddenly the parrots were chattering about an against all odds surge to the finals, but the dream was dashed when after the Reds capitulated to the decidedly average Western Force. All hope lost, the Reds showed their true character in the last game of the season when they didn’t try, and were absolutely trowelled by the Waratahs and fans from Cooloongatta to Cookstown declared them a disgrace.


Don’t get too excited mate – it was only the Reds

Coach Richard Graham should by rights have been sacked – and in New Zealand would have been – but the Reds hierarchy inexplicably kept him on; and the off-season buys of James O’Connor and K-Hunt were to strike hope against hope in the hearts of the footy-starved body politic. Me included.

Wise heads however knew deep down that it was just another in a long conga line of recruitment failures that appear endemic among Queensland sporting decision-makers. Consider these questions for a moment:

Why did the Broncos fall out with Wayne Bennett and let him walk? Why the hell did the Lions spend a million dollars on a forward replete with the full suite of human frailties – Fevola – when they already had the Lion King (Jonathan Brown), and what they really needed was a couple of hard-men midfielders to give Daniel Rich space in which to use his creative genius and weave miracles?


Don’t ask me – I didn’t make the decision – I just needed the money

What possessed the Anthony Griffin-era Broncos to tap out their salary cap on the troubled Ben Barba and the far from mercurial Martin Kennedy when all they needed was a pair of halves? Why did the Roar let Berisha go? Why did Shoot Out run in the Melbourne Cup?

Because the people making decisions were bloody idiots, that’s why. It’s as simple as that. And now the imbecility virus has spread to the blokes running Queensland Rugby, and you have to ask yourself these questions too:

If James O’Connor is the answer, then what’s the question? And when the weakness of the Reds forwards has been so brutally exposed over the past two seasons, why have the top brass failed to learn from the Daniel Braid debacle, and recruited another washed up former All Black in Adam Thompson, whom they salvaged from the Manly Colts standard Japanese competition?

Don’t these guys get it? If NZ rugby doesn’t have a contract for you, then you shouldn’t really have one at all. When even the Highlanders don’t want you then your Super Rugby career should be over, not starting afresh under a crap coach over the ditch in the promised land. Why the hell didn’t we buy Brad Thorn from the Leicester Tigers instead? He may be older than Methuselah, but my goodness the Man Mountain’s a winner; of a type that Cooper and O’Connor will never be.


A champion from head to toe. On both sides of the ditch, and beyond.

And so to Saturday night. What the hell can you say? K-Hunt hardly touched the ball, and when he did seemed not to want it; Genia was dreadful, and is best advised to consider the Tiger Woods road into comfortable retirement; Horwill’s rugby future lies in a development officer role with the Namibia Seven Squad; and the less we say about the rest the better.

After being out-rucked; out-scrummed; out-mauled; and generally just bashed about all over the park only a legally blind zealot wouldn’t start to be suspecting that the Reds pack are the worst bunch of plodders ever to don a Queensland jersey. They were pushed around, out-muscled and simply out-played – there’s no other way to put it, our forwards were just totally smashed from go to woe. Past giants like Eales, Handy and Loane must feel their guts churning.

The end result was 47-3 but it could have been a million. The result is likely to be continued over the coming months, despite the imminent return of O’Connor, Fainga’a and Thompson. A fallen golden boy, a hooker whose career has faded in tandem with his youthful looks, and a broken down South Islander from New Zealand can’t save this inept mob. Not as long as Richard Graham remains the coach. He may have won Commonwealth gold medals as a player, but without Link there to hold his hand Graham is simply a brick who’s drowning slowly and dragging his team to the bottom with him.

The faithful like me will continue to dream the dream, and delude ourselves that the Reds future remains bright, and that it’s only a matter of getting broken bums off benches and our world will turn around. But we’re like the dwindling band of Tony Abbott supporters, who have looked so long into the broken mirror that they have begun to believe that the cracks are comets, and fail to realise that the dream is fading and that the fissures have turned into fault lines.

After Saturday night’s humiliation it’s clear that the Red’s hope of a Super Rugby title in 2015 are as forlorn as Abbott’s hope of surviving another month. It’s over, for us and for him, and just one week into the new season all we can do is sit back and watch as the disaster unfolds before our eyes.

It’s going to be a long and painful season.


About Archie Butterfly

Archie's decided to follow the dream and try become the next great Aussie bush poet. They all think he's mad. He's out to prove them right!

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