Values and attack have made winners of Brad Thorn’s Reds
Attending the Reds win over the Brumbies on Saturday night was bloody brilliant! Over 41,000 passionate fans came to Suncorp Stadium to cheer on their team. The crowd in the platinum seats was younger and livelier than at a Test match – maybe that is something to do with the much more affordable ticket prices […]
Attending the Reds win over the Brumbies on Saturday night was bloody brilliant!
Over 41,000 passionate fans came to Suncorp Stadium to cheer on their team. The crowd in the platinum seats was younger and livelier than at a Test match – maybe that is something to do with the much more affordable ticket prices – and it made for a fantastic atmosphere. There was no need for the call ‘We are Red!’ to go up over the loudspeaker, because the crowd initiated it themselves for the first time that I have ever heard since watching the 2011 final on TV.
The best bit of the night was seeing the men who have worked so hard to win the silverware for Queensland being ecstatic at their rise into the pantheon of Queensland sporting heroes.
The Reds’ journey over the last four years to get there was tough, especially for head coach Brad Thorn. There have been plenty who have knocked his values-based approach to coaching, but Queensland Rugby Union supported Thorn, and he returned the faith invested in him by building a team with principles, passion, work ethic and grit.
Thorn’s high standards have created an environment where the team and coaching staff can flourish. Other teams may be slightly better at one aspect of rugby or another, but the Reds currently play the most well-rounded game in Australia. With brilliant attack coach Jim McKay the Reds are well ahead of the rest in attack, which has been an investment several years in the making.
The Reds’ ability to take their chances, attack from anywhere on the park and play an unstructured game has provided them with an edge in all three games against the Brumbies.
This was demonstrated particularly in Game 1 when Hunter Paisami took the risk to give up possession and put a grubber kick through to set up a miracle Jordan Petaia try and the win.
In Game 2 Josh Flook scored off a brilliant ensemble play that started 60 metres from the try line with a cross-field kick from James O’Connor to Jock Campbell. Petaia scored again with a spectacular jumping try off an O’Connor high ball.
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Game 3 was a forward-dominated arm wrestle with four of the Reds’ biggest attacking threats, Paisami, Petaia, Harry Wilson and Suliasi Vunivalu, being off the park at the end of the match when their side usually close out the game. However, Flook’s excellent run from past halfway in the 73rd minute gained critical field position against the Brumbies in yet another example of how the Reds attack played a critical role in the win.
That the Reds scored fewer tries than the Brumbies this season is irrelevant to the impact of their attack. It has given them the confidence that they have the tools to play the 80 minutes. Their opponents have come at them like a bull at a gate and have got ahead of them only to be run down later. It has also made them unpredictable, which has to complicate defensive preparations for opponents.
In contrast, the Brumbies approach in attack largely remains to get into the opposing team’s half and either score off the rolling maul or spin the ball wide to break down the defence, creating opportunities for their outside backs to score. It is effective but has become predictable compared to the Reds approach.
Immediately prior to the game I observed the Reds’ preparation and it consisted of almost entirely set-piece work, rolling maul defence and work under the high ball. It was very clear that their objective was to keep the Brumbies in their own half for as much of the game as possible, thus denying them scoring opportunities.
What is now needed is for other Australian franchises to embrace training in a less structured attack like the Reds have so that our best players can use it when they play for the Wallabies. If the Reds can make it this far in three seasons, at least the Brumbies should be able to do so before the 2023 Rugby World Cup, because they already have a foundation of excellence.
Of course the Reds need to keep working to improve those areas of play where others have excelled – that our teams hold each other to account has been the big strength of Super Rugby AU.
The next chapter for the Reds is to test themselves against the Kiwis in the toughest provincial rugby competition in the world. The Reds will undoubtedly acquit themselves well and continue the fight to be the best, while tens of thousands of us who have loved the journey over the last four years will continue to cheer for Brad Thorn’s Reds.