Ballymore Beat: A Reds Team In Rhythm On And Off The Field

Thu, Jun 6, 2024, 9:42 PM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker

Back a few years, the Queensland Reds endured a run of losses before finally winning their first game of an average season.

A fresh team song had been penned months earlier by Reds back Julian Huxley but because no one had any practice with it, the players barely knew where to start with the lyrics.

It was a win with a fizzer of a punchline.

Team spirit and unity comes from many sources. The Reds of 2024 have set some admirable milestones on the field and it reaches a crescendo off the field with their team song.

A new Reds team song was introduced in 2018 to the classic rock rhythm of the timeless AC/DC song T.N.T.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Harry Hoopert and current lock Ryan Smith have been proud choirmasters over that period.

The players rip into “Q-L-D, we won the fight”, “Q-L-D, we are maroon” and other lines before the crescendo of “Q-L-D…Reds, Reds, Reds” booms out.

“That was the best (rendition) of the season” one Reds players said as an aside in the smallish dressing room at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium last Friday night.

There may have been good acoustics but it was also the power to the voices celebrating a close win over the NSW Waratahs for the Templeton Cup.

It was what that close win meant.

Early in the season, there were close losses to the Hurricanes, Brumbies, Moana Pasifika and the Blues. In the closing stages of the season, swamping defence at the death closed out tight wins against the Crusaders and Waratahs. A 10-point half-time deficit was gobbled up for the win over the Melbourne Rebels.

The difference between losing close ones and winning them is the biggest margin in sports. Those lessons will be a strength when the Reds run out in chilly Hamilton on Friday night in the quarter final against the Chiefs in Super Rugby Pacific.

As with many things the Reds have achieved in 2024, the upward shifts seem to have all come quickly or should that be efficiently.

Head coach Les Kiss has referenced many times that predecessor Brad Thorn handed over a team with some strong bedrock already in place.

Not many coaches credit previous dynasties with anything.

That’s one obvious thing about Kiss. He’s a humble leader not in it to garner all the kudos.

Almost daily, he deflects plenty of credit for the Reds’ rise to the expertise of chief assistants Brad Davis, Zane Hilton and Englishman Jonathan Fisher.

Hilton’s zealous demands for accuracy in lineout and scrum work are matched by Fisher’s forensic detail to bludgeon at the breakdown and what Davis zeroes in on for the backs and the defence.

The clarity each gives is reflected in how obvious it is that players know their jobs on the field. It has flowed into one of the least recognised facts about this Reds team.

The players are conceding just 9.1 penalties a game, the third best in the competition. That discipline compares to years where the laments about 15 or 16 penalties a game came with no clear remedy to cure a chronic problem.

That extra flow and momentum has definitely contributed to the Reds fielding a team in Hamilton which has scored more tries (66) than any other Queensland side in the 28-year history of Super Rugby.

If there is a poster boy for this season, it is not one of the team’s Wallabies playing up to their expected levels, try-hungry Tim Ryan, Jock Campbell rediscovering his 2022 form or ironman Liam Wright leading and performing every week.

Those are all worthy seasons and a number of other players have impressively lifted their consistency.

Unsung winger Mac Grealy is the marker of this Reds team. He has attacked Kiss’ mantra of always being useful with a workrate that is non-stop.

He bobs up on the opposite wing to make try-saving tackles or throw the final pass for a try. He hustles.

Against the Highlanders, Grealy gave away 20kg-plus in his wing match-up with dangerman Timoci Tavatavanawai yet when confronted by the charging figure he took him down with a fine tackle just before half-time.

Against the Crusaders, Ryan may have finished a fine team try but it was Grealy who caught the high kick 60m downfield and made it available for the attack. He got up from the turf and raced 45m to get in position to throw the final pass.

Such acts enabled the Reds to win in Christchurch for the first time in 25 years, a true landmark.

Grealy has proved the epitome of being useful this season.

Grealy and his team-mates will buy into the same cause in Hamilton. It’s a huge challenge and one to relish.

Rest assured, the Reds know the words to the team song should it be needed.