Newly appointed defence coach Phil Blake has wasted no time making his mark at Ballymore ahead of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Blake brings experience at Test and Super Rugby level with the Wallabies and Western Force respectively, while the 59-year-old has spent the last six-years of his career coaching with Wasps and Leicester in the English Premiership.
Like head coach Brad Thorn, Blake also played topflight rugby league, representing a number of clubs in the NRL and Super League as well as New South Wales in State of Origin.
He’ll work with Thorn and fellow assistants Jim McKay, Mick Heenan and Kane Hames in what is a balanced and skilled coaching group in Queensland.
Blake’s range of experience means he’ll implement a well-rounded, in-depth defensive system at Ballymore, a task he’s enjoying as pre-season ramps up.
“Defence is all about mentality, all about attitude,” Blake said.
“Although it wasn’t my forte as a player, I understood defences, I understood what they were trying to nullify from an attacking point of view.
“I think I’ve got a really good understanding of how we want to defend, and again it’s up to me and the players to deliver that come Super Rugby.”
After his time in the UK, the attacking nature of Super Rugby Pacific presents a new challenge for Blake, who recently spent time with Manly in the Shute Shield.
It’s a vast difference to the English Premiership, where Blake tested his whares with two heavyweight clubs in Wasps and Leicester.
“The Premiership is a hard slog,” he said.
“It’s a different game, a lot of close-quarters contact over there, very set-piece orientated and more kicking focussed than Super Rugby.
“Here with the conditions, with the teams, with the mindsets, we like to play with the ball.
“Our mindset in Australia, even from when you’re a kid playing in the park, it’s to score tries, play with width and utilise your individual skillsets.”
Now settled into his new surrounds, Blake is relishing working with the Reds squad and has already instilled his defensive ideologies on the group.
Blake started his processes in Japan, touring with the team to as the Reds took on their sister-state club the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.
“Having spent some time with the squad in Japan was invaluable, we worked on a few things and had some success there from a defensive point of view,” Blake said.
“One thing they’ll find is I really enjoy this part of the game, and I’m hellbent on delivering it. With that comes a lot of excitement and a lot of expectations on the players.
“You’ll probably see a little bit of difference in the defence next season.”
Queensland kick off their season at Queensland Country Bank Stadium against the Hurricanes on Saturday 25 February. Join the #RedsFamily with a 2023 membership! Buy now via https://bit.ly/3UP1YDJ.