The Queensland Reds have locked in their coaching staff for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season, signing the experienced Phil Blake as defence coach and University of Queensland head coach Mick Heenan as an assistant coach.
Blake joins the staff at Ballymore after stints with the Wallabies, Western Force and Leicester, while Heenan’s 13-year tenure at UQ has delivered the club six StoreLocal Hospital Cup premierships.
Signed through 2023, the duo will work alongside head coach Brad Thorn and attack coach Jim McKay, with Thorn entering his sixth season in the position and McKay his fifth in what is his second stint at Ballymore after winning the 2011 Super Rugby title in the same role.
Thorn will become Queensland’s equal equal-fourth longest serving coach in history this season, with his tenure the longest in more than two-decades at the Reds.
Blake said: "It is a privilege to have an opportunity to work with an internationally recognised Rugby entity such as the Queensland Reds.
“I am looking forward to again working with Brad Thorn, and very excited to be joining an impressive backroom staff.”
Heenan said: “I am excited by the opportunity to work with Brad and his coaching team, and with a very talented group of players, many of whom I know well.
“I have had nearly 25-years of coaching experience and many years managing teams in corporate environments and hope to bring a fresh perspective, both on and off-field, and contribute to the success of the Reds in 2023 and beyond.
“I can’t wait to get started.”
General Manager – Professional Rugby Sam Cordingley said: “We are really pleased to welcome Mick and Phil to the Queensland Reds.
“Both are great Rugby men who will bring a vast amount of coaching experience to our program.
“Mick has certainly earned his opportunity with his history of success in Queensland Premier Rugby and Phil is a passionate defence coach who has considerable experience across both the amateur and professional games.”
Blake brings over a decade of top line experience to Ballymore, having held roles in the Shute Shield, Super Rugby and English Premiership, as well as on the international stage.
The 58-year-old started his coaching career in Sydney with Southern Districts and Manly, before he was appointed defence and skills coach with the Wallabies under Robbie Deans in 2010.
Defence coach roles with the Western Force, Leicester and London Wasps followed, before Blake returned home to coach Sydney University in 2021, taking the side to the top of the ladder before the competition was abandoned due to COVID.
Blake became head coach of Manly in 2022 and led the Marlins to third-place, the club’s best finish since 2017.
Like Thorn, Blake also boasts an accomplished rugby league career, having played more than 300 games at the highest level for a number of clubs and featuring in State of Origin for New South Wales.
Working alongside him will be Heenan, who will be responsible for coordinating the Reds coaching program, maximising the development of non-matchday-23 players and emphasising off-ball effort areas and attack breakdown.
The 48-year-old has established himself as arguably the most successful coach in Hospital Cup history.
Heenan took over as head coach of UQ in 2009, with the club falling to second-last the year previous whilst they endured an 18-year premiership drought.
In the 13 seasons since, he has led the club to the finals every year, winning six premierships and playing in nine Grand Finals, including last Sunday’s decider at Suncorp Stadium.
Heenan coached Brisbane City in the 2017 and 2018 National Rugby Championship (NRC), going head-to-head with Thorn who coached Queensland Country, and also spent six years with GPS before taking the top job at St Lucia.