The Queensland Rugby Union's (QRU) industry leading initiative Reds to Regions has again raised the bar and delivered resounding results following a third successive tour across the state last week.
Across three days during the Reds pre-season training block, the playing squad was split into 14 separate tour groups with a total of 58 people including 29 Reds Super Rugby players, two Reds Super W players, 19 staff members, all three Reds coaches and for the first time five Vintage Reds spearheaded by Queensland’s 2011 championship-winning captain James Horwill visiting a record total of 56 regional towns around Queensland.
“It builds on that philosophy of what it means to be a Queenslander and show that we do care about our state,” Reds captain Liam Wright said.
“We want to go out to the people we represent and show that we care and give back to them, spread the joy of Rugby as we look for those genuine connections.
“Everyone understands its part of the philosophy of what it takes to be a Red and that involves giving back and helping others.”
Inspired by head coach Brad Thorn’s experience with the All Blacks ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the visits are built upon community connection with the annual tours featuring school visits, junior Rugby clinics, farm work and billeting with local families instead of staying in hotels.
During last month’s tour, the QRU recorded unprecedented numbers with an incredible 73 billet families around Queensland offering-up their homes, as the players and staff visited 51 different schools and conducted 32 clinics with Rugby Clubs from the Gympie Hammers to the Cassowary Coast Chargers in Far North Queensland.
It’s where Harry Wilson was with the Reds backrower billeting with a family in Innisfail and another in Cairns as part of this year’s tour.
“It’s really cool billeting up here. You get to know a couple of the families in a really good way,” said Wilson.
“We want to do it the proper way. We don’t want to stay in hotel rooms which we usually do so it’s nice to meet new families and have some home-cooked meals which is nice.
“I was one of the boys who always wanted to see a professional footballer and play footy so to come up here and give back and hopefully inspire some new Rugby players is a great thing to do.”
To further their connection with the people of Queensland, the players exchange signed Queensland Reds jerseys for the jersey of that respective club or region during their clinics and school visits.
These jerseys are then displayed in the Reds’ team room at their Ballymore base in Brisbane throughout the ensuing Super Rugby season to signify the different Queensland communities they represent every time they wear the maroon jersey.
“When we wear that ‘Q’ on our jersey, we realise we represent the whole state, not Brisbane which we can be a bit localised sometimes,” Wright added.
“It’s something we’ve really enjoyed and know when the going gets tough, the Queenslanders we formed connections with during Reds to Regions will back us as we have with then over these past few days.”
In total, the Queensland players and staff travelled more than 22,500 kilometres around the state as they gained a real-life appreciation of everyday life in their respective region by participating in a minimum half-day of manual labour.
12 different rural farming activities were undertaken that included everything from fencing properties in Barcaldine, sugar cane milling in Ingham, to sheep shearing and wool packing in Goondiwindi and banana harvesting in Innisfail.
“All staff, players and coaches all get involved and I think it’s one of the best things the QRU have put into place,” said Reds backrower Fraser McReight.
“I think I can speak for the whole team when I say we really enjoy getting out here and meeting new people, seeing what they do and taking a step back from Rugby.
“It’s great getting outside of Brisbane and getting involved in the community. I know our socials are going gangbusters and that just shows you what we get up to over these days.”
The Reds social media accounts were flooded with Reds to Regions content throughout last week with an overall engagement increase of 20,000 on Facebook and a minimum 50 per cent increase on comments, shares, reactions and photo views from their last Reds to Regions tour in January this year.
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Reds to Regions 3.0 Overview
58 Reds Players and Staff
14 Separate Tour Groups
73 Billet Families
32 Junior Club Clinics
42 Jerseys Exchanged
44 Media Engagements
22,586 kilometres travelled
Queensland Towns Visited