Reds may find themselves on slippery slide - Growden
Greg Growden and Brittany Mitchell
February 13, 2014
What's in the Reds' box of ticks in 2014? © Scrum.com
Reds' Super Rugby 2014 Squad
The 2011 Super Rugby champions have made the finals in both years subsequently, but they have been a shadow of that side. That said, they matched exactly the win-draw-loss record of Australian conference winners the Brumbies last year, and their performance to defeat the Chiefs in Hamilton - the only home loss for the Waikato team in their back-to-back championships - was an undoubted highlight. Greg Growden says much, if not all, depends on the relationship between Richard Graham and Quade Cooper, with persistent strong whispers the pair aren't exactly bosom buddies.
Last Season: qualifying finals, second in Australian Conference; The Reds endured a tumultuous season as they were no longer the stable Australian conference leaders. They came across hard competition in the Brumbies, and their season came to an abrupt ending with a 38-9 smashing from the Crusaders in Christchurch. Scoring only 321 points and 31 tries throughout the season, the Reds' attack struggled to perform as they belied their reputation as an adventurous team who put teams to the sword.
Greg Growden said of Queensland Reds in 2013: "Queensland Reds aren't exactly the dashers who won the title in 2011 … it has been as much their excellent defence that has kept them within reach of the leaders; they boasted the second-best defensive record in the home-and-away, with opposition tries averaging less than one-and-a-half per game. Nonetheless, of the Australian provinces, the Reds remain the most fascinating and invigorating team to watch. Read more …
Russell Barwick and Greg Growden look at the Australian Super Rugby conference
Key Man: Will Genia has been one of the Reds' most consistent players for several years, and his resurgence along with Quade Cooper during the November Test series, after ending the Super Rugby season in weak fashion, will bring hope to the side. With one of the best try assist stats in the 2013 season, Genia will again be a key attacking player.
Key Stat: Genia and Cooper combined for five of the Reds' meagre tally of 31 tries last season, with a further 12 assists between them highlighting absolutely their importance as a pairing to the team.
Rising Star: Curtis Browning has played but one Super Rugby match, against the Bulls from the bench in 2013, but Australia's Under-20 Player of the Year for the past two years is considered a strong contender for starting honours in the coming campaign. A blindside flanker who can cover all three positions in the back-row, we are expecting big things after he resisted overtures from the Brumbies last year.
Season Preview: The Reds will be bolstered by the fact that Cooper and Genia returned to great form with the Wallabies at the end of the November Tests in Europe, and there is little doubt the partnership, when on song, is the lubricant that allows the machine to hum. They will also be looking for James Horwill to show his best form after a largely anonymous campaign in 2013. The Reds have lost key backline players such as Digby Ioane, Jono Lance and Luke Morahan, but experienced recruit Lachie Turner can stand tall and lead the young backs. They seem certain to make a strong challenge for the Australian conference title, although it will be interesting to see how the players respond and adjust to Richard Graham's move into the head coaching position.
Greg Growden's verdict: Some provinces have gone all out during the off-season to lure whatever talent is available; some have sat on their hands. The most unimpressive recruiters of the Australian provinces were the Reds, whose only signing of note is winger Lachie Turner from the Waratahs. Turner is a reasonable player, but he needs to be surrounded by numerous other important new faces for Reds fans to believe a return to the glory days of 2011 will happen. This is the year when the Reds will discover whether they can survive without Ewen McKenzie, the coach who resurrected the franchise. Their new coach, Richard Graham, doesn't have the same profile, and it will be interesting to see whether he can revitalise a team given its head by McKenzie. There have been strong whispers for some time that Graham and Reds No.10 Quade Cooper aren't exactly bosom buddies, so it will be up to the coach to embrace the playmaker; a dreadful season could be in the offing if he doesn't, as so much at the Reds revolves around their No 10. This could be the year when the Reds find themselves on a slippery slide, especially if they suffer another season when actual try scoring becomes a problem. the Reds were hardly the great entertainers in 2013; from scoring 45 tries in the season they won the title, last year they slumped to just 31.
Tip: Third in Australian Conference. Finish: Ninth.
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