Reds have 'something to prove' in Super Rugby Pacific
SPOTLIGHT: Bullied by the Crusaders and overlooked by Wallabies selectors, there are many motivations for Queensland Reds players next season.
The Super Rugby AU champions were crowing in May, but quickly crashed back to earth when towelled up by their New Zealand equivalent a fortnight later.
A record 28-63 loss to the Crusaders was the low point of a dire Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign.
It has inspired a brutal pre-season under coach Brad Thorn, built around improving physical strength and sharpening basic skills.
“We got a humbling this year; won the AU comp then went to the Trans-Tasman and got it handed to us, especially against the Crusaders,” loose forward and captain Liam Wright told AAP.
“That pointed our pre-season a bit, gave us things to work on because from a physical standpoint we got bullied.”
Individuals have their own drivers too with the Super Rugby Pacific season kick-off in February, before three home Tests against England.
Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight were both controversially omitted from the Wallabies’ Spring Tour squad to instead exploit a full off-season of development.
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was not re-selected after leaving camp for the birth of his child, while Angus Scott-Young opted for a domestic season in New Zealand when it became clear he wasn’t in coach Dave Rennie’s plans.
Scrumhalf Tate McDermott impressed when given chances but still finished the year behind Nic White in the pecking order, while the game-changing Taniela Tupou remains in a prop rotation with Allan Alaalatoa.
James O’Connor was the leading flyhalf in Australia but watched on injured as Quade Cooper shone in his remarkable Wallabies return.
How the highly rated Hunter Paisami is used by Rennie will depend on whether Samu Kerevi is eligible to play, while wings Filipo Daugunu and Suliasi Vunivalu were hobbled by injury.
“Pretty much everyone here does have something to prove,” Wright said.
“As a group we want to prove Queensland can be a powerhouse in rugby and personally there is a lot of guys that have missed out on selection.
“Look at our whole back five and forward pack … there’s a lot of guys here that are looking to put their names up.”
Wright himself was shunted down the back-row depth chart after an ankle injury meant he missed the start of the season, Scott-Young’s rise now leaving him with work to do to even make the Reds’ run-on side.
“That injury really disrupted things, so a pre-season [with the Reds] was best for me rather than being on Spring Tour to make some gains that they’ve been talking about for years,” Wright said.
“I’m trying to take it positively, knowing I’m going to have to earn a spot back there and here as well.”