Reds lure home 'skinny wing' to replace Thorn
NEWS: Self-described “skinny rugby league wing” Les Kiss has been lured home in a coaching move that the Queensland Reds anticipate will have a halo effect on rugby in the country.
Kiss was confirmed on a three-year deal as Brad Thorn’s replacement at Ballymore on Thursday, bringing with him a decades-long resume that began as a player in Brisbane club rugby league and ended when financial woes saw his London Irish booted from the English Premiership.
In between Kiss has spent time with the Springboks and Irish Test teams, attending two World Cups with the latter, while also serving as rugby director of Irish club Ulster.
The demise of London Irish was timely for the Reds, who already had Kiss on a long list of applicants and still had to win the in-demand mentor over.
QRU chief executive Dave Hanham told AAP Kiss’s arrival had the potential to impact the code more substantially than any big-name player signing.
“We talk about repatriating players but not often about the experienced coaches,” he said.
“The appeal is having a guy with 26 years experience, who understands northern and southern hemisphere rugby.
“To bring that knowledge back will have a massive impact on our program and we should be looking at that more broadly for Australian rugby.
“It has a halo effect on the quality of footy; it’s not just about talent getting one or two good players won’t solve your problem.
“He was always on our long list and it happened to be that things fell in there (at London Irish).
“He had other options … it was down to the wire, wasn’t signed, sealed, delivered.”
Bundaberg product Kiss played State of Origin with Wally Lewis and earned the endorsement of Mal Meninga on Thursday.
“You always have a positive confidence about what you can do, a bullish way about how you can achieve things. But it’s never a straight line from A to B,” Kiss, fresh off the plane, told reporters at Ballymore of his full-circle journey.
“It (the Reds’ offer) certainly made me reflect quickly on the demise of a club that I was at.
“Then I had to put my teeth, soul and heart into some other form of engagement with the game.”
Renowned as a terrific man manager, Kiss was still actively helping displaced London Irish staff, including groundsmen and low-level administrators, find new jobs after accepting the Reds’ offer.
“We spoke to Rob Simmons, Nick Phipps, Michael Lynagh, Mick O’Connor,” Hanham said.
“Everyone we spoke to, no-one said a bad word about his coaching or character.”
Kiss said his winding road meant he was equipped to take the Reds forward after the club lost momentum in the latter stages of first-time coach and fellow Queensland Origin star Thorn’s six-year stay.
“The skinny winger from rugby league jumps in with the Springboks and works with them; I had to earn my stripes,” Kiss recalled.
He could still shuffle his assistants and will focus recruitment on the tight five, with a prop and lock on the wish list and international options firmly on the table.
LES KISS BIO
* London Irish head coach 2018-2023 (15-year club-high fifth-place finish this year)
* Ulster director of rugby 2015-2018 (Pro 15 semi-final 2016)
* Ireland assistant coach 2008-2015 (three-time Six Nations champions, 2009 Grand Slam champions)
* NSW Waratahs assistant 2002-2008 (two grand finals)
* Springboks assistant coach and South African Super Rugby consultant 2001-2002
* North Sydney Bears player 1986-1993 (Dally M winger of the year 1986)
* Four Tests for Kangaroos, four Queensland State of Origin appearances