‘The real deal’: Love ’em or hate ’em, the Reds are exactly what Australian rugby needs


The Reds are the real deal.

Les Kiss’ side have now played all five Kiwi sides, beating three and pushing both the Hurricanes and Blues past 80 minutes.

Importantly, that run was full of blockbuster rugby that people want to watch. The loss against Auckland was one of the great matches in Super Rugby history, rightly drawing widespread acclaim on both sides of the Tasman.

At a time when Australian Rugby is desperately trying to market itself to television and private equity, as well as fill stadiums, how you win and how you lose matters.

Of course, it would have been easy for a head coach in his first season to take it easy, call it a rebuild and focus on losing respectably. Not Kiss.

It’s been electric. The use of space, offloading in the tackle and a clever short-kicking game has been a joy to watch.

Seeing players look up and receive the ball while moving at pace is something that seemed lost to Australian rugby in recent times. Rarer than wins against New Zealand opposition.

The weekend that was A history-making contest in Christchurch pic.twitter.com/Pbr7UFH5Fw

— Queensland Reds (@Reds_Rugby) May 6, 2024

More impressively, the successes this season have come with the Reds coaching staff rotating three fly-halves aged 25, 21 and 20, to protect youth and build depth.

That Lynagh, Creighton and McLaughlin-Phillips have thrived with next to no Super Rugby experience between them is all the more incredible considering they have done so without Tate McDermott, starting centre Isaac Henry and Jordan Petaia for long stretches of the season.

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The rotation of players has not been restricted to the pivotal fly-half position. Fresh faces are emerging across the park at Ballymore. Joe Brial and John Bryant filled in admirably during Fraser McReight’s time in the naughty corner.

Louis Werchon plays like another suspended Red, Tate McDermott, just with a crisper pass. His sniping runs and Jack-in-the-box swagger have been fearless.

There are ‘junkyard dogs’ everywhere, not just the one on the wing who scored five tries in his first two starts. Matt Faessler, Ryan Smith and Josh Flook all have a canine-like tenacity.

The Junkyard Dog picks up where he left off and finishes off a WORLDIE from the Reds ????#SuperRugbyPacific #CRUvRED pic.twitter.com/MW9kxYjYuQ

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 4, 2024

Reds Captain Liam Wright has been superb. A steady hand off the field as well as a shrewd game-time leader.

Unusually for a captain of an Australian side, Wright has developed an excellent rapport with the officials all while doing the work in tight that someone has to do but is often unappreciated.

There were some inconsistent performances. The losses against both the Force and Moana were timely reminders that Kiss’ Queensland had some maturing to do.

Just like consistency, composure will come with time. Healthy leads against the Brumbies and Blues were blown when the exuberance of youth gave way to naivety.

Notwithstanding these blips, we must celebrate this Reds side and acknowledge that their performances are good for Australian rugby. While there is a flourishing rivalry between the Reds and Brumbies, it would be a great pity if it were to become toxic.

It’s healthy to see a debate developing over key Wallaby selections. Smith or Frost? Wilson or Valetini? Ikitau or Flook? Should the captaincy go to Liam Wright or Allan Alaalatoa? These questions bode well for the national side.

(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Just as an emerging Kiss adds much-needed depth beyond Canberra to the list of possible successors to Joe Schmidt.

What is undeniable is that a head coach in his first season of Super Rugby has taken a side steered around the park by kids and created an excitement machine.

If it is to survive, Australian rugby needs sides that put ‘bums on seats’ as well as coaches that recognise that in a crowded sports market, how they win is just as important as winning itself.

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The game appears to have found both in Les Kiss’ Reds.

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