The 2009 Reds squad boasts a good blend of youth and experience which should put them in a position to challenge for a spot in the top half of the table.
Three Reds players were nominated for Australia’s Rookie of the Year Award after starring in Robbie Deans’ new look Wallabies in 2008.
Wing Peter Hynes (who won the award), lock James Horwill and Berrick Barnes heads up the cream of the Reds’ youth crop that have been given the opportunity to develop over the past two seasons of Super Rugby.
Along with 20-year-old Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane it is clear to see that the bulk of Australia’s emerging stars are part of the Reds outfit in 2009.
While they posses the necessary firepower and confidence presented by these youngsters they also have some more experienced players such as Hugh McMeniman, Greg Holmes, Morgan Turinui and former Blues loose forward Daniel Braid to guide them.
These factors contribute to Reds fans being rather optimistic ahead of the 2009 season which is not an easy feat after the franchise’s disappointing form over the last four years.
It was not too long ago when the Reds were a dominant force in Southern Hemisphere rugby, with the bulk of their squad being Wallaby match-winners and not just stalwarts for their domestic team.
Players like Jason Little, Daniel Herbert, John Eales, Michael Foley, Ben Tune, Matt Cockbain, Toutai Kefu, Tim Horan, Elton Flatley and Wendell Sailor worked wonders for the Reds.
Andrew Slack, Jeff Miller and Eddie Jones, who have all coached the embattled team since then, have been unable to revive the spirit that once characterised Queensland rugby.
One senses that the Reds may just be able to turn their outrageous fortunes around in 2009, with a young coach that may just be able to inject some energy into what is a youthful squad.
Strengths: This team is bubbling with young individual talent just waiting to get onto the field. They have a young and determined coach and have made some very good signings this season, almost a case of out with the old and in with the new. Many of these youngsters have one or two seasons behind them now so they will be more confident this year.
Weakness: It is the very fact that the Reds have a few extremely talented individuals that could prove to be their ultimate downfall. The team has shown tremendous defensive frailties in recent years and very little cohesion while attacking. The morale hasn’t always been high in the past either and these are major obstacle that need to be overcome.
Noteworthy signings: Daniel Braid (Blues), Anthony and Saia Faingaa (Brumbies), Ezra Tailor (Highlanders), Marc McLinden (Rugby League)
Noteworthy losses: Rodney Blake (Bayonne), David Croft (retirement), Lloyd Johansson (Italy), Chris Latham (Worcester), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), John Roe (retirement),
Coach: Phil Mooney has worked extensively with the Reds and Queensland Academies and has an uncanny ability to spot young talent. He also impressed at the helm of Australia A in 2008. Not much is expected of Mooney, but if you look at the talent at his disposal the Reds are sure to cause a few upsets in the competition.
Captain: James Horwill was one of the nominees for Australia’s Rookie of the Year Award. The big lock has a great future ahead of him. Hopefully the added responsibility won’t negatively affect his performance.
Player(s) to watch: Quade Cooper showed touches of his class during the Wallabies’ year-end tour and he will be keen to impress Deans to get more game time in 2009. The much publicised arrival of Daniel Braid means that he will be carrying the responsibility of leading the Reds pack against some very tough opposition.
2008 Position: 12th
Best finish: 1st on standings and losing semi-finalists in Super 12 in 1996 and 1999
Worst finish: 14th in 2007
Home Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane (capacity 52,500)
2009 Prediction: There are definitely good things to come for the Reds, but one suspects they are not going to quite make that much-awaited breakthrough this year. If they work really hard they may push for a top half finish, but it is going to be tough.
Reds squad: Berrick Barnes, Daniel Braid, Adam Byrnes, Blair Connor, Quade Cooper, Ben Daley, Rod Davies, Dayna Edwards, Anthony Faingaa, Charlie Fetoai, Will Genia, James Hanson, Sean Hardman, Scott Higginbotham, Greg Holmes, James Horwill, Leroy Houston, Van Humphries, Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Jack Kennedy, Poutasi Luafutu, Ben Lucas, Mark McLinden, Hugh McMeniman, Rob Simmons, Ezra Taylor, Aidan Toua, Morgan Turinui, Brando Va’aulu, Laurie Weeks.
Saturday February 14: v Bulls, away
Friday February 20: v Stormers, away
Sunday March 1: v Cheetahs, home
Friday, March 6: v Waratahs, away
Saturday March 14: v Sharks ,home
Saturday March 28: v Chiefs ,home
Friday April 3: v Western Force, away
Saturday April 11: v Highlanders, away
Saturday April 18: v Lions, home
Saturday April 25: v Blues, away
Saturday May 2: v Brumbies, home
Friday May 8: v Crusaders ,away
Saturday May 16: v Hurricanes ,home
Courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet