An open letter to QRU chairman Rod McCall from an impassioned fan:
I love rugby. A lot.
It isn’t something I accidentally fell into because of my father or brothers who played the sport. I chose it. And with all things you choose instead of those thrust upon you, they mean more. Richard Burton’s quote sums it up: “Rugby is a wonderful show: dance, opera and, suddenly, the blood of a killing.”
I love the intensity, the grind of the forward pack as they pick and go, the flash of a back stepping and drawing defenders before offloading. I love the will to win that exists in teams and players that have never been to the top and never will.
I love Saturday afternoon premier rugby and the toil of players in other levels who probably should have stopped playing years ago but it just isn’t in their blood. I love watching the ingenuity of parents, coaches and administrators who can build an amazing program like the Modified Rugby Program (MRP) so that children can play.
I love the passionate fans at all levels – grassroots to elite level; the South African fans who sit behind me who are rabid Reds supporters except when we are playing a South African team; the husband and wife who first brought their son to a match when he was only months old and at age six now has his own seat. All these people love rugby like I do.
We all like winning and we understand it isn’t always possible and that it is difficult to be at the top of the table always (except of course, if you are the All Blacks). I don’t need the Reds to be constant winners to be a fan.
But sheesh, I would like them to look like they give a hoot.
I would like them to play like they give a hoot.
For my money and passion, and the thousands of others who have contributed money, passion, and aching hands and vocal cords from cheering, I expect that the players take the field like they understand we want to see them bring their best and bring out the best in those around them.
I don’t see that at the Reds this year and I didn’t last year.
The quick and easy answer is to point the finger at the players, and some of the criticism is fairly just. Big-name signings have contributed little or nothing to the results, the game plan or the team culture. In fact, they appear to have done exactly the opposite.
Next in line is the coach. This is a man who has never delivered results in Super Rugby. His winning percentage at the Western Force was 29 per cent. His percentage for the Reds in 2014 was 31 per cent and this year it is a paltry 23 per cent. A man who it is fair to say could be a solid number two, but isn’t a head coach.
As you yourself put it earlier this year after the match against the Waratahs: “Let’s look at this realistically, you had the Tahs, the Super Rugby champions, going up against the team that finished 13th last year. Then you take one injured player out of the Tahs line-up, Adam Ashley-Cooper, while taking 12 out of the Reds.” (And why exactly did we finish 13th after achieving the Super Rugby title and then making the finals in the two following years?)
Reds fans truly understand we have suffered a high number of injuries – higher than other clubs. This is one issue in and of itself – why is our strength and conditioning failing and our injury rate so high?
The other issue: surely the Reds should look like they have a game plan. Why are we continuing to kick in play so poorly? Why have so many of our kicks gone awry? Even at Prems level we expect that kicks should achieve their objective. By this standard shouldn’t our clearing kicks and our kicks for touch achieve their objective when kicked by players who have represented the Wallabies and are not substitutes for injured players?
The Reds administration recruited two very high-profile players who would have been better left where we found them.
Karmichael Hunt has scored only three points for the Reds this season.
James O’Connor has spent considerable time injured this year, hasn’t shown any leadership on the field, and single-handedly turned the game against us last week. He also out-douched himself at half time by appearing to go after Adam Thomson (a recruit who has done well) in the sheds for not meeting JOC’s very high standards of play.
The Reds let go of our only two utility backs last year who could play fly-half – Mike Harris and Ben Lucas – and who have been performing very successfully for their new clubs. Unsurprisingly this year we needed a utility back to step in at fly-half.
The Reds recruited a number of players who still haven’t pulled on the jersey.
We haven’t secured key players for next year like James Hanson and we look like losing Liam Gill to a franchise that already has too many openside flankers. I suspect the rumours are true about losing Quade and with him the big-name opportunities for sponsors wanes a little bit more.
These are men and women whose decisions affect the team, the sponsors and the fans. What are we to make of the decision to appoint Karmichael Hunt as vice-captain without him even playing a match?
What are we to make of the situation whereby a board member only found out about the appointment of John Connolly as a “coaching consultant” seven minutes before the announcement went public? This is not a decision to be made lightly and it is a decision that implied we aren’t replacing Richard Graham with a full-strength coach – a full-strength coach, an A-grade coach, doesn’t need a consultant to tell him what to do.
How we confront our responsibility is what defines us.
This auspicious statement was the centrepiece of the marketing for the Reds this year, developed by Jim Carmichael. I would really like the Reds and the board to acknowledge this and live by it, not just use it as a clever marketing line.
Reds fans would like an acknowledgement from the Reds and the board that some things at the Reds need to change.
We don’t need you to specify exactly what will change, and how, but please stop insulting us by ignoring the situation, the results, the unhappiness of the players, the unhappiness of fans, the general malaise in which Queensland Rugby finds itself.
We love rugby, and always will.
We want to believe, but need something to believe in. Give us this please before we decide the Reds aren’t worth investing in.
This post originally appeared on Brisbane Times.