"We'll live and die together": why coach Kiss kept Reds co-captaincy model

Mon, Jan 22, 2024, 5:30 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey
Tate McDermott speaks to media at Ballymore on Monday 22 January. Picture: QRU Media Unit
Tate McDermott speaks to media at Ballymore on Monday 22 January. Picture: QRU Media Unit

Les Kiss' decision to retain incumbents Tate McDermott and Liam Wright would seem a formality to most who follow Queensland Rugby.

The pair have shared the Reds' co-captaincy since 2022 and boast a combined 168 Super Rugby caps since debuting alongside each other against Melbourne in 2018.

So why then did the incoming Kiss wait until Christmas before finally locking McDermott and Wright in at the helm?

"We're here together now so we'll live and die together, that's for sure," Kiss told media on Monday.

"We did a fair bit of research into what had been here in the previous year or two (and) in considering the decision, myself and the coaches though it was good to get a good block of pre-season in first … just to give us a chance to see how they perform but more importantly for Liam and Tate to have a look at us as a coaching staff.

"And the end of that, it was a fairly simple decision really. It made sense to keep that continuity going.

"They're committed, they care deeply about what it means to wear the Queensland jumper … and to a tee, every man in this team wants to follow these guys."

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Kiss' rhetoric and passion for the Red jersey draws parallels to that of predecessor Brad Thorn, who first appointed McDermott and Wright as co-captains in 2021.

A closer inspection of the 2024 leadership group also reveals Thorn's fingerprints - Harry Wilson, Jock Campbell, and Matt Faessler all debuted under the dual-code icon - and Faessler is set to assume greater responsibilities as a "support leader" alongside James O'Connor.

"It's a fairly tight leadership model but it does feed down nicely," Kiss said.

We've got some really natural type leaders among these guys - guys like Matt Faessler who I think has stepped up, James O'Connor is among those guys.

"Fraser McReight has really good qualities of leadership, and Jock Campbell, just to name a few, then guys like Harry Wilson have their own style of leadership which is important to us as well.

So those guys are support structures for (McDermott & Wright) and that's important we have those guys underneath. The load gets heavy and leadership can be a lonely place if you don't have good support."

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Entering their third season as co-captains, McDermott and Wright say they've learned to share that load in equal measure - both on and off the paddock.

"It's pretty fluid, we bounce a lot of stuff off each other," McDermott said.

"It's not really split between Liam does the off-field and I do the on-field - we're all kind of helping each other out wherever we can. We're obviously good mates and we speak a lot about where we think this team can improve, where we think this team can go to."

"One of the things I've really enjoyed with Les and the coaching team coming in is I don't believe we see a ceiling for this team," Wright added.

"I feel like we can just keep working hard, putting things in place, getting our structures right and then there is no ceiling for how far we can try and go if we put in the hard work and care for each other."

The Queensland Reds kick off their pre-season fixtures against Western Force on Saturday 3 February at Ballymore before tackling NSW Waratahs in Roma on Saturday 10 February.

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