Inside the Reds: the value of always being useful

Mon, Feb 26, 2024, 4:26 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Queensland Reds head coach Les Kiss has Kiss has shown a lot of class in his few months at the helm.
Queensland Reds head coach Les Kiss has Kiss has shown a lot of class in his few months at the helm.

When Les Kiss became Queensland Reds coach, one of the first phrases he highlighted to the media was “always useful.”

Now that a 40-22 victory over the NSW Waratahs is in the books, we can assess just what it actually might look like in practice.

The best example in the wet in the upbeat Super Rugby Pacific opener last Saturday night arrived at around the 55-minute mark.

The Waratahs turned the ball over and Seru Uru showed a skill not all locks possess with a pinpoint 45m kick downfield. It’s still just a kick until you have the mindset to turn it into something.

Off a turnover like that we’ve all seen one chaser make a decent effort over the years and not quite get there.

The Reds had three players alert to switching on and haring after that ball. The result was Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, Mac Grealy and Josh Flook all cornering Waratahs fullback Max Jorgensen and tackling him over the tryline.

From the 5m scrum that followed, No.8 Harry Wilson’s deft flick of the ball through his legs produced a Tate McDermott try on the shortside.

The bit of switched-on usefulness with that kick-chase produced a 33-15 break that was a big factor in deciding the game.

You could package the same message as “always chase kicks” put it doesn’t have the ownership that “always useful” has for every player, all the time.

It reminded me of something way back in time. In the 1987 Brothers-Souths club grand final, a snap at field goal from Brothers flyhalf Michael Ephraims was charged down.

The ball ricocheted into the arms of Brothers lock Paul French who trundled over for a key try in an upset victory.

The point was that French chased just about every Ephraims kick that season. The only one he got the bounce for was in the grand final.

Being useful isn’t a 30-minute commitment, it’s a mindset for a season.

Kiss has shown a lot of class in his few months at the helm.

So often new head coaches in any sport disinherit every shred of the previous empire, almost erase it. Not Kiss. Numerous times he’s spoken with genuine regard for the foundations that predecessor Brad Thorn built over six seasons.

He inherited headstarts on traits like willingness to work hard, toughness, connection and care for the teammate beside you.

Kiss is also not getting carried away with the Hurricanes looming on Sunday at Super Round in Melbourne.

“The boys should be happy, I’m happy but there were a number of times when the coaching box had a few flutters,” Kiss said of the see-sawing moments against the Waratahs.

“We need to stay real. It’s just one game. That’s all it is.

“We made 14 turnovers so we have to improve that area and realise how possession pressure works for us because (against the Hurricanes) half of those are going to be hurting us.” 

It was interesting listening to Waratahs coach Darren Coleman after digesting a tough loss and handing the Templeton Cup back to the Reds.

He gave particular credit to the Reds’ lineout which is a pat on the back to ever-growing Wallabies hooker Matt Faessler, Liam Wright and Co as well as set piece coach Zane Hilton.

“Some really good tacticians at the lineout,” Coleman nodded at how the Reds got up in the right zones to disrupt the Waratahs.

Again, it’s only the start. As songwriter Paul Kelly penned…“from little things big things grow.”