“It’s a fresh start": The Experienced Coaches set to Drive the Reds Forward

Tue, Jan 23, 2024, 3:48 AM
Reds Media Unit
by Reds Media Unit

Both entered the coaching fraternity younger than the majority of their peers, and now new Queensland Reds assistant coaches Zane Hilton and Jonathan Fisher have landed at Ballymore ready to each play a key role in a new era in 2024, led by head coach Les Kiss.

Zane Hilton and Jonathan Fisher have enjoyed settling into life in Brisbane; a return home for Hilton, and a brand-new country to navigate for Fisher. They feature in an experienced coaching unit that also includes fellow assistant coach Brad Davis and academy head coach Dale Roberson.

With a new gameplan, new mantra and new expectations outlined inside the Reds’ four walls, the pair are excited about the year ahead and hopeful that the depth in the squad will see intense competition for places and players pushing one another towards constant improvement.

Hilton identified the opportunity for a new beginning for every player, whilst recognising the high calibre of players he, Fisher and the other Reds coaches have inherited; both those for now, and those for the future.

“It’s a fresh start for all in the playing group, everyone gets an opportunity,” Hilton said.

“There’s been some great work done previously with the (previous) coaching staff and now we get the opportunity to build off those solid platforms. What I’ve also really been impressed with is how good our younger players in the (Buildcorp Reds) Academy are, many of whom have taken part in our Super Rugby pre-season.”

Hilton has strong ties within Queensland Rugby, having previously worked as a development officer at the QRU over twenty years ago, and also leading Brothers to a famous Hospital Cup victory over Souths as head coach in 2009.

His vast coaching experience has taken him to Italy (Benneton), Japan (Kyuden Voltex & Canon Eagles), the Melbourne Rebels, Samoa (National Team) and Tonga (National Team), across a variety of assistant coach, head coach and Rugby GM roles.

But when the opportunity to return to Queensland arose during the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Hilton jumped at the chance to come home and work with Kiss.

“For so long it’s been a dream of mine to be working for the Queensland Reds,” he said.

“Les gives you a confidence as a coach to do your role and do it well, and for me that’s probably the part I’m loving the most.”

As a player, Fisher spent his career playing for five different teams in the English Premiership, including London Irish and Northampton Saints.

Injuries halted his playing days but led him to coaching. At just 27 he joined London Irish in the talent development space and continued to cut his proverbial coaching teeth, taking on the forward units in 2020 before a promotion to assistant coach under Kiss from 2021 to 2023.

“This playing group have a very impressive appetite for improvement and hard work, that’s been clear and obvious,” Fisher told QRU Media Unit.

“It’s a playing group that are very much prepared to do whatever it takes. There are some gifted and impressive young players here.”

Having already coached under his tutelage at London Irish, Fisher is relishing living on the other side of the world and continuing to work alongside Kiss.

“He’s (Les) very open minded, I got an opportunity to work with him very early on as a young coach because he was so receptive to some ideas I had. I can’t speak highly enough of him.”

Now 35, Fisher says his contemporary mindset to coaching will hold him in good stead when communicating with the playing group.

“As a coach, one thing I’ve learnt so far is you always want to try view your coaching through the lens of a player. (As a younger coach) I’ve got an ability to understand exactly what they’re going through at that point in time, and I will try and coach and support them in the best way that I can.”

Queensland will host the Western Force in the first preseason trial game at Ballymore Stadium on February 3.

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