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Brumbies' rise has just begun, as stagnant Reds find to their cost

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 The first steps to salvation or ruin are often on the same path. This is why reading too much into the Reds' loss to the Brumbies on Saturday night is fraught with danger.

However, it is safe to say, for now at least, that the derring-do of the Reds is gone. The team that took the competition by storm with audacious flick passes, daring cross-field kicks and darting runs is missing. It has been replaced by an admirable outfit, but no longer an awesome one.

Flair was not the only ingredient that drove the Reds to Super Rugby success in 2011, there was a hard-edged pragmatism, too, but their imaginative attacking drive was a point of difference. It was asking uncomfortable questions of opposing defences, and the points and victories followed.

Brumbies vs the Reds. Click for more photos

Brumbies v Reds

The Brumbies come up against the Reds at Canberra Stadium to kick off the Super Rugby season. Photo: Jay Cronan

It was a stunning rise that engaged fans and gave Australian rugby supporters a reason to dream of a World Cup victory. After winning the title, the Reds were the blueprint for success, and they were not shy in letting the rugby community know. However, one title does not a dynasty make. The jury is still out on whether the 2011 success is a Please Please Me or a My Sharona.

Injuries and suspensions have played their part in the erosion. The dashing duo of Will Genia and Quade Cooper has barely played together in a red jersey since they held aloft the Super Rugby trophy. Genia was missing on Saturday, as was skipper James Horwill and stalwart Anthony Faingaa, but as Waratahs fans can attest, injuries as an excuse only holds water for so long, no matter how real the toll is.

The reality is that space for the Reds' back line is not there. When Genia returns, he will form a formidable halves pairing with Cooper but behind a forward pack that was demonstrably beaten by the Brumbies, and, on paper at least, behind the Waratahs' eight.

Waiting for Will ... Quade Cooper.

Waiting for Will ... Quade Cooper. Photo: Getty Images

The Reds have stood still for too long. Queensland's rivals have strengthened. The moral fibre of Canberra has been boosted, if not by the return of Parliament then at least by the arrival of David Pocock, while Brumbies coach Jake White continues to engender improvement in a squad that was largely written off at the start of last year.

Meanwhile, Michael Hooper has returned to his home city to wear the sky blue jumper alongside Israel Folau, a man who is keen to make his mark rather than take them.

The Reds' main off-season signing was an exercise in loss limitation. Cooper was re-signed when all thought he was lost, but Scott Higginbotham departed to join Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor in the marquee mecca of Melbourne.

Expansion in the Australian conference has encouraged a "rob Peter to pay Paul" recruitment strategy where the poaching of established talent has proved a must for teams in AFL-dominated states. The rugby-playing states have been left to keep the production line rolling.

Queensland has suffered under this regime. No big names have been recruited, but homegrown talent has been developed. The new generation of Liam Gill, Ben Tapuai and Jake Schatz must now lead the way for future success.

All is not lost. Only a fool could believe that the Reds would not be contenders for a finals berth, but while their attack is stagnant or nullified, they play to the strengths of their cross-conference rivals.

For now, Australian hegemony is with the Brumbies.


35 comments so far

  • The Brumbies suffered phenomenal injuries last season, yet still came within a whisker of making the finals. They are definitely the real deal. I was delighted to see them win the first round and hope they go all the way. Jake White is one of the smartest men in world rugby and is doing everything right not just for the Brumbies, but Canberra and the Wallabies too. His engagement of the local community, grass-roots rugby and the Brumbies alumni is admirable. Let's hope the national selectors give a few more Brumbies a crack at the international game.

    Hong Kong
    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 12:12AM
    • Nice article. The Reds suffer the classic woes of the mythological Greek hunter Narcissus - who fell in love with the beauty of their own reflection and disdained all those that love them...

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 7:19AM
      • Only one swallow (of beer), but Brumbies look the best of the Australians.
        Whether NSW can show any form is the quesiton (and history has not been kind to them). Reds looked very ordinary and hardly ever crossed the half-way line.

        Date and time
        February 18, 2013, 8:51AM
        • I have always followed the Brumbies except for last year when I switched to the Reds. Then QC changed that ! My wife follows the Tahs and calls me tickled. She is correct as I'm now switching back to the Brumbs. Early days yet I know but their win last Saturday reignited my spirit especially with Pocock's performance. I just hope that all of the Australian players in Super R won't suffer injuries leading up to the Wallaby Tests. We'll have an awesome 2013 team if they can remain intact.

          Date and time
          February 18, 2013, 9:53AM
          • What a staunch fan you are!

            The Reds and/or Brumbies are lucky to have you on board!

            Perth via Rakaia
            Date and time
            February 18, 2013, 12:56PM
          • about that fair weather outside, eh?

            Date and time
            February 18, 2013, 4:04PM
          • @piru. Spelling misteak on my part. I meant to say that my wife called me fickled not tickled! Really, it is just a game and I can support what ever team I want. Having said that, it would be great to see a final with Brumbies vs. Reds. As long as we see great games, argue with my wife about penalties etc. and jumping up and down on the lounge chair screaming with a beer in my hands.

            Date and time
            February 19, 2013, 4:15PM
        • Before you so ridiculously write that the Reds 'derring-do" has gone and they "are no longer awesome". The loss of Higgers and Hooper although great does not break a team. Perhaps include the facts like we were far from full strength still missing Horwill, Genia, Daley, Samo, and Robinson. All who have a huge range of experience that we needed on Saturday.
          You are right in one fact - we WILL be a contender for the finals berth!

          Date and time
          February 18, 2013, 10:32AM
          • Which Hooper did you lose? The same one as the Brumbies?

            Date and time
            February 18, 2013, 4:08PM
          • See how they go when they play at Forsyth Barr. Looking forward to it.

            Date and time
            February 18, 2013, 4:19PM

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