Reds inspired by legendary losers
July 6, 2011
Reds legend John Eales was denied Super Rugby glory in the professional era © Getty Images
The Reds are determined to win their Super Rugby Final showdown with the Crusaders on Saturday not only for their flood-devastated region but also for those players that "laid the foundation" for their recent success.
Before embarking on their history-making campaign, the Reds watched video footage of the deadly floods which swamped their state and turned Suncorp Stadium into a lake when the Brisbane river burst its banks. Like their adversaries from Christchurch, the Reds were motivated by the pain and suffering a natural disaster had inflicted on their people.
But for Ewen McKenzie's buoyant squad there is another section of their fan base that drives them to succeed where all other Queensland teams have failed since rugby turned professional in 1996. Queensland captured the Super 10 crown in 1994 and 1995 in the last days of the amateur game but the likes of David Croft, John Roe, Elton Flatley, Toutai Kefu, Tim Horan, Jason Little, Chris Latham and Sean Hardman and even the great John Eales, a two-time World Cup winner, failed to claim Super Rugby glory in the pro era.
The Reds made the inaugural Super 12 semi-finals in 1996 as top qualifiers; they did so again in 1999 but on both occasions were eliminated by the fourth-ranked Sharks and Crusaders at Ballymore. In 2001 they were stopped a game short of the final by the champion Brumbies - their last play-off before the Blues were beaten last weekend at Suncorp Stadium.
Prop Greg Holmes debuted in 2005 and even re-signed during a dark age which included a final round 92-3 annihilation by the Bulls at Pretoria in 2007. That humiliation still burns for the front rower and there is also a sense of unfinished business for the Queensland legends who spent most of their seasons playing for pride.
"Some of the guys I played with like Sean Hardman, John Roe and Chris Latham... it will be as much about them as it will be about the current side," said Holmes.
"Those guys really laid the foundation a few years ago when it was really tough going. There were some tough years there and those boys gave their all. They're a big part of this now, though. They will be at the game if they are around and they deserve to enjoy this time as much as anyone."
Holmes is expecting a major test against the Crusaders who laid down a massive marker in out-muscling the Stormers in their semi-final clash last weekend. "I thought it would be a very tough and tight game over there but the Crusaders did it in a canter really," he said. "I thought their scrum was massive, so that's our biggest job this weekend."
The Reds gained confidence from last Saturday's improved showing against a Blues side that had dominated them six weeks earlier but Holmes realised the Owen Franks-Corey Flynn-Wyatt Crockett combination was a different beast.
"They're a good combination, have great technique, and they all seem to work well together," he said. "They've disrupted a lot of scrums all year and that's our No.1 goal as front rowers, to stop that this weekend, and give our guys the best chance for attacking. It will be a massive task for us."
The Reds' Super Rugby placings:
Super 12: 1996 3rd, 1997 10th; 1998 5th; 1999 3rd; 2000 7th; 2001 4th; 2002 5th; 2003 8th; 2004 10 th; 2005 10th.
Super 14: 2006 12th; 2007 14th, 2008 12th; 2009 13th; 2010 5th.
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