Reds’ big-picture approach to Super season

Murray Wenzel |

Defending champions of a title that doesn’t exist this year, the Queensland Reds aim to be more ruthless and “dominate” their Australian Super Rugby Pacific rivals before taking that form across the Tasman.

The Reds pipped the Brumbies 19-16 to win the 2021 Super Rugby AU final in a wild, after-the-siren skirmish before both teams won just once from five games against New Zealand opponents to finish the season with a whimper.

The two domestic tournaments have been scrapped this year, Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika added to create a combined 12-team league with an eight-team finals series.

The Reds, who host the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, plan on being there at the pointy end.

“(The NZ teams) were better in pretty much every facet … time will tell but we’re confident and eager to play those guys,” Reds fullback Jock Campbell said.

“We know they’re the best provincial sides in the world … we want to dominate those (Australian) guys, but they’re the marker for our success.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement on last year … (it’s about) showing Australian fans that we can mix it with the best.”

The Reds aren’t looking past a new-look Rebels though, headed by South African coach Kevin Foote who has promoted an up-tempo style.

Reds Academy product Carter Gordon will pull the strings at No.10 for the Rebels, while flanker Sam Wallis is a former University of Queensland teammate of Campbell’s.

“I loved playing with him, hate playing against him,” said Campbell, who hinted he’d leave the banter to chirpy halfback Tate McDermott. 

“He’s a good friend. I hope he does well but hopefully we get under his skin somehow because he does have a couple of screws loose.”

Campbell will start at fullback but could see time at five-eighth as James O’Connor’s back-up, a utility role performed by the now-departed Bryce Hegarty last season.

A persistent groin injury derailed Campbell’s season in 2021 but he’s fully fit and now able to press for higher honours.

“I’m just super eager to get back out there,” said Campbell, who incredibly was playmaker in his school’s third-string side.

“If I’m needed at 10 I’m happy to chip in … the schoolboys third 15 is a bit different to Super Rugby but it’s enjoyable and whether I’m in the 15 or the 10 that’s my game anyway (as a second playmaker).”

The Rebels will be without prolific Wallabies winger Andrew Kellaway (foot), while Reds gun winger Suliasi Vunivalu is still rehabilitating his troublesome hamstring.

A Vintage Reds v Tonga Invitational curtain raiser, featuring four former Wallabies captains among a host of retired greats, will raise money for the UNICEF Australia Tongan Recovery Appeal.