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By Reds Media Unit
The St.George Queensland Reds’ bid to achieve further success in 2013 and beyond has been strengthened following the re-signing of Super Rugby-winning High Performance coaches, Jim McKay and Damian Marsh.
McKay and Marsh have produced outstanding outcomes for Queensland Rugby’s Professional Rugby Development department since joining the Reds in season 2010 and have played integral roles in turning around the side’s on-field fortunes.
Their recent credentials include winning the Super Rugby title in 2011 and a second consecutive Australian Conference trophy in 2012.
The pair’s long-term commitment together with Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie and incoming Head Coach Richard Graham will ensure the Reds have the best Australian coaching talent in the code at the helm.
McKay will perform the role of Reds Senior Assistant Coach for the next two seasons and his core responsibility remains managing the team’s entertaining attack while Marsh will continue in his role as Reds Head Performance Coach, managing player rehabilitation and the strength and conditioning program as well as overseeing the team’s medical staff.
“We have one of the smallest, but I believe, one of the most talented coaching groups in the competition and both Jim and Damian have played a huge part in the improvements and success the Reds have achieved over the past three seasons,” McKenzie said.
“Both are highly regarded as leaders within their specific areas of expertise and I couldn’t be happier to have them recommit to our Rugby program.
“Jim and Damian are respected and well-liked by the players, and the effort and high standards of their work fits well into the coaching and playing environment we have created here in Queensland.
“In their roles, and as senior coaching staff, the pair are also given a heavy responsibility in managing the logistics and workload of our training program on a daily basis, and together they work extremely effectively in this space.”
McKay has lived up to his reputation for having one of the best attacking minds in the game since joining the Reds and has played a major role in shaping their highly-acclaimed attacking structure of play.
Earlier this year McKay, who is a qualified Level Four Rugby Football Union (RFU) Coach, finished his Masters of Coaching and Education after completing his final thesis on the ‘Role of Unstructured Practice in Elite Rugby’ at Sydney University.
McKay’s attacking philosophy has seen the Reds twice break Queensland’s Super Rugby try-scoring record for a single season with their 2011 championship-winning efforts the benchmark with 45 tries scored in 16 regular season games.
Headhunted from the prestigious Leicester Tigers Academy by then incoming coach McKenzie in 2010, McKay brought with him an incredible winning strike rate of over 80 percent in 14 seasons.
In that time as Head Coach, McKay coached in the amateur scene at North Walsham, travelled through a number of semi-professional clubs such as the Henley Hawks and at top-flight organisations like Orrell and Leicester.
He also spent four years as Head Coach of top Division 1 side Cornish Pirates in Cornwall, which included winning the National Powergen Cup at Twickenham.
“I’m very proud and privileged to coach Queensland and one of the main reasons I want to stay is my drive to improve and to be the best I can be on a personal level, but also to see the playing group be better as players and achieve their goals,” McKay said.
“The environment and culture amongst the coaches and players here at the Reds elicits this ideally, and the current group still has a lot of room for improvement.
“As a coach, witnessing the playing group improve is a great thing to see. Only a few years ago we had very few Wallabies and now we have more than half our players receiving national squad selection. It’s also satisfying to see guys come through from our previous Academy system, step-up to debut for the Queensland Reds, and then go on to become Wallabies.
“I’ve got an attacking philosophy that I firmly believe in. I feel fortunate that our coaching team and critically the players have also grown to share this belief, and who can execute it really well. I think, moving forward, the players can really challenge the system and push it further ahead to where we want it to go and learn to adapt.
“There’s also a huge level of trust and respect within the coaching team. I have learned a lot from both Ewen and Damian and look forward to Richard joining us. For the last three years myself and Marshy have met every day to plan training. There is a massive amount of trust from Ewen to allow us to collaborate in this space.”
Despite the current Reds squad being one of the youngest in the competition, Marsh has created an environment whereby the Reds are regarded as one of the fittest teams in the competition with his expertise across all Performance Rugby elements a huge asset to the organisation.
Before joining the Reds, Marsh spent nine seasons with the ACT Brumbies and was involved in their Super Rugby championship seasons in 2001 and 2004. His background in Rugby also extends to the Australian Under 21 team in 2002-04 and Australia A between 2006-07.
During this period the Australian Under 21 team were finalists at both the 2002 and 2003 championships, while Australia A finished runners up at the IRB’s 2007 Pacific Nations Cup.
Marsh boasts first-class honours in his degree of Human Movements and also a Diploma in Sports Nutrition from the International Olympic Committee.
“When I first came to the Reds I felt they were a side that had a lot of potential but was underperforming,” Marsh said.
“When you are part of a team that begins to reach their potential and enjoy success, you want to contribute to something which is longer-term and hopefully when you do leave, you leave it in a better place than when you arrived.
“My goal is to have the players optimally prepared physically to play the game style required by the Rugby coaches. This requires integration and detailed planning among the coaching group to prepare the best Rugby players, not just the best athletes.
“We’re still a young and developing squad and, in hindsight, possibly achieved success before people expected. That puts us in a good position moving forward as we continue to grow as a group, especially for the younger players, who will continue to develop as leaders.”
The Western Force return to NIB Stadium for the second time this season and the Honey Badger wants sea of blue fans to “get your carcass on the chair”! In 2014 the Force had a slow start to the season, before finishing off strongly, and they will be hoping for a repeat after winning just one of their opening four matches this season!