Reds-Waratahs rivalry 'not a focus' of Queensland's preparation: Higginbotham

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Memo to former Reds players: Cover your eyes now because what you're about to read may seem sacrilegious.

Queensland forward Scott Higginbotham says the Reds-Waratahs rivalry has not been a focus of his side's preparations ahead of Saturday night's interstate derby.

It's a far cry from the days when anything blue was banned from Ballymore in the week leading into the game and players held genuine hatred for the enemy.

Higginbotham may be the only Red left who knows what the Templeton Cup looks like after Queensland's run of nine straight losses but as a former Rebels captain, he is also well aware of the nationwide spread of players in the Super Rugby era.

"I don't think that's something that we're focussing on this week is any Queensland-NSW rivalry," he said.

"It is very important for us to win this week and that's what we're focussing on.Scott Higginbotham training with the Reds. Photo: Rugby AU Media/Stuart Walmsley

"It's a game like every other game but it's always fun when you're playing against a lot of guys that you've spent a lot of time with.

"There's Queenslanders everywhere aren't there.

"Every Australian derby is intense, unfortunately it's not the most enjoyable football but it's obviously physical and the games can tend to be a bit slower being that they are a bit more physical."

The other rugby code's showpiece clash is State of Origin, where the intensity of the rivalry between Queensland and NSW has remained as fierce as in the opening clash in 1980, while the attention the series garners is based on the teams' bitter rivalry.

Rugby's version has a history dating more than 100 years but Higginbotham argues the interstate rivalry is no longer a driver.

"I think (the intensity of the rivalry) is a bit different at the moment," he said.

"If you look at the win-loss record at the moment, they're 9-0, so we've just got to focus on winning this round.

"We're 0-2 so far in the season and the Tahs away this week, Sunwolves away next week, we've really got to get a win on these away games, I think, it'll be really important for our season."

 

Higginbotham's pragmatism shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of passion for Queensland though.

The former TSS student jumped at the chance to return home from Japan in 2017 and became captain of the club he helped to the 2011 Super Rugby title.

"I didn't necessarily leave on bad terms," Higginbotham said of ending his first stint for the Reds at the end of 2012.

"I left, I guess, thinking that I could have done more in Queensland and in the jersey, so it was an easy decision when I was overseas and I decided that I wanted to come back and play Super that to come back here and play would be great.

" The organisation and team weren't doing so well, so it was an opportunity to improve where it was at the time.

"And it's been great.

"Coming back to your home to play football and having the chance to captain the team - I had to move state to achieve that - and to do that for two Super teams and be captain for two super teams is something I'm really proud of." Scott Higginbotham of the Reds is tackled by Tom Carter of the Waratahs on the way to a Reds win in 2012. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Victory against the Tahs in Sydney tonight would do more than just break a nine-match losing streak that extends back to 2013 - or 2012 and Dom Shipperley's last-minute heroics if you're Higginbotham.

It would provide the type of confidence that could launch a season.

"Huge confidence. I think the football the guys are playing the last two weeks, you don't want to sound like a broken record and continue the same mindset as last year where you think to yourself, 'we probably should have won that', and then you go through the season and not win.

"A win now is going to be very important, I think, especially leading into the Sunwolves (clash next weekend).

"They're not the easybeats (they once were) and they showed that against us last year and showed it again this year how much they've improved.

"These two away games are very important before we get home and play the Brumbies.

"They're all conference games, these next couple, so they're extremely important."

And not just for the Reds' fortunes this season.Higginbotham, at the back, far right of the playing group, celebrates with Reds teammates after winning the 2011 Super Rugby title. Photo: Getty Images

Higginbotham can see parallels between the Reds' rebuilding 2010 campaign and what is now happening at Ballymore under Brad Thorn.

"There's a lot of great young talent coming through and I think the most important thing for Queensland is retaining that talent - which is hard for Queensland in this current Super Rugby climate.

"But if they can do that, I think the young guys here can do great things."

Now that's the kind of Queensland passion any former Red would buy into.

The Reds take on the Waratahs at the SCG on Saturday March 9, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.