New Reds captain Wright out to help club regain place as Super Rugby power

Tue, 07/01/2020, 11:00 pm
Emma Greenwood
by Emma Greenwood
Liam Wright is expected to be named Reds captain this morning. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

New Reds captain Liam Wright says Queensland is desperate to return to being a Super Rugby force and is backing his young team to get back to playing finals footy.

Wright was this morning formally named the Reds' captain after impressing a selection panel that conducted one of the most in-depth leadership searches in club history.

And he and his teammates want "big time" to return to the club to its former glory.

"That's what we've been working towards, we've signed a lot of good young kids on these deals and have a really good pathway going forward in the next few years.

"We've had a few years where we've been in that rebuilding process, so we want to actually start making our mark on this competition now."

The departure of Samu Kerevi to Japan left the Reds not only without a gun centre but a leader for the team.

While Izack Rodda led the side last season when Kerevi was rested under Rugby Australia's workload management plan ahead of the World Cup, it was decided a selection process would be put in place to decide the 2020 captain.

Head coach Brad Thorn, general manager of professional rugby Sam Cordingley and chief executive David Hanham were among a selection panel that also included Olympian and specialist high performance consultant Bo Hansen, who was involved in the recent review of the Wallabies' season.

Liam Wright on the charge against the Bulls in Pretoria. Photo: AFP

While the final decision was made by Thorn before ultimately being rubber-stamped by the Queensland Rugby Union board, it's understood that Wright performed exceptionally well in the interview process.

Thorn said Wright was a good fit for the group and a respected leader who would serve the team first.

"It was a hard decision, it wasn't an easy one where it was just, bang, to Liam, which was a good thing," he said.

"There's many emerging leaders in the group but he was the guy that we ended up with and it's a real honour for Liam and his family - you think of all the captains for Queensland over the years - and I'm proud for him and pleased for him and so's the team."

Wright said he was ready to captain the side, having played alongside most of his teammates for several years now.

"I've played with these boys for a long time and done a lot of training with them and I'm really happy to have their support and I think that's quite necessary for them to back me for me to do my job to the best of my potential," he said.

That support has been there since the popular flanker's appointment was made known to his teammates just before Christmas.

"We went through a pretty big process this year, so there were a lot of things to tick off and boxes to tick, so when Thorny told me, I was just incredibly proud, there's a really rich history in Queensland rugby, so I was really proud for me and my family and I'm really stoked and excited to take this group forward."

He may have grown up dreaming of wearing the green and gold - but for South African-born Wright, those initial rugby heroes were the Springboks rather than the Wallabies.

But in moving to Queensland with his family at age seven, the former Churchie student became a diehard Reds fan and is likely to be full of pride if given the chance to lead his state.

Just 22, Wright is not without leadership experience.

The backrower, who made his Test debut in the Bledisloe cauldron at Eden Park in Auckland last year, led Queensland to an U20 title under Thorn in 2017, as well as captaining Queensland Country against Fijian Drua during their National Rugby Championship title-winning campaign later that year.

Wright was called into camp by the Wallabies that year, playing against the Barbarians and taking part in the Spring Tour as a development player.

He made his Super Rugby debut the following season, and in a breakout 2019, was an ironman for the Reds, starting every match and missing just 12 minutes of play in the entire season.

While there will be no official vice-captain named, Wright will be supported by a leadership group that's likely to include Rodda, back Bryce Hegarty and former Brumbies flyer Henry Speight, the only man in the Reds' squad over the age of 30.

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