'Play hard, show respect': new Red Speight set for emotional Canberra homecoming

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

It was his footballing base for nine seasons and remains the place in Australia he still calls home.

So Henry Speight knows it will be emotional when he runs out in Canberra on Friday night - but this time without a Brumbies jersey on his back.

Speight signed with the Reds late last year and learnt before he even left the capital that his first game in a maroon jersey would be back in Canberra.

"The schedule came out and it was just a bit of a funny feeling seeing the first game was up against the Brumbies and back down in Canberra," he said.

"That was weird finding out when I was still living in Canberra as well."

Speight, wife Louise and son Josefa have since made the move to Brisbane and after successful off-season knee surgery to remove a floating bone fragment, Speight made his return to the field in Dalby on Friday night, donning the Reds jersey for the first time.

But he knows it will be a different feeling on Friday, when Super Rugby points are on the line in a clash between the two teams considered favourites for the Australian conference.

"It is home for me, Canberra and it's got a very special place in my heart - not only for me but more importantly, for my family back in Fiji - but also the community down there which really embraced me and gave me a sense of belonging," he said.

"I've got a lot of respect for the organisation and a lot of good friends and brothers in that team.

"If selected, the only way to pay the respect (due) is to play the best I can against them and in front of the Canberra community and also play my part for Queensland.

"I'll wear the jersey with pride and pay my utmost respect to the opposition and the community by playing my best on the day."

Speight admitted he was likely to be emotional before kick-off.

"A little bit, I guess so. There's nothing to shy away from there," he said.

"I'm very passionate and I feel it is home for me. But the only way I can repay respects to the club and the community that's given so much to my family is to perform at my best. Anything short of that is just not going to do you anyone justice."

Speight, wife Louise and son Josefa moved to Brisbane in the off-season after the 31-year-old inked a two-year deal with Queensland last year.

"It was a very tough decision that had to be made with the mind and not the heart," he said of leaving Canberra.

"In saying that, I'm very grateful for the past nine seasons I've had with the Brumbies.

"It's allowed me to set myself up, set my family up and literally have that opportunity at life.

"At the end of the day, it's a business and a decision had to be made by the Brumbies and I fully respect it.

"I'm very, very grateful to be offered a place here and to come in and be embraced as just one of the boys, it was just very easy for me to come in and integrate."

He has embraced that lifestyle, recently introducing Josefa to his great-grandfather for the first time, with four generations of Speight men together in Brisbane - an opportunity that was unlikely to be open to him in Canberra.

"My son met his great-grandfather two weeks ago for the first time and it was pretty special to have four generations of Speights in one living room," he said of Josefa spending time with grandfather Samsoni and 89-year-old great-grandfather Sam.

"My sister and her family came over yesterday and spent the weekend with us - just little things like that we wouldn't have had the luxury of that in Canberra.

"We made a decision to come up based on being around family and also we respected the Brumbies decision and what was best for us off the back of that."

The Brumbies pushed through to the Super Rugby semis last year, turning their season around after being beaten by the Reds in a Suncorp Stadium furnace.

But Speight knows a strong start is crucial with the Reds playing their first three matches on the road this season - the trip to Canberra followed by games in South Africa and Argentina.

"It is three big games on the road and if we can start off on a good note this weekend, it'll put us in good stead for this big tour around the world," he said.

"It's a short season and there's no place for being complacent because if we can start well, that will put us in good stead for the end of the season when one or two points either way makes a massive difference."