‘Building genuine connections’: Reds test comfort levels as they embark on 'Reds to Regions' tour

Thu, 25/11/2021, 10:05 pm
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
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Building genuine connections

That has been the hallmark of coach Brad Thorn and the catalyst for their third 'Reds to Region'.

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Thorn has been influential in getting the program going, which has become an annual tradition at this stage since 2019 as the players, coaches and staff travel across the state.

This has been expanded to include members of the Super W squad and Vintage Reds, including James Horwill, Sean Hardman and Garrick Morgan.

Reds captain Liam Wright believes the experience is invaluable for both players and fans, out to show they represent the whole state, not just Brisbane.

“It builds on that philosophy of what it means to be a Queenslander we’ve been trying to build and show that we do care about our state,” Wright said.

“We get a lot of takers as Rugby players and living in Brisbane, we want to go out to the people we represent and show that we care and give back to them, spread the joy of Rugby as we look for those genuine connections.

“...Everyone understands it’s part of the philosophy of what it takes to be a Red and that involves giving back and helping others.

“When we wear that ‘Q’ on our jersey, we realise we represent the whole state, not Brisbane which we can be a bit localised sometimes. It’s something we’ve really enjoyed and know when the going gets tough, the Queenslanders we formed connections with will back us as we have over these past few days.”

Liam Wright believes it's crucial for the Reds to give back to the community as part of their 'Reds to Regions' Tour. Photo: Getty Images
Liam Wright believes it's crucial for the Reds to give back to the community as part of their 'Reds to Regions' Tour. Photo: Tom Primmer/QRU

This was shared by fellow flanker Fraser McReight, who has spent time working in the sugar cane fields in Townsville and Ingham along with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, appreciating the ability to step away from Rugby to understand how they can give back to the wider Queensland community.

“It’s always a big thing for the QRU. All staff, players coaches all get involved and I think it’s one of the best things QRU have put into place,” he believes.

“It’s great getting outside of Brisbane and getting involved in the community. I know our socials are going gangbusters and that just shows you what we get up to over these days.

“I think I can speak for the whole team when I say we really enjoy getting out here and meeting new people, seeing what they do and taking a step back from Rugby.

"Going to a country pub with them was pretty cool, you don’t get too many of them in Brisbane, so just being around here and seeing how vivid and active Rugby is Townsville is pretty cool.

“Coming out and doing what we’ve done over the past couple of days is definitely stepping out of our comfort zones and a lot of people aren’t used so it’s great to connect with new people who love their footy.”

Harry Wilson swimming with a croc as part of the 'Reds to Region' Tour. Photo: QRU/Tom Mitchell
Harry Wilson swimming with a croc as part of the 'Reds to Region' Tour. Photo: QRU/Tom Mitchell

Across the tour, the Reds split into 14 separate groups to visit 33 regional centres as they look to build genuine connections whilst testing themselves in unique experiences.

This was highlighted in Cairns where number eight Harry Wilson and outside back Jock Campbell were thrown into a pool with a 4.5-metre crocodile named 'Big Al'.

“That was surreal…I’ve never been more nervous in my life but it was a pretty cool experience,” Wilson said. “Me and Jock (Campbell) jumped in and there was a thick piece of glass between us and Big Al.

“It’s awesome to get up to Cairns and Port Douglas, see bits of Queensland we haven’t seen and it’s our turn to give back, we’re very lucky to come to a cool place like this.”

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Long gone are the bubble-strict hotels and accommodations players have become familiar with in the COVID-era, billeted across families in the region.

The trio of backrowers have been mainstays of the tour since its inception as they rose through the ranks and have relished the chance to inspire a new generation of Reds.

“I was one of the boys who always wanted to see a professional footballer and play footy so to come up here and give back, hopefully inspire some new Rugby players,” Wilson said.

“It’s really cool billeting up here. You get to know a couple of the families in a really good way. We want to do it the proper way, we don’t want to stay in hotel rooms which we usually do so it’s nice to meet new families and have some home-cooked meals which is nice.

“It’s very generous for them to open up their houses to us and let us in,” Wright added.

“It just shows we care and building those connections, sharing some stories and learning what it’s like for them out there. Hopefully passing some Rugby on as well.”

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