The Queensland Reds today announced a 32-man squad for 2022 but with the most important piece missing...a name for the head coach.
No one need to get jumpy. New deals for head coach Brad Thorn and assistants Jim McKay (attack) and Michael Todd (defence) are at the advanced stage to lock in stability at the top.
Thorn was only on a single-year deal for 2021 but a new multi-season contract will take him into a realm only inhabited by the late Bob Templeton and John Connolly.
The former All Blacks hardman has been in charge of the Reds for four seasons just like title-winning Ewen McKenzie (2010-13) and the late Jim Kenny (1972-75).
His next deal will make him that true “long-term Queensland coach” which was always the moniker for Templeton and Connolly, who both coached the state for more than a decade.
Reds skipper Liam Wright signed a new one-season deal in July so he’s always known what the 2022 landscape would look like.
“All indications are the whole coaching team is pretty close to putting pen to paper,” flanker Wright said.
“We’re really excited to have them committed to us and what that means for the consistency of the whole program. They are a great team, great people and we’ve been working together in recent times to keep improving our game.
“It’s where I want to be and a program I 100 per cent want to be part of to take on 2022.”
Wright does have one coaching puzzle piece signed off. His Easts’ club have secured former Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen as head coach for 2022.
Twenty of the 31 Reds players retained from this season had already secured their future at Ballymore ahead of next season.
The remaining 11 players have all recently re-signed. Wright and backrow partner Angus Scott-Young are on board for 2022. Young backline prospects Mac Grealy, Kalani Thomas, Isaac Henry, Ilaisa Droaese and Lawson Creighton have inked deals as have forwards Dane Zander, Feao Fotuaika, Richie Asiata and Seru Uru.
The only new player in that group of 32 is Tom Lynagh, the teenaged son of Wallabies great Michael Lynagh.
The young flyhalf, signed for 2022-23, will officially join the Reds for pre-season training in September with skills grooved at the Harlequins Academy in London.
Ninety per cent of the initial 32-squad has come through a Queensland rugby pathway, be it the Reds Academy, Queensland Under-18s, Under-19s or Under-20s, Premier Rugby or the state’s two now-defunct National Rugby Championship teams.
“Our pathways shine right through this squad when you have 31 of the 32 players returning for 2022 and Tom Lynagh on his way,” Wright said.
“There’s been a reshaping of Queensland rugby over the past few years. There’ll be 10 or 11 50-gamers in the squad next season which says a lot about the way young guys are coming through.”
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Three Reds players are being farewelled.
Wallabies hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa is heading to French club Montpellier, utility back Bryce Hegarty has been signed by English club Leicester and halfback Moses Sorovi has linked with the Melbourne Rebels.
There is still huge incentive for club rugby’s best with further signings certain from clubs involved in the semi-finals at Ashgrove on Saturday and Sunday.
University of Queensland youngster Thomas will have an absorbing duel at halfback against former Wallaby Joe Powell in Saturday’s 3pm semi-final against Brothers.
On Sunday, halfback James Tuttle (knee) and lock Tuaina Taii Tualima (stress fracture) are both out for GPS, who meet Wests in the second knock-out semi at Ashgrove.
Queensland Reds Squad Richie Asiata – Easts
Angus Blyth – Bond University
Jock Campbell – University of Queensland
Lawson Creighton – Brothers
Filipo Daugunu – Wests
Ilaisa Droasese – Wests
Josh Flook – Brothers
Feao Fotuaika – Sunnybank
Mac Grealy – University of Queensland
Isaac Henry – Wests
Harry Hoopert – Brothers
Tom Lynagh – TBC
Alex Mafi – Bond University
Tate McDermott – University of Queensland
Fraser McReight – Brothers
Josh Nasser – University of Queensland
Zane Nonngorr – Bond University
James O'Connor – Brothers
Hunter Paisami – Wests
Jordan Petaia – Wests
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths
Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland
Ryan Smith – Brothers
Hamish Stewart – Brothers
Kalani Thomas – University of Queensland
Tuaina Taii Tualima - GPS
Taniela Tupou – Brothers
Seru Uru – Easts
Suliasi Vunivalu – Wests
Harry Wilson – Brothers
Liam Wright – Easts
Dane Zander – Norths