Super Rugby: How long can Richard Graham last?

I have written before on this blog about the performance of the Queensland Reds this season and my regular lament has been about the seeming drop in skills and discipline in the team during the 2014 season. Yet again last night we saw a Queensland Reds outfit that was ill disciplined both in attack and defence; viz, yet again the Reds were prone to make a mistake in almost every key moment and were punished for it by a workmanlike and consistent Force outfit.

Obviously the team has been decimated by injury but this is not the first time the skills gap between the Reds and an opponent has been obvious. Indeed, the last time I wrote calling for the head of the coach the Reds were fielding an almost full strength line up including the team’s half stars, Genia and Cooper and on that occasion, against the Rebels, poor discipline and errors were the deciding factor in the game.

Additionally, last night’s game was another fixture in which the Reds highly vaunted forward pack was, frankly, completely dominated by an opposing pack. Make no mistake: this game was won by the Western Force in the exchanges in the forwards, particularly at the breakdown and in set piece play where the Reds lacked enthusiasm as well as technical precision.

Richard Graham was always going to be compared to Ewen McKenzie when he took over the stewardship of the Reds and the one key comparison I would make is the fact that from basically the same playing group that last year made the finals, Graham has produced a rabble whose skills fall far short of the level likely to challenge most teams in this competition currently. Injuries can take part of the blame as can the form of the players BUT a large part of the blame must rest with Richard Graham and his coaching group.

All of the words coming from the QRU have been that Richard Graham will be the coach of the Queensland Reds in 2015. I get that he has a contract that the Reds are keen to fulfil but based on the confluence of results and the type of rugby the Reds are / have played this year he must be close to having lost the confidence of team management on the one hand and the players on the other.

Absent a must improved performance next week, Queensland will, and this is the hardest admission a Queenslander can make, be thrashed by New South Wales next week at Lang Park. There can be no greater insult. If that happens then in my opinion Richard Graham’s tenure as Queensland Reds coach must considered by the QRU and brought to an end so that a fresh start can be made in 2015. Absent such a start I can not fathom how a team coached by Graham can or will improve on this year and that, as a Reds fan and a Wallaby fan, is a terrible position for the Reds and the Wallabies.

Postscript: The ongoing chase for James O’Connor’s signature, seemingly at the behest of Coach Graham does nothing to enhance my opinion of his coaching acumen. The fact is that O’Connor is a terrible influence, indeed a divisive one, on the dressing room and the last thing the Reds need is another injury prone winger (when he is not beset by scandal).

Queensland Reds: An ill disciplined rabble … Time to go Richard Graham

I have watched with a significant level of dismay as the 2014 Queensland Reds have fallen to their worst season since 2003 and, likely, the Australian conference wooden spoon.

I missed seeing last week’s destruction at the hands of the Crusaders live and this decided to hold my thoughts on the team and the season until watching the Reds live against the Rebels tonight.

A 30-27 loss, secured by a penalty in front of the posts for a professional foul, was the result as the Reds slumped to a sixth straight loss.

I was not sold on the appointment of Richard Graham when it happened and I have been more and more convinced as each week of this season of horror has passed that he is not the right man to lead the Reds. After tonight I am convinced that he must go now for the good of the franchise.

And here are 5 reasons why:

1. The Reds are the most poorly disciplined team in the competition

It can not be denied that the Reds are terrible when it comes to discipline on the field. They give away more penalties than any other team and, every week, they are losing games because of silly and ill disciplined penalties. It is just not good enough and, on the evidence of tonight, is just not improving!

2. As penetrative of a plastic spoon in attack: Swiss cheese in defence

I tweeted during the game that the Reds were as penetrative as a plastic spoon in attack this game and I do not resile from that. More concerning though is just how poor the Reds are in defence. Particularly on the fringes of the ruck, barely an attacking opportunity passes at the moment for the opposition without easy metres being made by them. The defence is feeble at best and school boy like at worst.

3. The team is not united

It stood out more than ever tonight that the team is not a united unit. After every try (certainly those at the Caxton End) scored by the Rebels the players either didn’t know what they were doing or immediately looked for others to blame for poor defending. If I can see it from section 533 then surely those close to the team must see it.

4. The fans are leaving in droves

The last time I saw a crowd, both in number and in attitude, at Lang Park lime the one that attended the game last night it was 2003 and the Reds were the laughing stock of the competition. The fans are talking with their feet and spending their cash elsewhere which the QRU simply can not afford.

5. This is the 2011/12 Force all over again

I have been working on a longer blog for some time comparing the 2014 Reds to the 2011/12 Force teams coached by Richard Graham and the comparisons are uncanny. Both teams were squads of quality players. The coaching staffs were the same. AND both teams were the worst disciplined and defensively in the competition.

The fact is that the buck for all of the above stops with the coaching staff and, for the good of both Queensland and Australian rugby, a change must be made and that change must be the coach (and his staff).

We all had such high hopes for this season and, I concede, there have been some injuries in the Reds lineup but there is no cogent reason why the squad that is sent out every week by the Reds at the moment should be playing like they are. Graham and Stiles must fall on the swords. To not do so will consign this season, and the next, to being ones in which the Reds have returned to being the also rans they last were in 2003.

PostScript: I love the Reds and I have been a fan of the team since I was in grade 8. I do not like criticising the team but at times it is a fans right to raise ones concerns with ones team. I will never shy away from that (despite criticism that I ought just shut up and support the team blindly and without rebuke).