Super Rugby Teams of the Decade: Championship-winners star in Queensland Reds XV
As we inch closer to the New Year, the time to reflect upon the past decade of rugby is upon us.
Between 2010 and 2019, fans have been treated to a plethora of quality football, and that is no different for Super Rugby, despite the controversies that have been associated with its format and competitiveness in recent years.
Many world-class players have come and gone from the southern hemisphere’s premier club competition throughout the decade, so it only seems right to honour each franchise’s contribution to the tournament over the past 10 years by attempting to name their best XV over that period.
Continue reading below…
Here, we have the Queensland Reds, who have struggled to find any consistency since their 2011 title winning campaign under the guidance of Ewen McKenzie and the brilliance of Quade Cooper and Will Genia.
A finals appearance in 2013 remains their last campaign of note and the Queensland franchise has struggled to regain their title with both coaching and personnel changes.
Reds Team of the Decade
1 – James Slipper
Starting out the front row is James Slipper and the only member to not have a spot in the 2011 Championship winning side.
Slipper was long touted as a player of potential and in 2009 he won the U20 Australia player of the year. He followed up these individual successes by being part of the Queensland Reds side in 2010 and tasted finals three times in four years.
Slipper is a prop of supreme work rate and has the deft hands of an inside back which has often allowed him to be a ball player within the forward back himself.
Slipper played over 100 games for the Reds and captained the side only multiple occasions as well as representing his country 96 times.
Rivalled by Ben Daley for this position.
2 – Saia Fainga’a
Saia Fainga’a was part of the hooking revolution, with the modern day hookers posing as third flankers by having the ability to compete at the breakdown.
Saia was no different and this ability allowed the 2011 team to play a larger forward pack as Fainga’a added extra mobility.
Having represented Queensland for most of the decade, his selection in the team of the decade is a no brainer.
3 – Greg Holmes
Holding down the tighthead prop position is Queensland Rugby stalwart Greg Holmes. Holmes has a list of achievements for the Queensland franchise, including a title in 2011 and the second most capped player of all time for the side.
Holmes provided Queensland a solid platform for a number of years with his tidy all round play and technical scrummaging prowess.
Holmes was under pressure in this side by the Tongan Thor, aka Taniela Tupou, however Holmes’ longevity has meant he claims his spot over the current Wallaby.
4 – James Horwill (c)
Standing at an imposing 6ft 7 and 118kgs, James Horwill embodied a previous generation and brought old fashioned passion, toughness and leadership to a young side.
His fearless leadership and uncompromising attitude attracted key roles at a young age and Horwill led his state to a Super Rugby Title in 2011. Such an attitude often ruffled feathers both in the media and of opposition sides as Horwill’s temper and aggressive manner took over.
A proud Queenslander, Horwill represented his state on more than 116 occasions.
Now retired, Horwill went on to represent his country as captain as well as moving to English club Harlequins later in his career.
5 – Isaak Rodda
A controversial selection in the team of the decade, Isaak Rodda pips Queensland veteran and current NSW Waratah Rob Simmons.
Rodda has shown in his short career to date that he has the ability to dominate a game from the locking position, something many international quality locks struggle to do.
He has continued to grow into his role, both physically and within the side and may well become the team’s captain in 2020.
Rodda has been capped 21 times by the Wallabies at just 23 years of age.
One of the best things about a post-World Cup season of @SuperRugby is all the talented new players coming through. @ChiefsRugby lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi is just one of said players. https://t.co/NEmxtcnjko
— Tom Vinicombe (@TomVinicombe) December 19, 2019
6 – Scott Higginbotham
A fan favourite who holds the most Super Rugby tries by a forward, Scott Higginbotham has always had a place for the Reds, returning for a second stint in 2018.
After playing third XV at school and wanting to become a professional surfer, Higginbotham finally found his niche in rugby after school.
A character on and off the field, he endeared himself to fans with his free flowing and abrasive style and captained the side on his return.
Between his two stints in red, Higginbotham played an influential role in the Melbourne Rebels set-up as well as spending 4 years as part of the NEC Green Rockets in Japan.
In obtaining the blindside flanking role, Higginbotham beat out former teammate and fellow 2011 championship winner Beau Robinson as well as up-and-comer Liam Wright.
7 – Liam Gill
Gill debuted for Queensland at the tender age of just 19 and in his very first season tasted championship glory. The now 27-year-old is a tailor made open side flanker; 6ft tall and around 100kg’s, he has the ability to be a lineout option as well as being superbly talented over the ball.
Was always touted for higher honours, however struggled in a generation with both Michael Hooper and David Pocock. Don’t be surprised to see him in Australian colours in 2023.
8 – Radike Samo
A man reborn in Red, Radike Samo originally arrived in Queensland as injury cover for captain James Horwill.
He soon impressed with his 120kg frame and became a mainstay of Queensland and Australian rugby for two seasons, all at the age of 35.
After debuting for the Brumbies in 2000, Samo became somewhat of rugby journeyman, travelling the globe and seemingly travelling through the positions, starting on the wing and moving as far in as lock.
He eventually amassed 33 Reds caps and 23 Wallabies games across 11 years.
9 – Will Genia
A must pick at halfback, Genia began a decade of rugby for Queensland that was based on fast, free flowing, attacking rugby.
His ability to create something from nothing as well as outstanding support play made him a coach’s dream and an opponent’s nightmare.
A prodigious talent at rugby nursery Brisbane Boys College, Genia debut came in 2008 and higher honours soon followed, debuting for the Wallabies in 2009.
In 2012 it was rumoured he had signed for the Western Force however it wasn’t to be as Genia resided in Queensland until 2015.
10 –Quade Cooper
Quade Cooper is arguably Queensland’s greatest player of all time and one of the greatest of the modern era.
An enigma of a talent, Cooper became a professional rugby player at just 17 after signing a deal in his final year of schooling and becoming a Queensland Red in weeks.
Cooper burst onto the scene with a hot step and a jump but the rest of his game still had more development left.
His early years at the club saw little success and this saw Cooper seek for a release at the end of the 2009. Luckily for Reds fans, coach McKenzie tempted him to stay and brought the best out of him through an attacking style which allowed Cooper to flourish.
A natural runner of the ball, Cooper was able to add a strong kicking game with strong game management in the championship-winning 2011 season, becoming the competition’s highest point scorer.
In the later part of the decade, Quade’s injuries meant he no longer had the flashy brilliance and the side’s deterioration coincided with a drop in form.
He was later forced out of the club and moved to the Melbourne Rebels.
This team’s spiritual leader and goal kicker.
11 – Digby Ioane
The originator of the post-try ‘turtle’ celebration, Digby Ioane was a playmaker’s dream. He had a sixth sense for the ball and often came off his wing on the inside or outside shoulders of Genia or Cooper, offering them a fast-paced alternative.
Ioane and Cooper had a particularly tight connection and Queensland fans will remember tries from their own in-goals, cross-field kicks and trick shots which the pair would star in.
Ioane was capped for Queensland 66 times across five seasons, with three of these being this decade. After leaving Queensland he spent time in both France and Japan and will play his final season in America’s Major League Rugby competition.
12 – Samu Kerevi
2019 Reds captain Samu Kerevi is perfect foil for this Queensland team of the decade, with creative players inside him and defensive solidity outside allowing him to do what he does best; attack.
In what really is a metaphoric rise, Kerevi played 2nd XV at school and a year later went on to represent his country of birth, Fiji, at the U20 World Championship.
A development contract at the Reds followed and a debut came in 2014 after demanding selection through bullocking performances for the GPS Rugby Club.
Kerevi led the competition in 2019 in tackle breaks and showed this form throughout his time in Queensland, often being the focal point of all attacking play. In 2019 he showed his quality on the international stage too after beating out fellow centres Tevita Kurindrani and James O’Connor to be a mainstay in the Wallabies.
In what is a massive loss for Australian Rugby, Kerevi has signed to play in Japan for 2020 and beyond, ruling him ineligible to play for the Wallabies. Many pundits and fans have been calling for this rule change and Kerevi’s availability is one that will be sought after for a very long time.
13 – Anthony Fainga’a
Often forgotten, Anthony Fainga’a was a crucial element for the dominance the Reds had early in the decade with an almighty presence in defence.
Fainga’a not only had a strong tackle technique but also defensive vision, often underestimated in today’s game. This allowed him to provide cover for the likes of Will Chambers and Quade Cooper to attack at will.
From Canberra, Anthony joined twin brother Saia in moving to the Reds at the beginning of the decade and went on to represent Queensland on 90 occasions as well as 23 Wallabies tests, including a World Cup campaign in 2011.
14 – Jordan Petaia
Despite spending most of his time in Queensland colours at outside centre, Petaia starts as the youngest member to debut.
At just 19 years old, Petaia has shown a full range of skills that could potentially make him a world-class back; speed, power, balance and composure.
Petaia was spotted starring for the Brisbane State High School’s 1st XV at just 16 and immediately became a fixture in Queensland development sides.
Petaia has already represented the Wallabies and actually missed selection for the Junior Wallabies due to his importance to the Reds.
Has genuine X-factor ability.
15 – Luke Morahan
Rounding out the backline is classy fullback Luke Morahan.
Morahan represented the Reds from 2009-2013 and not only provided defensive solidity but also the skill to break a game open. This was never clearer than the British and Irish Lions tour match in 2013 where Morahan skipped past 7 defenders to score. Seriously, you need to watch it back to believe it.
Having represented the Australian sevens side at the Commonwealth Games, Morahan was part of the Reds’ dominant period in Australian rugby and became a fixture in the later part of his Reds career before moving to the Force in 2014.
He now plies his trade for the table topping Bristol Bears in the Championship.
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