The end of a nightmare Super Rugby season will bring no relief for the Queensland Reds, according to coach Richard Graham.
The Reds will end a campaign they’d rather forget when they face the NSW Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.
Amidst all the fanfare surrounding the impending departures of club greats James Horwill and Will Genia, there has barely been a thought that Saturday’s clash could also be the last for Graham, who is waiting on the results of an organisation-wide review that will decide his fate.
If he had it his way, though, he’d be back at Ballymore next week plotting Queensland’s way out of the mire.
“It’s been difficult, and it’s been difficult for all the reasons that have been pretty well documented,” Graham said on Thursday.
“But I would come back next Saturday and do it again, I would start again next week.
“That competitive desire should be within each of us to right what we probably haven’t got right this year.”
In all likelihood his future has probably been decided, but Graham said “every win helps” in his push to earn a contract extension.
“A review’s running its course at the moment and for me, I’m not overly concerned about my own situation,” he said.
“I’m concerned that the team gets a good result this weekend.
“Generally speaking, those other things tend to look after themselves on the back of that.”
The Reds have made just one change ahead of their meeting with the Super Rugby title-holders, who handed Queensland a 23-5 belting at Suncorp Stadium back in round 4.
Chris Kuridrani comes into the side and replaces winger Chris Feauai-Sautia (concussion), while Graham has named an extended 10-man bench with two players to be omitted prior to kick-off.
The irony of his squad’s suddenly-settled nature is not lost on Graham or the Reds, who have been bashed from pillar to post with injuries this year but find themselves fit, firing and at full-strength with only one game left.
Graham revealed he called on the oratory skills of coaching consultant John Connolly to address the playing group earlier in the week and emphasise the importance of any match that pits Queensland against NSW.
Saturday’s game is the 300th meeting between the two, and Connolly took them through the entire history of the rivalry and what it means to be a Red.
“I really thought that struck a chord,” Graham said.
“I sat in a lot of those team talks being involved in the 90s … (he’s) really calm, but at the same time quite emotional.
“Anyone that was in the room would have enjoyed his understanding of it but the pride and passion that comes with being involved within Queensland rugby.
“At the same time there’s a last opportunity we have to leave a lasting impression this weekend on our teammates, our supporters, on the competition.”
Reds: James O’Connor, Chris Kuridrani, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Lachie Turner, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Adam Thomson, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, James Hanson, James Slipper. Res: Saia Fainga’a, Pettowa Paraka, Sam Talakai, Ed O’Donoghue, Beau Robinson, Hendrik Tui, Nick Frisby, Jake McIntyre, Ben Tapuai, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi (two to be omitted).