Departing Queensland Reds star Liam Gill says the team owe it to their long-suffering fanbase – and themselves – to throw everything they have at the Melbourne Rebels in Friday night’s Super Rugby season closer.
Workhorse flanker Gill is one of a number of players, including veteran prop Greg Holmes, who are set to farewell the club after the match, with the fringe Wallaby forward to play in France next year with Top 14 club Toulouse.
Despite the departures, the future for the Reds looks pretty bright – several promising youngsters, like the ‘Tongan Thor’ Taniela Tupou, have been successfully blooded this year and will be complimented by veteran recruits George Smith and Stephen Moore, who will add vital experience to the squad when they arrive for 2017.
But Gill said it was vital they headed into the Super Rugby off-season on the back of a victory over the Rebels to give them some semblance of momentum after yet another barren year.
“We’ve got to prove a lot, not only to ourselves, but our fans,” says Gill, who will serve as acting captain in the absence of James Slipper (sternum).
“For us to move forward and find a bit of fight for next year, we’ve got to put out a good performance.”
Holmes, Queensland’s second-most capped player, is joining English Premiership side Exeter next year, while Curtis Browning (Lyon, France), Ben Daley (Western Force) and the Fainga’a brothers (Brumbies) will also bid farewell.
Gill admitted he was starting to feel “a little bit emotional” but, unlike the others, he’d probably be back at Ballymore soon enough.
It’s widely expected Gill will return to the Reds and make a renewed Wallabies push when his Toulouse contract expires – conveniently in 2019 – a World Cup year.
“There’s a lot of talk about that,” Gill said.
“As it stands, I’ll be gone for two years and then I’d love to see what happens moving forward.
“(But) there’s a lot of players we probably won’t ever see back at the club … the least we can do is throw everything at it and hopefully get the result.”
Both sides are still reeling from embarrassing defeats last weekend.
The Reds were smashed 50-5 at home by the Chiefs, while the Rebels – who regain Sean McMahon, Mitch Inman and Luke Jones this week from injury – copped a 85-26 shellacking away to the Crusaders.
Gill suggested the teams would approach Friday’s clash as if those results never happened.