Karmichael Hunt reckons it’s “chalk and cheese” comparing the new-look Queensland Reds with the Super Rugby strugglers of the last few years.
The Reds made an encouraging start to their new era under coach Nick Stiles at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens, narrowly losing their quarter-final 12-10 to the Chiefs on Sunday.
They started strongly and were up at half-time courtesy of a spectacular Samu Kerevi try.
But second-half yellow cards to Taniela Tupou and Leroy Houston meant far too much open space at Suncorp Stadium for the Chiefs to exploit, and the advantage helped them work their way back into the contest.
One of Queensland’s better performers across the two-day tournament in his comeback from injury, Hunt said there was a positive mood in the team as they shift their attention to Tuesday’s final pre-season clash against the Melbourne Rebels at Ballymore.
“It’s chalk and cheese, definitely to the last couple of years,” Hunt said.
“The boys are really just enjoying themselves.
“We’re putting in a lot of hard work and everyone’s standing up and wanting to be counted for. Stilesy’s obviously encouraged that.”
Hunt said he was relieved to be back playing for the first time since May last year, when he was sidelined by a serious groin injury.
“It’s good to be back. It’s been a while,” he said.
“Obviously it’s been a long pre-season for me, I’ve had the groin surgically fixed up over the break and it’s just been a tough slog in this heat.”
Stiles, meanwhile, hailed his eight-man team for the character they showed in not being blown away by the Chiefs.
“Defence is built on heart, on character, and if you’ve watched the Reds play in the last couple of years we’ve struggled in the defensive area,” he said.
The Reds will go close to fielding a full-strength team against the Rebels but Stiles said it was unlikely veteran recruit George Smith, who has just returned from the Japanese Top League, will play.
“Someone who’s won every trophy in the world and played as many games as he has, do we need to push him out in a trial? I’m not too sure. I’m pretty keen to give Adam Korczyk a go in the back row,” Stiles said.