Queensland Reds lock Cadeyrn Neville says a Super Rugby win over the Western Force on Saturday night would go a long way towards quelling growing supporter angst.
But Neville also admitted a loss would give their detractors another excuse to “put the knife in” following their heavy opening-round defeat.
Predictions of a long, tough season ahead for the rebuilding Reds appear to be on the money in the wake of the 30-10 loss to the NSW Waratahs at the weekend, while speculation over embattled coach Richard Graham has renewed after his key ally Rod McCall stepped down last week as Queensland Rugby Union chairman.
“It’s one way or the other,” Neville said of Saturday’s clash at Suncorp Stadium.
“You get a win at home and you’re going to please a lot of people.
“If you don’t, a lot of people are going to continue to put the knife in.”
Neville said there were at least some positives that could be drawn out of an undermanned Queensland’s performance in Sydney.
For instance, a tighthead scrum win with a seven-man pack, as stand-in skipper Rob Simmons sat in the sin-bin for repeated infringements in the first half, served as clear evidence of increased effort when compared with the low points of a dire 2015 campaign.
“That’s a pretty good indication of the spirit in the group, at least,” he said.
“You certainly can’t doubt the effort and the fight from the boys, even at times when we were getting points scored against us.
“We’ve just got to tidy up and be a bit more skilful.”
The Reds will get none of their experienced injured brigade back on Saturday, with Liam Gill (back) to miss the next three weeks and James Slipper (shoulder) and Kane Douglas (knee) not expected to return until deep into the season, if at all in Douglas’ case.
But gun Japanese import Ayumu Goromaru appears set to be handed his first start against the Force, with Karmichael Hunt to be shifted to the centres to replace Henry Taefu, whose Super Rugby debut was spoiled by an ankle injury.