The Queensland Reds are trying their darndest to balance a healthy optimism about their future with the overwhelming likelihood they will be Super Rugby cannon fodder this year.
But even stand-in captain Rob Simmons admits they’re not “kidding themselves’ as they prepare for their season opener against the NSW Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
The Reds go into the clash amid renewed speculation over the tenure of coach Richard Graham following the departure of one of his biggest boardroom backers, chairman Rod McCall, and perhaps with one of the weakest teams the franchise has fielded in recent memory.
A lower back stress fracture has put star flanker Liam Gill on the sidelines for the next month, where he joins Wallabies pair James Slipper and Kane Douglas, who are both out with long-term injuries.
That’s on the back of losing Quade Cooper, Will Genia, James Horwill, James O’Connor, James Hanson and Adam Thomson from last year’s side.
“We’re not kidding ourselves,” Simmons said.
“If you’re a gambling man, they’d have to be going in favourites.
“(We’ll be happy) as long as we can come out and learn something from this game and put a good performance in, and make our fans proud of what we’re putting out on the field.
“We’re a young team and we’re trying to build something. The results will come when we gain respect out of each other and do some good work together.”