New Queensland Reds coach Nick Stiles believes he can help the beleaguered franchise turn things around quickly and win Super Rugby’s Australian conference next year.
Stiles has been appointed the Reds’ full-time head coach, having shared the position on an interim basis with Matt O’Connor since round two this season.
The former Wallabies prop spent his entire playing career at Ballymore and has been on the books of the Reds as an assistant for the past six years.
Stiles will take charge of a squad laden with plenty of promising young players – many of whom he has had a direct hand in developing.
And some of the squad have depth of experience, such as incoming recruits Stephen Moore, George Smith and almost certainly Quade Cooper.
While the Reds haven’t made the finals since 2013, Stiles believes there’s no reason why that can’t change immediately.
“The most important thing for us next year is we win our conference,” Stiles told reporters on Tuesday.
“If you do that it means you’re playing finals football and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Stiles beat out O’Connor, who has been released to pursue other head coaching opportunities, outgoing Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder and former England mentor Stuart Lancaster for the position.
He was also warmly endorsed by the Reds playing group and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who said he will serve as a mentor for Stiles going forward.
“It’s an area we’re looking to invest a lot more in, coaching around the country at all levels that flow into players playing at their best either for their state, province or the nation,” Cheika said.
“With Nick taking over there … I’m sure he’s going to step up and do that really well and he’ll have all of our support in the background so that they can be successful, as do all the Super Rugby teams.”
Stiles, who coached back-to-back National Rugby Championship titles with Brisbane City, concedes the Reds have a mountain of work to do to become a Super Rugby force again.
Top of the agenda is improving Queensland’s ball skills, and instrumental to that is the Australian Rugby Union’s appointment of former All Blacks guru Mick Byrne as national skills coach.
“I first spoke to Mick Byrne a couple of months ago, we had a good chat in the stands (at Ballymore) watching the Wallabies train,” Stiles said.
“From that, it was really pleasing to talk to him and discover we’ve got very similar passions around that individual skill focus and having Mick on board and based here at Ballymore is going to be a great asset to have.”