Queensland Reds stand-in skipper Rob Simmons says the battling Super Rugby franchise must put in a performance their fans can be proud of when they return to Suncorp Stadium for the first time since the sacking of Richard Graham.
The winless Reds take on the Blues on Saturday night and Simmons said it is imperative they show clear evidence of the improvements made under interim co-coaches Matt O’Connor and Nick Stiles to their restless supporter base.
“A lot’s changed since then and we’ve got to come out and prove it,” Simmons told reporters on Friday.
The last time the Reds played at home, they were embarrassed 22-6 by the Western Force in front of an official crowd of just 17,533 that looked and felt like a lot less.
It was the trigger moment that led to Graham’s overdue axing but two weeks later, after some signs of life emerged in last weekend’s narrow loss away in Melbourne, Simmons said the Reds are now a different side with a new outlook.
“You can just put it under the umbrella of the feel of the group,” he said.
“The mood’s come up and even thought we didn’t win last week, the mood was a little bit better, which is a good start and it helps to move onto the next week. Around training, there’s a lot more clarity and the boys are willing to work hard.
“The key is, and you’ve seen this in a fair few codes – there’s a few changes around management and things like that, you come out and have one good performance, but then some clubs will drop back to what they were doing anyway.
“Our focus is to keep moving forward and trying to improve every week.”
Discipline has been the buzzword at Ballymore this week after the Reds coughed up eight kickable penalties to the Rebels, while a third player was sin-binned in as many weeks.
Another weak-willed display at home will be seized upon by the Blues, one of just two sides to finish below them on last year’s ladder.
But while the Auckland-based side might be in a similar rebuilding mode to the Reds, with their own coach Tana Umaga under pressure after a 1-3 start, they have far more firepower in attack and can turn it on in an instant.
“You can almost expect anything. They’re pretty electric all over the park,” Simmons said.
“We’ve got to be up in their face trying to pull them down quickly and make them work hard.”