Houston gets Qld Reds captaincy - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Houston gets Qld Reds captaincy

By Laine Clark 23/01/2009 09:40:18 PM Comments (0)

Once considered lost to rugby union, former Wallaby tourist Leroy Houston will add to his remarkable resurgence when he runs out as Reds captain in Queensland's opening pre-season trial against NSW on Saturday night.

Houston fills in for Reds interim skipper Berrick Barnes after Queensland coach Phil Mooney decided to rest his six-strong Wallabies contingent for the clash against the Waratahs at Toowoomba, west of Brisbane.

It may only be a pre-season opener, but it will mean so much more for the once troubled teenager.

By his own admission, Houston went "off the tracks" after being plucked from obscurity by then-Australian coach Eddie Jones for the 2005 Wallabies tour of Europe at just 18.

Making a national squad before earning a Super 14 berth following strong form for the Australian under-19 and under-21 sides, Houston couldn't handle the expectation upon his tour return and - quite simply - cracked.

The Kiwi-born No.8 succumbed to the pressure, got homesick, missed some NSW Waratahs training sessions and was cut by the Super 14 club in 2006.

By 2007, Houston was virtually washed up, running around playing park rugby league in Sydney and working as a water cooler deliverer after losing his NSW contract.

His 18-month sabbatical included playing for the Asquith Magpies in the Jim Beam Cup and delivering 600 15-litre water coolers in the Sydney CBD each day.

However, then-Reds coach Jones threw Houston a lifeline - and he didn't look back.

After accepting every challenge to date, Mooney said handing Houston extra responsibility was the next step in his remarkable rugby turnaround.

"This is a great opportunity for him. He did well for us last year (in his debut season)," Mooney said.

"We have handed him this extra opportunity and it would be great to see how he responds to that."

Mooney said the emphasis was now on players like Houston to step up in a young 2009 Reds squad which has 12 new faces.

"He came into the group last year having not played rugby for a couple of years and he did well," he said.

"We saw a need for him to get a lot fitter which he has done.

"And I think with our younger guys they have to pick up the slack.

"Now that we have lost a lot of experienced guys, this is the first step for Leroy.

"He has played for the Wallabies (on tour). He has played for Australia A and played Super 14 - he needs to be an on-field leader for us now."

The match will mark the professional rugby debut for new signing, ex-Canberra Raiders playmaker Mark McLinden.

The league convert will be hoping to step into the big shoes left behind by legendary Reds No.15 Chris Latham.

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