Reds coach not fazed by poaching threat - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Reds coach not fazed by poaching threat

By Laine Clark 18/01/2010 08:34:23 PM Comments (0)

The threat of a poaching raid from new Super rugby franchise Melbourne does not frighten Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie.

In fact, not much makes the former Wallabies prop flinch ahead of his first season at the Reds' helm.

And it seems he will need his steely gaze in 2010.

He takes over a side that has not finished higher than third-last in their past four Super 14 campaigns.

Their season begins against three of the competition's big names - arch rivals NSW Waratahs, the Crusaders and the Blues, albeit all at home.

And speculation won't go away about the threat of new boys Melbourne to a Reds roster with more than 20 players off contract - or three-quarters of the squad.

But McKenzie appeared unfazed at the Reds' official launch in Brisbane on Monday - even when the MC attempted to interview the club's mute mascot Rusty T Koala.

"I have confidence in the program and what is going on," said McKenzie.

"Every year there are competitors trying to steal your players, nothing has changed.

"In the end the players will stick with the program they have confidence in.

"And from someone who has looked from outside the program, I know it is bloody hard to get a Queenslander to leave."

Not necessarily - if any team is anxious ahead of Melbourne's 2011 emergence it should be the Reds after losing the likes of Nathan Sharpe and Drew Mitchell to the Western Force.

Yet McKenzie saw the huge number of off-contract players as a positive.

"We are criticised about having a lot of players off contract, but being off contract means they have to play for their next contract - hopefully that brings the best out of our team," he said.

"I am pretty sure the motivation of our players is squarely on doing well for the Reds.

"Besides I need to see some of these guys play yet. I am interested in signing them on the long haul, not just because there is a threat down the road."

McKenzie - who coached NSW to the finals in three of his five years in the role - was quietly confident ahead of their tough introduction to 2010.

"What some people consider a tough start, I think is a good start," he said of the draw.

"Three home games against high quality teams - if you really want to make a statement about your season it is a good way to start."

He said the players had "exceeded expectations" in pre-season training ahead of their first trial against his former team, the Waratahs, in Lismore on Saturday.

He also officially welcomed their three newcomers - halfback Richard Kingi, ex-European-based flanker Lei Tomiki and league convert Will Chambers.

Kingi has been promoted from the Reds Academy to the senior squad after being a Wallabies tour bolter.

Queensland also play the Crusaders at Ballymore on January 29 and the Western Force in Perth on February 5 before their Super 14 opener against NSW at Suncorp Stadium on February 13.

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