The Growden Report
Thomson and Harris speak with coalface actions
Greg Growden
February 23, 2015
Reds 18-6 Force (video available in Australia only)

The major cross-code names will always generate the biggest headlines and the most interest whenever they join the rugby ranks. Remember the brouhaha when Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers moved across from rugby league. And for completely different reasons, rugby has in recent days discovered itself splashed all over the front and back of everything due to Karmichael Hunt.

However - as shown yet again during Super Rugby's second round - the best and most valuable rugby signings remain those with proven experience in the game, and who are reliable, smart, versatile and happy to operate under the PR radar.

After Queensland Reds had found themselves at the bottom of a cesspool due to their major recruit facing served notice to appear in court in relation to an investigation into cocaine trafficking, thankfully their other key signing got them out of the mire by revitalising the team and producing a win when least expected on Saturday night. In just one appearance, Adam Thomson has proven his worth to the Reds.

Despite the Karmichael Hunt drama, Adam Thomson lead the Reds to their opening win © Getty Images

When it was revealed the former All Blacks back-rower was heading to Brisbane this year, the news did not get anywhere near the publicity that came when it was announced that Hunt was now a Red after notable stints in the NRL and AFL. But for those in the know, Thomson's signing was regarded as being as crucial as Hunt.

Hunt had great 'get punters clicking those turnstiles' value, but Thomson was exactly what the Reds wanted. They may have the names up front, but the Reds pack for the past season or so has been soft. Their back row was often anonymous with the tight five just going through the motions; and with it came a considerable slide down the Super Rugby ladder. Their 2011 title triumph now seems so long ago.

The Reds desperately needed someone well drilled in the mechanics of up-front maneuverings, and who better than a Test player who has been a winner with the most clinical, intelligent, fastidious of rugby outfits - the All Blacks. Apart from being so focused on the importance on forward play, the All Blacks are attuned to performing when everything is toppling around them. The Reds were certainly in that position in the lead-up to the Force match.

The week before, they were rightfully accused by Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham of not being up to Super Rugby standard when beaten 47-3 in Canberra. This was followed by the Hunt cocaine revelation, prompting line-up changes, and doubts whether the Force game would even go ahead due to Cyclone Marcia. Then just before kick-off, their No 10 James O'Connor was forced out due to knee problems, prompting reserve half-back Nick Frisby to be shunted into the playmaker role.

What a fiasco. Somehow the Reds overcame all these setbacks, and with Thomson's input defeated the Force where least expected - up front. They scrummed the Force out of the game - a monumental effort considering James Horwill and James Slipper were both early Reds casualties that saw the rest immediately take up the slack, in particular tight-head prop Sam Talakai, who was an excellent anchor. As well Thomson was constantly sighted - winning lineouts, taking the midfield charge, offering instructions to team-mates, working effectively around the breakdown; he had a presence.

The Rebels' Mike Harris celebrates his side's win in Christchurch, Crusaders v Rebels, February 13, 2015
A recent recruit for the Rebels, Harris was an integral part in the Rebels win over the Crusaders in the opening round © Getty Images

Another New Zealander with presence is Mike Harris, who this season has moved from the Reds to the Rebels. Like Thomson, he has quickly provided worth at his new province.

Harris, who moved to Australia several years ago and has appeared in the Wallabies colours, provides real value for money. He can play in a multitude of positions, is a reliable goal kicker, never appears to be under pressure, and understands his role in a team environment. Like Adam Ashley-Cooper at Wallabies level, Harris is a band-aid man, covering problematic spots in the backline.

In his first two matches, Harris has been sighted at fullback and at No.10 for the Rebels, and he was a key figure in them beating the Crusaders in Christchurch, and coming close to defeating the other 2014 Super Rugby finalists in Melbourne last Friday night. He is not overwhelmed by who is in front of him - a considerable asset in a lineup that has its fair share of rawness.

Thomson and Harris won't generate publicity-grabbing back-page headlines with their actions; but at the Reds and Rebels, they provide a far more treasured asset - a solid, concrete base.

That's priceless.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.