Super Rugby preview
Reds major contenders with Genia, Cooper
Greg Growden and ESPN Staff
February 14, 2013
Reds scrum-half Will Genia prepares to pass, Queensland Reds training session, Northwood School, Durban, South Africa, March 14, 2012
The Reds face uncertainty over Will Genia as he returns from a knee injury. © Getty Images
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The Reds retain a strong squad, but Greg Growden says their hopes will always lay with the performance of their star playmakers.

Last season: qualifying finals, first in Australian Conference; the Reds somehow found themselves in the finals after the Brumbies bombed in the final round. Equally surprising was the manner in which they were outplayed by the Sharks in the home final at Suncorp Stadium.

Key man: Quade Cooper was pivotal to the Reds' irrepressible charge to the 2011 title, and Queensland unbeaten in five to steal a finals berth from the Brumbies after he returned from injury in 2012. The Reds boasted only a 6-6 win-loss record without their fly-half in 2012, including the home final defeat by the Sharks, and they certainly looked more stilted in his absence.

Rising star: Touted as a "next big thing", Chris Feauai-Sautia lived up to the hype during his maiden Super Rugby season, scoring two tries, making nine tackle busts and three linebreaks, and averaging 11 metres per run. The Auckland native, a 181cm, 92kg winger, has experienced substantial hamstrings issues but he can make a big impression if he remains on the pitch.

Season preview: The Reds retain an incredibly strong squad - the strongest and most stable in the Australian Conference - and they remain the benchmark side in the Australian Conference.

Greg Growden's verdict: There were enormous doubts a few months ago over how the Reds would fare, due to uncertainty over Will Genia's then unknown return from his major knee injury. But Genia should be around reasonably soon and, with Ben Lucas a capable backup, the Reds are again a threat. The Reds will pray that Quade Cooper does not get his head smacked during a boxing bout, and that he also keeps his mouth shut after his brain explosion in letting fly at Robbie Deans. Cooper's involvement is imperative for the Reds, and Ewen McKenzie will probably have to physically gag him.

Tip: First in the Australian conference. Finish: Third overall.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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