Hunt, O'Connor not enough to solve Reds' woes
August 28, 2014
James O'Connor (c) recently celebrated winning Toulon's opening fixture © Matt Giteau/Instagram
The Queensland Reds will on Friday night unveil James O'Connor and Karmichael Hunt as their blue-chip recruits for 2015.
Rugby's worst-kept secrets will be revealed together at the Reds' Gala Ball at the Brisbane Convention Centre, but diehard fans will be hoping for more.
Although O'Connor and Hunt, neither of whom will be in attendance, represent the franchise's biggest recruitment announcement since Super Rugby kicked off in 1996, Queensland can't fix the problems that plagued them this season with two outside backs.
The Reds sorely lacked a line-busting back-rower as they endured their worst campaign in five years by finishing third last with a 5-11 record. The hope of luring, or unearthing, a rampaging loose forward that breaks games open like Scott Higginbotham and Jacques Potgieter is what remains for Queensland's fan-base.
Queensland chief executive Jim Carmichael may well have one trick left up his sleeve and skipper James Horwill on Thursday admitted there could be a surprise or two when the 2015 squad is revealed.
"You will have to wait and see," Horwill said.
The Reds have spent big to tap into the marketing power of wayward Wallabies star O'Connor and exiting Gold Coast Sun Hunt, as well their onfield talents. The Australian Rugby Union hasn't helped with financial assistance to lure O'Connor, back from France and keen to play at next year's World Cup, or code-hopper Hunt. Both deals have been in the works since before O'Connor's signing was heavily flagged in mid-May, so the surprise element is gone.
Karmichael Hunt (r) scored three tries in 15 appearances for Biarritz © Getty Images
Reds coach Richard Graham, who cut the 44-Test utility when he was Western Force coach three years ago, has stated O'Connor was only on his horizon as a winger to finish the good work of Will Genia and Quade Cooper. The Queensland Rugby Union believes it has the culture to ensure he'll be a team-first player and won't run off the rails as he has before, ultimately forcing the 24-year-old overseas 11 months ago.
Former Brisbane Broncos NRL star Hunt looks set to play fullback after the Reds cleared out rising No.15s Aidan Toua and Jonah Placid in June. While he only has one season of French rugby at Biarritz under his belt as a professional, the 27-year-old did play at schoolboy level where he represented Queensland with Horwill in 2002.
"He was a talent then," Horwill said. "He's a hard-worker in the way he goes about things with everything you hear so I don't think there's anything stopping him (from being a success)."