By Liam Emerton
The Queensland Reds will be on tour this week and they will be covering a majority of Central Queensland.
Players and coaching staff will descend on CQ as part of the Reds to Regions event for the third consecutive year with Gladstone, Biloela, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Emerald, Blackwater and even Longreach able to catch a glimpse of the Super Rugby squad.
It will be the first time heading out to Biloela for the Reds who will certainly be treated like major superstars in a rugby hungry town like Bilo.
Gladstone and Biloela will have the special guests Feao Fotuaika and Spencer Jeans as well as assistant coach Michael Todd.
And a major coup for the Capricorn Coast is the man who came up with the concept of Reds to Regions, Brad Thorn, who will be making his way to Yeppoon this week.
Rockhampton, which was lucky enough to welcome former Melbourne Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu last year, will see Alex Mafi and Elton Flatley come to the city this week.
Central Highlands will have Hamish Stewart and Wilson Blyth be their players for the Reds to Regions.
Yeppoon will welcome the aforementioned head coach Brad Thorn as well as young gun Isaac Henry.
All the players and coaches who tour Central Queensland will be talking with schools and local rugby players as well as putting together free training sessions across the regions.
Rugby Capricornia Limited (RCL) president Laurie Brosnan said it is a great event for all our Central Queensland regions and the sport in general.
“It’s a massive thing for RCL that we have such a high profile coach being Brad Thorn and all the way through to players as well as classic players,” he said.
“It’s great what Brad Thorn has done for Queensland Reds and in turn for what he has done for QRU (Queensland Rugby Union) and grassroots rugby.
“He’s basically bringing those players back to regional areas where we’re sometimes forgotten.
“Brad fully acknowledges that without country rugby there is no state rugby and national rugby.
“It’s an exceptional move by Brad Thorn and his team to do that and we’re fully supportive of it.”
While Brosnan believed it was great for locals to get to learn a thing or two about the Reds players, he said it was just as important for the Reds to meet their supporters from the regional areas.
“It’s great for locals but it also grounds those Reds players back to the grassroots level of what they’re actually playing for,” he said.
“And that’s playing for country rugby as well as city rugby.
“It’s great for the kids, there’s a great hype out there at the moment from pathways programs in Rocky which have been really successful this year.”
For the smaller towns across Central Queensland, the Reds will have an even bigger influence with many towns being left out from tours of different sports.
“It’s great that the group doesn’t just go to the cities like Rockhampton or Gladstone, they’re going to Woorabinda, Emerald, Capella Schools and obviously Biloela,” said Brosnan.
“It really shows it’s not just the cities which play rugby, it’s the country areas as well.
“Bilo struggles sometimes for juniors and this is something that could help reignite that fire in rugby in juniors.”