This season the Queensland Reds will once again be wearing the mighty maroon, a decision that was driven by head coach Brad Thorn.
Queensland played its first rep game of rugby in 1882 against NSW – yes, that’s how long we have despised them – and it was in the reporting of that game that the side were christened the Reds on account of the black and red hooped jersey the side was wearing.
By 1887, the Reds were wearing maroon socks with a white jersey, but that changed in 1894 when the Reds adopted maroon as their jersey colour to reflect the colour of Queen Victoria’s robes – and the rest is history. Lots of history.
It’s that history, that tradition, that Thorn wants to tap into in season 2019. He wants his players to look up into the stands of Suncorp Stadium or Newlands or Eden Park and see maroon, because he knows more than anyone how much a glimpse of that famous hue can lift a Queensland team’s spirit.
It’s why he approached the QRU and suggested the team went back to the future.
“For me, Queensland’s always been maroon in all sports,” Thorn said.
“Watching Queensland play in the 80s and 90s, they were always in maroon when they were at their strongest. It’s great to see us return to that.”
Many sports fans will remember Thorn’s rampaging exploits wearing the maroon jersey as a member of Queensland’s rugby league State of Origin dynasty before he headed back to his native New Zealand to play rugby for the All Blacks.
But his first maroon jersey was in neither of those codes.
“My first experience, actually fresh from moving over from New Zealand as a nine-year-old, I made an under-12s Aussie rules state side and I was proud to wear that jersey,” he said.
Reds captain Samu Kerevi says the team is relishing the opportunity to add new chapters to the maroon legend.
“We love that Thorney’s brought it back,” he said.
“And we know we’re just here taking care of the jersey for the next group, and we want to add something special to the rich Queensland history that’s been before us.”
The new/old jersey has been designed by Dynasty Sport, and Kerevi says the players are not only thrilled to be back in maroon, they love the new design.
“Dynasty Sport have done an awesome job with the fit, and with the material itself,” Kerevi said.
St.George Queensland Reds Captain, Samu Kerevi. Source: Courier Mail
“Symbolism is a really important part of any sporting team because when you’re trying to build a culture, build a team, you need strong symbols,” he said.
“And it was the maroon jersey that I, when I was a kid, that was the jersey I wanted to wear more than any other.
“Some people say it’s just a colour, it’s a piece of cloth. It is just a piece of cloth, but it’s much more than that, because the colour represents all the effort of the people that have gone before you.
“It represents the history of the code in the state. It represents some of the tougher times, but it also represents some of the great memories not only in rugby, but across sport in Queensland.”
St.George Queensland Reds 2019 playing group. Source: Courier Mail
The former Wallabies captain grew up idolising the maroon jersey and those who wore it.
“I remember so clearly watching players such as Paul McLean, Mark Loane, Tony Shaw, Chris Handy, these guys as they pulled on that maroon jersey,” he said
“And it really meant something to me watching them play. And you could see how much it meant to them as well.
“I mean, Paul McLean played his 100th game and kicked his 1000th point in that jersey. That was something really special.”
Eales is full of praise for Thorn’s attempts to ramp up maroon pride.
“The wonderful thing about Brad Thorn as coach is he’s been there and done that in almost every possible guise in rugby, and also in rugby league,” he said.
“He was a high performer for over 20 years as a player. The ability to just keep getting yourself up, set a standard and then keep performing to that standard over that length of time in a physical, uncompromising game like rugby is quite extraordinary.
“Just that fact is going to be a great lift for his players.”
St.George Queensland Reds Coach, Brad Thorn. Source: Courier Mail
Thorn says he is looking forward to seeing a sea of Maroon fill the stands this season.
“There is no better feeling than running out in front of a crowd that is supporting you with their voice, but also with what they are wearing,” Thorn said.
“When it is wall to wall maroon in the stands – that’s a good feeling.”