Talking Balls: Adam Byrnes

Date published: February 4 2010

With the start to this year's Super 14 just around the corner and teams dotting the i's and crossing the t's with pre-season hit-outs, Planet Rugby couldn't help but take notice of a certain outfit's early progress.

With the start to this year's Super 14 just around the corner and teams dotting the i's and crossing the t's with pre-season hit-outs, Planet Rugby couldn't help but take notice of a certain outfit's early progress.

Even though these “trial” results count for little, the Reds have surprised everyone but themselves following wins over the Waratahs (26-24) and Crusaders (20-12) – both 2008 Super 14 finalists.

It's a new era for the struggling Queensland-based Australian franchise following the dismissal of last year's coach Phil Mooney and the departure of chief playmaker and stand-in captain Berrick Barnes to greener – bluer to be more accurate – pastures.

Queensland dominated the early years of Super Rugby by winning back-to-back titles in the Super 10 in 1994 and 1995 respectively. In 1996, the Queensland Reds hosted their first Super 12 semi-final (losing to the Sharks), but went on to make the semis again in 1999 and 2001 which was the last time their fans really had anything to cheer about.

In fact, the Reds have sadly found themselves trawling the depths of the tournament table for the last seven years with five coaches unable to find that winning formula carried by John Connolly that took the team to where they were.

Former Waratahs and Stade Fran̤ais coach Ewen McKenzie has now been tasked to the job at hand, and Рalong with his troops Рwill no doubt feel a touch more confident heading into the new season with two pre-season wins under their belts.

Contributing every step of the way is lock Adam Byrnes who, at 28-years of age, not only provides valuable experience to the team but a whopping 116kg of bulk and 2.01m that can only help the Reds reach new heights.

After another hard day at the office (erm, for Byrnes that is – Planet Rugby were on their first cup of tea), the talented Reds star and avid fisherman was only too happy to catch up with us – excuse the pun!

PR: Morning Adam, or should I say evening? Hope we're not disturbing your dinner – is it fish again? Anyway, how did training go today?

AB: Evening, no fish on the menu tonight thanks. Yeah, we've been looking pretty sharp this week and we fly out tomorrow morning for our final pre-season clash against the Force in Perth on Friday. So hopefully things are on track.

PR: The Reds are undefeated so far in pre-season trials with wins over 2008 finalists the Waratahs and Crusaders. Even though it's still early days, it must be a confidence booster heading into this year's campaign?

AB: Of course. Like you said it is early days but there's a good vibe around the camp and winning is definitely a good feeling whether it's at the start, middle or end of the season!

PR: For sure! But the Bulls lost all their pre-season matches last year before going on to win the tournament. So would you agree that these pre-season matches – win or lose – actually don't count for much?

AB: Yeah, it's funny like that. We lost a lot of close matches last year, and so far we've been able to reverse that by beating the Waratahs by two points and then getting one over the Crusaders by eight points. So even though we don't get any log points by beating those two quality sides, we as a team do pick up plenty of confidence for the season ahead which is a good thing to have. It's definitely a big morale booster, and a positive start.

PR: The Reds are blessed with three home matches on the trot to kick-start a gruelling campaign, so it's vital you make those games count no doubt?

AB: Yes indeed! We have the Waratahs first up, and then the Crusaders followed by the Blues. None of those games will be easy but these days we are very optimistic on how we'll get on.

PR: Indeed, and that opening derby clash between the Reds and Waratahs is going to be huge. But isn't it true that you could have been running out in the blue jersey instead of the red?

AB: That's correct. I had an opportunity to play with the Waratahs but at the time of the decision process there was a bit of turmoil around regarding who would be coach as Ewen McKenzie had just left. So everything was all up in the air a bit. The Reds were a bit more structured at the time and more appealing.

PR: But as it turned out, you ended up playing under McKenzie anyway!

AB: (Laughs) Yip, it's funny how things work out isn't it?

PR: It is! Speaking of McKenzie, how do you think he'll get on as the Reds coach. I only ask because Queensland have gone through quite a few lately.

AB: Yeah, there have been quite a few coaches as everyone knows. But Ewen has come in with an open mind and has given everyone a go so far in these trial matches like he said he would, so he's stuck to his word. So he's honest and open-minded which is a pretty good positive trait to have.

PR: It reads here on the Reds team-sheet that you will be partnering Van Humphries in the second row against the Force on Friday. It must be good to start for a change?

AB: Yeah, we're experimenting a wee bit with James Horwill at six and I guess it's a bit of a compliment for the Reds coaching staff to hand me a starting role. Now it's just up to me to take this opportunity with both hands and try and secure that position.

PR: Well, we doubt James Horwill is going to be a regular feature on the flank for the Reds this season and Van Humphries was in good form last year. So with Horwill acting as skipper as well as lock and with Humphries there too, does it get a bit frustrating to watch sometimes?

AB: Um….

PR: You can be honest with us, mate.

AB: (Laughs) Ok, ok… I won't lie. But it only makes competition for places more competitive, so I guess it's a good thing. Taking your position for granted doesn't make you reach your potential so when there's a few people reaching for positions, it only brings the best out of everyone.

PR: Very diplomatically said, Adam.

AB: Thanks mate.

PR: With Quade Cooper allowed back in the squad, does it almost bring a sense of clarity amongst the team when it seemed likely you would be missing your number one fly-half for the season?

AB: Oh most definitely. Now that we know – as long as Quade stays on track and keeps ticking the boxes, which he has been doing off the field – that we'll have him for the whole season, it is a huge positive boost for the squad.

PR: Stepping away from this forthcoming season, but sticking with Super Rugby. If we take a step back in time, the Reds were a dominant force back in the day. So, the best and most polite way of asking is: what the heck happened?

AB: (Laughs) Good question. Mate, if I could give you an answer, then I would be the one in charge at training! But seriously, it's obvious the Reds have had more downs than ups recently. But having old heads like