They were Super Rugby champions just five years ago but Queensland Reds head of rugby Daniel Herbert concedes the franchise has lost its identity.
The Reds are in disarray following the sacking of coach Richard Graham on Monday, a decision Queensland Rugby Union powerbrokers had no choice but to make after the team’s horrendous 22-6 loss at home to the Western Force.
Matt O’Connor and Nick Stiles will steer the side for the remainder of the season as co-interim head coaches, and their first task will be to bring back at least some of the soul back to Ballymore.
Graham spoke often during his tenure of his desire to establish a team identity and Herbert said he had made key strides in this department, only for that good work to come undone in his view with the hollow display against the Force.
Herbert admitted the Reds had erred in the past by pinning their identity on personalities, rather than values.
That criticism checks out considering the mass exodus of talent over the years, including the likes of title-winning coach Ewen McKenzie and his former charges Quade Cooper, Digby Ioane, Will Genia and James Horwill – names and faces synonymous with Queensland rugby.
“It’s too easily transferable with people,” Herbert said.
“What we want to do is have an identity like the Crusaders that is something that outlives people.
“What we want to do as a team firstly, then as a club, is have something that is sustainably successful. We’re some way off that.”
Graham was headhunted by the Reds to replace McKenzie as part of a succession plan specifically designed to help them retain their identity.
Asked if they’d got it all wrong, Herbert said: “You could sit here and certainly by the wins and losses, you’d say that.”
“We saw there was some trouble on the front after 2012, we knew the next few years were going to be really challenging, which is why we fast-forwarded the succession plan.
“It hasn’t gone to plan.”
Meanwhile, if the change in coach means a change of heart for Brad Thorn about pulling on the boots this year, Herbert said the Reds would gladly have him.
Dual-code warrior Thorn, 41, is a forwards coach for the Reds’ elite development squad and has so far tried his best to suppress a strong desire to play again.
Thorn told News Corp this week if he was to do so, it would not be until after the conclusion of the new U20s competition later this month.
“If he changes his mind, our door is open,” Herbert said.