Karmichael Hunt may never play Super Rugby again and James O’Connor is yet to feature but at least the Queensland Reds appear to have a recruitment winner in Adam Thomson.
The former All Black played a starring role in Queensland’s gutsy 18-6 win over the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
In his Reds debut, the 32-year-old played the full 80 minutes and was a key in the home team putting aside the distraction of Hunt’s drug supply allegations to bounce back from a humiliating 47-3 opening round defeat.
With Hunt stood down and unlikely to feature until at least his initial court appearance on March 5 and wayward Wallaby O’Connor again missing out on a Reds debut due to a troublesome knee injury, Thomson gave fans a reason to be positive.
He made an immediate impression by forcing a turnover and pinching a lineout off the Force in the opening minutes and was an experienced head in the second half after skipper James Slipper and Wallaby James Horwill were subbed off due to injury.
Reds coach Richard Graham said there was no doubt of Thomson’s quality despite the spotlight falling on the Reds’ backline recruits in the off-season.
“He’s a World Cup winner, isn’t he?,” Graham said.
“He’s a big addition because of the quality of footballer he is. I always thought at the Highlanders he was at the heart of everything in terms of the way he led the side, in terms of the way he played the game.
“There’s absolutely no doubt about it.”
The drama of Hunt being served notice to appear in court on four counts of supplying a prohibited drug on the eve of the clash with the Force obviously rocked the Reds.
But Graham said the team had responded in the right way, overcoming their initial shock with a resolve to not let the matter affect their on-field performance.
He claimed discussions about Hunt’s pending charges and what the rest of the squad needed to do took just minutes.
“You could see mentally they were ready to play,” he said.
“We talked as a group for three minutes and we knew we couldn’t be distracted.”