They’re the sage words from a footy legend that helped the Reds find the belief to break their decade-long title drought and put rugby back on the map in Queensland.
“Win the moments and trust your mate to do his job.”
Reds coach Brad Thorn’s halftime reminder to his rattled men helped turn around his side’s fortunes and seal his place in Queensland rugby folklore.
Trailing 13-6 at halftime against the ACT Brumbies after playing some of their most error-riddled rugby of the season, the Reds mounted a stirring second-half fightback, with comeback king James O’Connor scoring a try almost five minutes after regulation time ended to seal a 19-16 victory and the Super Rugby AU title.
The Reds had won both rounds games against the Brumbies but each time the game came down to the wire and Thorn’s reminder helped his men stay in the game until they broke Brumbies hearts.
“It was about playing each moment,” Thorn said.
“You can look at the game two ways – it’s an 80-minute game you want to win, or you can look at it as all these moments and that’s how I look at the game.
“Win those moments and focus on our discipline and physicality … and trust your mate.”
Eventually, the Brumbies broke. Plenty will point at the decisions of referee Nick Berry to hand out three yellow cards to the visitors – two of them in the final five minutes to leave the match a 15-on-13 contest in the dying stages.
But Thorn and his men believed they would find a way to finish off no matter what, just as they had done all season.
“They did their job, they got it done,” Thorn said.
“And in those big moments at the end, you saw those guys flourish.
“Throughout the game it was frustrating but when they got down to the nitty gritty at the end, they leaned towards that and it’s exciting to see with the guys and the character and I’m really proud of them.”
The victory was the Reds’ 11th in a row at Suncorp Stadium and while it seemed there was pressure on them after losing just once this season, Thorn said the 41,637 fans at Suncorp Stadium helped carry them home.
Thorn has seen that first hand as a Maroons player in State of Origin and from the other side – as a member of the Crusaders side that lost the 2011 Super Rugby final to the Reds.
“There was supposed to be pressure on us around the game and being here but we were playing on Queensland soil in the cauldron,” he said.
“The Queensland crowd come and they’re parochial and they rocked the house.
“That’s the way it’s always been. That’s our house, that’s our soil, that’s Queensland.”
The Reds face a mammoth task this week, having to temper their celebrations ahead of their opening Trans-Tasman Super Rugby clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
The shattered Brumbies have just days to overcome their Super Rugby AU finals disappointment or risk having their Trans-Tasman campaign go up in smoke.
The Brumbies suffered a heartbreaking 19-16 Super Rugby AU grand final loss to the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday night after James O’Connor sliced through exhausted defenders in the 85th minute to seal his side the title.
The Brumbies had been reduced to 13 men for the final stages and were penalised consistently after the siren, leaving coach Dan McKellar and his men shattered after the match.
But with a three-match tour of New Zealand to start the Trans-Tasman competition, including Saturday’s opener against Super Rugby Aotearoa champs the Crusaders in Christchurch, the Brumbies need to pivot quickly to keep their season alive.
McKellar measured his words carefully after the match when asked what he thought of the decisions to hand yellow cards to Darcy Swain (77th minute) and Luke Reimer (80) after loose forward Rob Valetini was sin binned for a high tackle earlier in the second half.
“I can’t say too much to be honest. Just as long as everyone’s accountable for their performance out there tonight,” McKellar said.
“It became incredibly tough to hold them out, we were exhausted.”
Captain Allan Alaalatoa said his troops “emptied the tank” in the final stages.
“Down to 13 men and holding them out for so long but they just got back-to-back penalties,” Alaalatoa said.
But McKellar was keen for his team’s heartbreak not to be portrayed as sour grapes.
“Don’t judge us on our disappointment,” he said.
“(The Reds) hung in there didn’t they. I congratulate Queensland, it was a great night for Australian rugby.
“We’re just shattered. We’re not blaming anyone.
“It’s a good young side here, (the crowd has) got behind them and created a memory that will be spoken of for a long time.”
McKellar will allow his team to celebrate their Aussie season and lick their wounds briefly but with games in Hamilton and Auckland to follow the Crusaders clash, they need to regroup quickly.
“It’ll be tough but the boys deserve some time to have a beer and relax and we’ll worry about the Crusaders from Tuesday,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s too many tougher tours, Crusaders, Chiefs, Blues, all in New Zealand.”