Queensland will reinvent themselves as a different force in 2014 under new coach Richard Graham, according to playmaker Quade Cooper.
Quade Cooper has dismissed the loss of Queensland redeemer Ewen McKenzie and says the Reds’ Super Rugby expectations are now greater in 2014 under Richard Graham.
Graham will debut as the Reds’ head coach in Saturday night’s pre-season trial against the defending champion Chiefs in Toowoomba, and Test five-eighth Cooper has full faith in his new mentor.
McKenzie masterminded Queensland’s transformation, taking them from perennial cellar-dwellers to 2011 champions within two seasons with an up-tempo, expansive game plan.
He also guided the young Reds outfit to finals finishes in the past two seasons to ascend to the Wallabies coaching role.
But Cooper, whose career has blossomed under McKenzie, doesn’t see the change of boss as a hindrance to a more experienced and “complete” team.
“I think the expectation is even greater,” he said on Wednesday.
“We’ve been thereabouts for the last couple of years and now we want to get back to the top.
“We don’t want to ride on the coat-tails of 2011. A lot of people look back to those years and say ‘can we revisit that?’.
“We don’t won’t to revisit, we want to reinvent ourselves and be a better team than we were then.”
Queensland’s major problem in 2013 was an inability to score tries, dropping to the third worst attacking side with less than two five-pointers per game.
They have also lost strike winger Digby Ioane to French club Stade Francais but Cooper says the growth of the side will be shown as they evolve in 2014.
“I think we are becoming a more complete team. The more experience we get, myself, Will (Genia) and other guys in key positions are getting even better than we were back then.
“I look back to my game in 2011 and I did some great things but I wasn’t the total package and I’ve still got a long way to go to be that.
“We’re all striving towards that.”
A key to improving their potency will be adding an extra dimension by giving their inside centre more playmaking responsibility, and Cooper is excited by the “red-hot” pre-season battle between Mike Harris and Ben Tapaui at No.12.
While Graham had one and a half unfruitful seasons as Western Force coach in 2011-12, the Wallabies No.10 said his true coaching worth would come to bear in charge of a more settled outfit.
“He’s got great ideas,” he said. “Richard, having a year under Ewen (as assistant), would have learned a lot
“We certainly benefited from having him around.”