The Queensland Reds will be strengthened in their pursuit of further Super Rugby success with new Head Coach Richard Graham officially beginning his tenure with Queensland Rugby.
The inclusion of Graham ensures the Reds continue to have the best Australian coaching structures and talent in the Code as he joins Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie, Senior Assistant Jim McKay and Head Performance Coach Damian Marsh.
Graham, 40, has returned to Queensland with his family where he has since spent countless hours reacquainting himself with the game’s grassroots more than a decade after representing the Reds as a player between 1998 and 2002.
“It has been an enjoyable past few months getting the opportunity to visit as many schools and clubs as possible, where it has been clearly evident just how highly regarded and popular the Reds are in the Queensland community,” Graham said.
“To be joining this culture and environment is something I’m thoroughly looking forward to being part of, and to be back coaching where my career first started just adds to the overall experience.
“There is an extremely talented and young playing roster here at the Reds which I am excited to begin working with and I’m confident this team has the ability and structures in place to be successful next season and beyond.”
Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie said the commencement of Graham would further enhance the team’s offseason preparations before the playing squad returns for preseason training on October 29.
“We’re already quite busy with our injured group and select players beginning their offseason early, but we don’t officially welcome back our entire non-Wallaby squad for preseason until late October,” McKenzie said.
“This means we have a good month to introduce Richard to our systems, and to the people within our organisation, so that we hit the ground running next month. Richard has a very astute Rugby brain and already I’ve been impressed with his thoughts on our program.
“Along with Jim McKay, I’m confident we have a setup that will give us the best chance to maximise the potential of individual players while at the same time progress our team game to another level.”
Graham brings with his an impressive coaching resume after commencing his professional coaching career in 2002 with Bath RFC where he was responsible for their backs, defence and skills. Graham enjoyed early success in coaching with Bath English Premiership Finalists in 2003-04; Powergen Cup Finalists in 2004-05; and Heineken Cup Semi-Finalists in 2005-06.
After four successful seasons, where he worked under former Queensland Reds coach John Connolly and former England Head Coach Brian Ashton, Graham moved to Saracens RFC in 2006. There he operated as an Assistant Coach under Alan Gaffney before taking on a more senior role as Coaching Coordinator to former Wallabies and Reds coach Eddie Jones.
Again, Graham had a positive influence on the side, with Saracens English Premiership Semi-Finalists in 2006-07; Heineken Cup Semi-Finalists in 2007-08; and Challenge Cup Semi-Finalists in 2008-09. In his third and final year at the club, Graham finished the season as Head Coach.
After seven years coaching in the English Premiership, Graham returned to Australia in 2009 as the Skills Coach of the Wallabies, while at the same time, combined his national role with being an Assistant to former All Blacks Coach John Mitchell at the Western Force. In September 2010, Graham succeeded Mitchell as Head Coach.
As a player, Graham represented the Reds during 1998-2002 as a fullback or winger, the same period in which he represented Australian in Sevens Rugby. As an Australian Sevens representative, he won a Bronze Medal at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games and was made captain from the 1999 season through to the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, while in 2000 the team won four IRB tournaments.
Before this, Graham played for Easts at club level and captained the Tigers to the 1999 Brisbane Premiership (Hospital Cup), where in the same season was awarded the XXXX Medal for the competition’s Best and Fairest player.