Beating NSW a must, says Queensland Reds coach
AS a rugby-mad teenager, Nick Stiles woke each morning to a laminated wall poster of old-school prop Dan Crowley flying into action against NSW with a clenched fist.
Methods may have changed in 20 years but the fierce mentality that Stiles is demanding from his Queensland players this week has not.
Beating NSW at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night is not negotiable.
Lose limply and any Reds bumblers might as well sign for the deadend club that is to be punted from Super Rugby.
"There's a certain physicality and mindset to playing NSW because I never want to hear anyone say it's just another game," Stiles said.
"I've reminded the players of who we are...yes, we are a club but we are Queensland and all that stands for.
"There were years where Queensland probably hung their hats too much on the interstate game but this Saturday really is the season-on-the-line for both teams.
"Whichever team loses is probably going to be too far behind the (Conference-leading) Brumbies to make the finals."
Both the Reds (2-6) and Waratahs (2-6) are struggling but the Queenslanders are the ones coming off a confidence-boosting win, seven tries and a refreshing bye.
Glory-or-bust were exactly the high stakes on interstate night that Stiles used to fuel his own 93-game career for Queensland as a prop.
In his youth, the disdain for NSW was ingrained by listening to stories from Souths club legends Andrew Slack and Tom Lawton.
"Crowls was my idol and I had a magazine poster of him on my wall as a young fella," Stiles said.
"He had his fist up ready to fly into the fray against NSW which, to me, just showed how much that contest meant and the lengths you went to."
It's clear the Queensland coach is invested big-time in this match and its history.
His skill this week will be infusing players with similar feelings because some of the flat interstate performances between 2013-16 have been inexcusable.
Stiles has some worthy firepower with Samu Kerevi, Quade Cooper and co but shaking up an ordinary bench is a key selection task.
Centre-winger Campbell Magnay may have scored a close-range try and made one good smothering tackle but it was a measured 40-minute comeback for GPS last Saturday.
It will be a punt but his explosive best is what is needed on the bench, while lock Izack Rodda and back-rower Leroy Houston are also fit again for selection.