Higginbotham to lead Reds in 2018
SCOTT Higginbotham has been hand-picked as the new Queensland Reds captain to galvanise a young team into a Super Rugby force.
Reds coach Brad Thorn said on Thursday the 34-Test backrower had all the ingredients he was looking for in a leader to drive a revival.
The Reds have not made the Super Rugby finals since 2013 and the Queensland Rugby Union was so impatient for success that last year they ditched coach Nick Stiles just one season into his tenure.
Improving on last year's poor four-win campaign is one of Thorn's most important steps towards a pass mark in 2018.
With Higginbotham, Thorn feels the experience of 137 Super Rugby games for the Reds and Melbourne Rebels comes with other strong traits.
"Scott is a player who leads by example," Thorn said.
"He's a humble guy who works hard and strives to get the best out of himself and everyone around him," Thorn said.
"He has experienced success at the Reds previously (with his role in the 2011 title team) but returned to Ballymore ahead of the 2017 season because he felt he had something to contribute to Queensland's future success.
"It's clear to everyone how much he cares about this place.
"He's also a smart rugby player in good form and he has the respect of his teammates."
Thorn has overlooked James Slipper, Reds skipper for much of the past three seasons, and last year's stand-in Samu Kerevi, who will both be important figures in the Reds' new leadership group.
It's a strong call from Thorn because Higginbotham excelled during his time as captain at the Rebels during his Melbourne stint (2013-15).
Higginbotham produced some of his most involved and influential rugby during that period as a beacon within a young club which is not dissimilar to the scene at Ballymore with so many young players needing an assertive figure to follow.
"I'm very honoured to captain the Reds. Being appointed to this position by someone such as Brad means a great deal to me," Higginbotham, 31, said.
"It's great to lead such a young, exciting and positive bunch of blokes.
"I've had the privilege of being captain of another Super Rugby team and that experience will help me now.
"I'm also privileged to have the support of other strong leaders in the team like Samu (Kerevi) and James (Slipper) who have done the role previously. That is only going to strengthen our side."
The Reds will have their first hitout with an intra-squad trial at Ballymore from 5.15pm on Friday as part of the annual St George Reds Fan Day.
Higginbotham will be front and centre in his first playing minutes since last June when a neck nerve issue forced him into a long break and the shelving of a Japanese club stint.
The upside has been a refreshing off-season around Ballymore and a greater chance to connect with the many new, youthful faces who Thorn is grooming.