Maroons DNA: Thorn’s vision is made in Red
New prop Josh Nasser is the ideal example of the maroon-grown makeover fortifying the Reds as the son of a former Queensland Wallaby.
When coach Brad Thorn discussed what made him proudest from the 64-5 smashing of Japan's Sunwolves last weekend, he delved deeper than the regulation answers.
Yep. He liked the 10 tries and the fresh attacking attitude it harnessed.
Tick. The forwards hunted as a pack.
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Yep. The first win of the season after all the promising signs.
Tick. The faithful fans at the first home game at Suncorp Stadium were treated.
Thorn's greatest thrill was looking at the team DNA.
In all, 21 of the 23 players who shared in the win were born in Queensland or developed through pathways like schoolboys squads, the Reds Academy, Under-20s, club footy or the National Rugby Championship.
If Thorn's win-rate takes the spike it should over the next month, it can be traced to his firmest and best call when being interviewed for the head coach role in 2017.
"Thorny made it clear how strongly he wanted to back Queensland talent and it is shining through," Queensland Rugby Union chairman Jeff Miller said.
"It's now formalised as a key performance indicator that 80 per cent of the Reds squad has to come through our pathway programs.
"We are actually tracking at 90 per cent."
That's right. The QRU has essentially written in blood that any turnaround must be homegrown.
"If you believe in it, bring it through and coach it, you'll get good pay (because) it's so easy to see Queensland really supplies talent to union and league," Thorn said.
"This year you can see some of those layers of age groups coming through that we have backed from the 20-year-olds like Harry Wilson to an Angus Scott-Young, whose been a real soldier for us for several years.
"I really like the story of Jock Campbell, the guy out of club football who has gone from strength to strength."
Nasser, 20, has broken through with two cameos off the bench to launch his career and continue a tradition at the Reds that began with father Brendan, a no-nonsense backrower.
He was yellow-carded less than three minutes into his debut against the Lions in Johannesburg and was every old prop's hero as a tryscorer against the Sunwolves.
"Those two feelings were polar opposites," said Nasser, who is sure to be on the bench against the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
"It was a massive honour to play for the Reds for the first time but it wasn't the ideal debut and I wanted to be able to bounce back.
"I had mates and old school teachers giving me a hard time before the Sunwolves game with lines like 'don't get a yellow'.
"It was awesome to be part of the team's first win.
"That was my first try in 18 months as well and I just tried to get on the inside of Jock, when he made his break, to be in position."
A Twitter exchange playfully niggled Nasser Sr that his son had already eclipsed his tryscoring deeds.
Untrue. Nasser, now a 55-year-old dentist, had a knack for tryscoring although never try assists because it took a crowbar to budge the ball from his grasp to pass it.
His old University of Queensland side had a series of backrow moves yet they all converted to move "88" because Nasser simply picked up and charged from the back of the scrum.
He played more than 40 times for the Reds, won multiple premierships with Uni and played the last of his eight Tests against Samoa at the 1991 Rugby World Cup.
Young Nasser has bulked up 4kg to 116kg over the past two years to become the compact block of strength you need as a back-up tighthead prop behind Taniela Tupou.
He was unfazed that his 2016 Gregory Terrace First XV teammates Isaac Lucas and Wilson both made their Reds debuts before him.
"I'm a prop and the worst thing to be is impatient because it's a long learning process in this position," Nasser said.
"I feel the benefits of all the development levels ... the academy, doing a whole pre-season with the Reds last year, plenty of live scrum stuff in the NRC with Crapper (scrum coach Cameron Lillicrap) guiding me, a club premiership and all the different front-row styles I faced with the Junior Wallabies."
The unpretentious Nasser Sr has just a single Wallabies jersey hanging at home.
"He refuses to put on any of his old jerseys and he's pretty humble," Josh said.
"The biggest thing I've picked up from him is his passion for Queensland and how much he hates NSW.
"Dad's a tech dinosaur but he'll watch a recorded game, even knowing the score, just to watch NSW lose."
Miller was a Nasser teammate in Uni, Queensland and Wallabies sides so he respects this rich vein of Reds heritage.
"It was pretty hard hearing from club presidents and general managers a few years ago that they didn't feel a connection to the Reds," Miller said.
"Basically, they were saying 'it's your team' when it should be 'our team'. One of the great benefits of homegrown is the connection for the local rugby community."