Blyth gets reward for Reds loyalty
ANGUS Blyth's reward for knocking back feelers to explore AFL with the Gold Coast Suns has paid off with his biggest break for the Queensland Reds.
The 2.04m pillar will start for the first time at lock against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night after just three brief cameos in Super Rugby.
It's a show of how highly he's rated by coach Brad Thorn because you only spruik your rotation policy if you have a worthy player you actually want to use.
Blyth, 21, doesn't yet offer the bumping, front-on charges of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, the heavily-worked Wallabies forward he replaces.
What he does add is plenty of lineout presence, a key battleground which the Rebels dominated in March when they ran away with a 32-13 result at Suncorp Stadium.
Rugby is in Blyth's blood but there was still a tempting offer to stay on the Gold Coast to try AFL for the first time when he finished at The Southport School.
The Reds have been wise enough to sign and re-sign him while Blyth also enjoyed the launch of Bond University studies in 2017 under a John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship.
The Reds (22 points) could find themselves on top of the Australian Conference at the end of this round if they upset the Rebels (24).
That's how much is on the line in Melbourne if the Reds can find a way to disrupt the fast ball that will be a killer in the hands of Will Genia and Quade Cooper.
"If they have time and momentum, they have some very good players in attack," said Reds backs coach Jim McKay, who worked with the duo in the Reds' 2011 title run.
"The teams that have done well against them have denied them that speed-of-ball and cut down the options for Will."
A forced penalty at the breakdown from flanker Liam Wright started the last game against the Rebels the right way but set-piece failures tripped the side big time.
Underrated Rebels lock Matt Philip stole an early Reds' 5m lineout and he was the key forward figure driving the comeback against the Hurricanes last weekend from 26-0 down.
Being far better at treasuring their own ball is the start for the Reds because Genia also disrupted several key opportunities for rookie halfback rival Tate McDermott.
Keeping non-stop pressure on the Rebels is another element which Thorn has equipped himself for.
He will throw three Wallabies forwards into the fray from the bench through Salakaia-Loto, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Caleb Timu, now the latter has served a ban for punching.
McKay was savvy enough to accept that if the Reds are trying to stop Genia and Cooper the Rebels will be trying the same with Samu Kerevi.
"Samu has been excellent all season but mark him too hard and you'll see try assists for others which has been a great area of his game," McKay said.