Reds face rough start to Super season
AN opening blockbuster at Suncorp Stadium against the champion Crusaders next season is the best chance for the Queensland Reds to woo a 20,000-strong crowd for the first time since 2015.
The unveiling of the 2019 Super Rugby season draw on Tuesday is all but confirmation that the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens will go into hibernation next year because the tournament's mid-February date is out of play.
Next year's Super Rugby season will run uninterrupted for 21 weeks, with no June Tests, from an earlier February 15 launch to streamline with a shortened Rugby Championship and the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Global Tens organisers have already flagged the difficulty of hosting an event in World Cup years with star players in cotton wool but the release of the Super Rugby schedule makes the squeeze on available weekends even more obvious.
The Reds will play their first home game against the Crusaders on March 2 next year after wasting a bye in the opening round and a first hit-out on February 22 against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Brad Thorn's crew face one of the toughest starts in the competition against teams all bound for this year's finals, the Highlanders, Crusaders and the NSW Waratahs in Sydney (March 9).
The 2019 draw also includes a first appearance at Suncorp Stadium for Argentina's Jaguares (June 1) and a late-season return stoush against the Waratahs (May 18) among eight home games.
Average crowds have sunk to just 12,569 this season and even the strongest turnout (14,452) for the recent 15-try spectacle against the Waratahs was down a whopping 47 per cent on the interstate crowd of 2015 at Suncorp Stadium.
Thorn's men can pep up expectations and 2019 crowd forecasts with a strong finish to this campaign next month against the Blues, Melbourne Rebels and Sunwolves because taking a creditable 7-9 win-loss record into next year is still achievable.
In Premier Rugby, leaders Souths face a danger game at Chipsy Wood Oval on Saturday against a Norths side to be fortified by Reds centre Duncan Paia'aua and former Wallaby Kane Douglas.
Reds centre Chris Feauai-Sautia made his comeback from a headknock in Souths' commanding 41-7 win over Easts last weekend.
2019 SUPER RUGBY DRAW … ROAD FOR THE REDS
Feb. 15 BYE (Round 1)
Feb. 22 v Highlanders, Dunedin (Round 2)
Mar 2 v Crusaders, Suncorp Stadium (Round 3)
March 9 v NSW Waratahs, Sydney (Round 4)
March 16 v Sunwolves, Tokyo (Round 5)
March 24 v Brumbies, Suncorp Stadium (Round 6)
March 30 v Melb. Rebels, Suncorp Stadium (Round 7)
April 5 v Stormers, Suncorp Stadium (Round 8)
April 14 v Bulls, Pretoria (Round 9)
April 19 v Sharks, Durban (Round 10)
April 27 BYE (Round 11)
May 3 v Sunwolves, Suncorp Stadium (Round 12)
May 10 v Melbourne Rebels, Melbourne (Round 13)
May 18 v NSW Waratahs, Suncorp Stadium (Round 14)
May 24 v Chiefs, Hamilton (Round 15)
June 1 v Jaguares, Suncorp Stadium (Round 16)
June 7 v Blues, Suncorp Stadium (Round 17)
June 15 v Brumbies, Canberra (Round 18)
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