Super Rugby: Can Thorn arrest Reds' slide down misery lane?

Eddie Jones can do no wrong. England keep winning and the messiah of Twickenham does whatever he likes, even getting away with trashing the media with odd rants.

But not that long ago, Eddie was hardly a rugby guru, especially when struck down by that strange tropical disease known as Queenslanditis.

While in charge of the Brumbies and Wallabies, there was no more disciplined, punctual coach than Jones. When he would say he would be somewhere, he would always arrive right on the dot. The only time this didn't happen was during 2007 -- that loose-as-a-goose season when he was Queensland Reds coach.

At a player signing announcement near the Brisbane River, the press arrived early as they realised the dangers of missing Jones, who was always good headline fodder. But, no, he and several Queensland officials were about 10-15 minutes late.

"This isn't you, Eddie," I prodded as he walked past.

"We're in Queensland, mate."

Queensland works at a different tempo. Not exactly the laid-back attitude of Fiji time. But still a rhythm that is unique and for the uninitiated disorientating.

Pride in being different is a strength and a weakness. Outsiders are constantly amazed at the differing values and pack mentality of those north of the Tweed, as well as their disdain of anyone from anywhere else -- particularly New South Wales.

The Queenslanders' belief that they are superior to anyone else -- especially in anything athletic -- is genuine and deep ridden.

This fervour has made them for years near unbeatable in rugby league State of Origin conquests. In the amateur days, the Queensland rugby teams of the 1970 and 1980s were of a similar ilk. At the Ballymore cauldron, countless NSW and touring teams were defeated by Queenslanders convinced they had been treated horrendously by those Sydney spivs who wouldn't pick them in Test teams. This was the get square.

Queensland then relied on hard-bitten, tough, innovative administrators such as Terry Doyle, Dick McGruther, Norbert Byrne and old fashioned 'Poppa Bear' coaches like Bob Templeton and John Connolly to give their team an edge, a structure, intense hunger, and a reason for fans to come in droves to 'Boo a Blue'. It was tremendous theatre, and during that period Queensland developed countless quality Test performers.

Queensland Rugby had a presence. But the next generation of Reds, especially in the administration ranks, was of an inferior quality -- some lazily and misguidedly believing that the good old Queenslander spirit would get them through. But the game had moved on. It was now professional. Far more was required than fire-and-brimstone speeches as well as blaming everyone else. You actually had to act like professionals. There, the Reds dropped the ball.

The Reds soon became a Super Rugby nonentity, struggling to hold onto important home-grown talent who were lured easily to the Brumbies then Western Force and Melbourne Rebels. They also did themselves no favours by constantly making confounding decisions.

Coaches often were selected in a haphazard way. One of the more bizarre was Jeff Miller in 2003. One minute he was the Reds chief executive. The next he was on the other side of the desk, wearing the Reds head coach tracksuit as Andrew Slack wanted out. The Miller coaching era was uneventful -- 10th in 2004, 10th in 2005 and 12th in 2006.

Concerned about this endless slide, the Reds decided to look beyond their borders. That was an enormous move, as the Reds' cocoon for so long had rigidly relied on its own old boy's network to provide leadership and inspiration.

Jones was supposed to change that. But it was too hard. The standards had dropped. Everything got a bit lax. And so only two wins and a dismal 14th spot- remembered most by the province's worst loss -- beaten 92-3 by the Bulls in Pretoria. It also didn't help that the players when they returned, according to one media observer, "were wandering around Brisbane Airport like Brown's cows".

The only season highlight was a celebrated after-match spray by Jones at one of his young players. Those who heard it -- and that was anyone without 50 metres of the dressing rooms -- still talk about it. It was a monumental outburst.

A decade on, that chastised player is having trouble convincing another Reds coach of his worth. Such are the odd bookends to the Quade Cooper Reds era.

Jones departed after one season, followed by two insignificant years with the low-key Phil Mooney before another import was called in for 2010. Ewen McKenzie made a better fist of it. His calculating manner worked with a squad that wasn't startling but responded to McKenzie's meticulous preparation. McKenzie understood the beast that is Cooper, and the fly-half reciprocated, providing excellent midfield service alongside the forever committed Will Genia. With it came a Super Rugby title in 2011.

Then Queensland went back to their old habits of promoting underwhelming coaches. The Richard Graham appointment in 2013 remains baffling. Graham, far from a dynamic front-man, had done little at the Force. To get the Reds job smacked of an old mate's act.

They had also lured James O'Connor back, even though his relationship with Graham at the Force was well short of the bosom-buddy category. Once more it didn't work -- to the extent that O'Connor embarrassed the franchise by clashing with teammates during games and in the dressing room. This was a province out of control, and an open target for ridicule from former players, such as Greg Martin, who during one notable spray described O'Connor as an "immature t-t".

Showing how off the pace it had become, at a time when infuriated Reds supporters were openly hostile towards Graham, the Queensland Rugby Union decided after the 2015 season, when they finished 13th, to undertake an 'exhaustive process' to find the right person to replace the head coach. Even officials conceded the Reds under Graham had become dysfunctional.

After 'evaluating more than 20 applicants', the winner was Richard Graham. What? Who had they interviewed? Anyone wearing a footy jumper in the Queen Street Mall?

The QRU had done it again, coming up with feeble excuses over how Graham deserved another chance.

The following season, they got rid of him after just two rounds. Really, after all this, how could you take the QRU seriously?

Since then, there has been the Band Aid approach of having Matt O'Connor and Nick Stiles taking over for the rest of the 2016 season, before Stiles was handed all the responsibilities last year.

Further misery, with only seven wins in two seasons, and the feeling that Stiles was being primed by those above for a fall. He was not helped by confounding recruitment, such as Japan's supposed superstar Ayumu Goromaru. That PR stunt failed dismally. It was almost as bad as the Waratahs in 2010 signing the forgettable South African lock Hendrik 'Dud' Roodt.

Stiles didn't help himself, either, when, seemingly alone and isolated in the coach's box, he would rabbit on every time the TV commentators crossed to him about how frustrated he was with his players. It became tedious. Maybe the message, rather than the delivery was wrong.

Now the QRU, which is gradually getting its finances together, rebounding from $Aus2.1million and $Aus789,000 losses in 2015 and 2016 to produce a $Aus22,263 profit last year, has gone for the 'hard love' approach of appointing Brad Thorn. This is high risk but a gamble that could work. At a franchise where nonsense has become a byword, Thorn won't stand for too much. He was the ultimate hard player. He will be the same as a coach, especially as he will have a similarly tough QRU chairman in Damien Frawley in his corner.

Unfortunately, Thorn hasn't that much to work with. The squad looks flimsy. And so, the pressure remains on those who stalk the QRU corridors and boardroom table to continue improving their act and give Thorn something to work with. It should never be forgotten that so many of the Reds problems have emanated from the QRU level. Sloppy man management and pea-brain decisions ... that's the Queensland Rugby Union, mate.