Reds bring back title hero to bolster halves
BRAD Thorn is quickly sending the message that only stout defenders need apply for spots at the Queensland Reds this season with the signing of 2011 title-winner Jono Lance as an extra flyhalf option.
The ink was only just dry on a one-season deal for Lance, 27, when he appeared on Monday at Reds training at Ballymore in the heat that has draped itself over Brisbane this off-season.
Lance's DNA as a tough tackler clearly factored into the signing by Thorn because the Reds went back to the future with another committed defender last week when they re-signed utility back Ben Lucas.
Lance is also a former Red, having played 21 times for the Reds between 2011-13 including a start at fullback in the memorable 2011 final triumph at Suncorp Stadium when he was covering injuries.
His signing is another step away from Quade Cooper, who Thorn judged to be superfluous to the club's needs in his major call before Christmas.
Lance has little of Cooper's panache and deception as a No.10 but he is a solid, dependable type to add to Lucas and Hamish Stewart as an option.
The Reds have done well to sign Lance considering he was originally contracted to the Melbourne Rebels for this season when a raft of players from the now-defunct Western Force club headed to Victoria en masse late last year.
He has been released by the Rebels without playing a game which suggests that the Rebels are committed to a shake-up at No.10 with Wallaby Reece Hodge or one of their tyros, Jack McGregor or Tayler Adams.
Those are the options on top of regularNo.10 Jack Debreczeni, who on Monday announced he was returning to the Rebels on a one-season deal after playing with the Honda Heat in Japan.
The Rebels did have so many big names new to their books, including Wallabies Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty and Adam Coleman, that it seemed some salary cap rationalisation was needed as well.
A Rebels spokesman said the club was 'salary-cap compliant' before and after the release of Lance and that any suggestion to the contrary was 'false'.
."Lance was released by the Rebels to a short-term deal with English club Worcester late last year and he is still a few weeks away from full fitness after breaking his hand while overseas.
The intra-club trial at the Reds Fan Day at Ballymore on Friday week and the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens (February 9-10) are too close but Lance will likely be available for the final pre-season trial to follow.
Lance has racked up 51 Super Rugby caps for three clubs (Reds 20, Waratahs 13 and Force 18).
"I spent a lot of time at Ballymore in the early stages of my career so it was a great feeling to be driving back through the gates again," Lance said.
"I know the guys have been working hard in the pre-season so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens the next few weeks. It's really exciting to get back and pull on the Reds jersey again."
Thorn was upbeat about the experience and depth that Lance would add to the backs.
"Jono is a great addition to the squad. He's well known as a good bloke and a tough footballer. He'll bring plenty of experience and smarts to the backline," Thorn said.