Star Reds playmaker James O’Connor has revealed he was reduced to catching a canoe to training on Tuesday due to the devastating floods in Queensland.
The Reds overcame a week of setbacks to post a gutsy 29-16 win over the Western Force in Perth on Friday night.
The floods in Queensland meant the Reds could only train once in the lead-up to the game.
Their flight to Perth became a 14-hour ordeal due to delays and an unplanned stopover in Adelaide.
But the Reds showed their true spirit in the face of adversity, with O’Connor playing a hand in all four tries to set up the bonus-point win.
“I caught a canoe to training on a Tuesday,” O’Connor said of the bizarre lead-in to the match.
“I only got to join the boys for one session this week.
“I actually caught a flight at six o’clock (on Thursday night) on my own as well (because) I couldn’t get out (earlier), we were flooded in again.”
O’Connor said the plight of people battling the floods helped inspire the team.
“That win was for everyone back home,” O’Connor told Stan.
“It definitely rallied the team together.
“We stuck tight, and we spoke about it a lot – digging deep for Queensland.
“The team was at the airport at seven o’clock and we didn’t fly out until 2pm. It was a 14-hour travel day.
“It was tough. The boys wanted the win. We wanted to win for our state, and we did.”
The captain’s curse struck the Reds again in the fourth minute when stand-in skipper Lukhan Salakaia-Loto limped off with an injured ankle.
Salakaia-Loto was only filling in for injured co-captains Liam Wright and Tate McDermott, and he now faces a nervous wait to see how serious the injury is.
“I’m not too sure yet (what the injury is), it’s something on my ankle,” he said.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m proud of the way the boys fought.”
Western Force duo Andrew Ready and Byron Ralston were stood down for Friday’s match after drinking alcohol on the flight from Melbourne to Perth last week.
Prop Greg Holmes played due to a lack of options at tighthead, but is set to receive his sanction in the coming week.
Force coach Tim Sampson didn’t feel the distraction had any effect on Friday’s game.
“The guys parked it early in the week to get on with the job at hand,” Sampson said.
“The staff had a good chat about it, and we sat down with (captain) Feleti Kaitu’u and the leadership group and discussed it at length.
“We were aligned with what we thought, and we came to that decision and the three players were comfortable with that as well.”