SYDNEY (Reuters) - Former Australia number eight Scott Higginbotham will rejoin the Queensland Reds for next season as the Brisbane-based Super Rugby outfit bank on a string of experienced signings to dig them out of a slump.
Higginbotham, who won the last of his 32 Wallabies caps in July 2015, helped the Reds to the title in 2011 and returns on a three-year deal after stints at the Melbourne Rebels and Japanese side NEC Green Rockets.
The 30-year-old joins Wallabies captain Stephen Moore, flyhalf Quade Cooper, newly capped loose forward Leroy Houston and evergreen flanker George Smith as a new signing at the Reds, who will be looking to improve on this year’s 15th place finish.
“Fantastic footballer,” coach Nick Stiles said of Higginbotham at a news conference in Brisbane to announce his 38-man squad for 2017.
“Queensland fans know only too well the strength of having Higgers in the side. He’s a very good ball carrier, good in the air, he brings a real swagger to any team he plays in.”
Stiles said Higginbotham was determined to revive his international career after falling out of favour with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
“He feels he’s got a bit of unfinished business with the Wallabies and so he’s highly motivated to win and improve,” he said.
The Reds have also retained the services of centre Samu Kerevi, who has enjoyed a breakthrough year at test level with the Wallabies, and signed former rugby league player Lachlan Maranta.
Outside back Maranta will have plenty to prove after being dubbed a “crap player” by former Wallaby and media pundit Greg Martin earlier this year.
“He’s motivated to come back to rugby and improve and really make a go of it,” Stiles said of Maranta.
“He brings really good coverage from fullback to the wing and he’s a quality person.”
Next season will be the first for Stiles as head coach in his own right after he shared the role with Matt O‘Connor for much of last season in the wake of Richard Graham’s sacking.
The former test prop said the Reds would be looking to play a physical, abrasive brand of rugby and said it would be wrong to look only at the experience offered by the headline signings.
“We’ve shored it up with some really good experience but we’ve also signed up nine of the best young players coming out of school and in the under-20s programme,” he added.
“That will just continue to drive success of this organisation.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury