By Kate Lockyer
The coach behind Brothers Rugby Club’s premiership win in 2009, at the time their first in over 20 years, has come onboard as new Assistant Coach of the Queensland Reds super rugby team.
Zane Hilton looked back on the victory and said: “It was a community effort, there’s no doubt about it”.
“In that year we didn’t just win premier grade, we won reserve grade, third grade, fifth grade, I think we won something like five or six premierships in that in that year… that’s not through one group of people, that’s through a general collective,” he said.
Hilton said rugby union is a sport that is uniquely connected to its roots, with many players at a professional level still actively involved in their community clubs.
This is driven through their friendships and shared experiences, often from a young age in the junior teams.
“Our community clubs within Queensland Rugby play a huge part within their communities, not only in times of need, like natural disasters, but also in being very much a beacon in terms of where people come together,” he said.
Hilton returns to Australia after coaching high performance teams abroad, working with teams in Italy, Japan and Samoa.
Most recently, he coached the Tongan team at the 2023 Rugby World Cup and before that spent four years coaching in Japan.
He said coming back to the Queensland Reds, where he started out in professional rugby over 20 years ago, he is incredibly excited that he has come full circle.
After spending time immersed in different cultures and languages, Hilton has come back with the understanding that coaching comes down to the ability to connect with people.
“We’re in the industry of people,” he said.
“My approach is to have the ability to be able to connect with people first and foremost and get their respect before you then challenge them, and you’ve got to show care.”
He said this has also been the mindset of Head Coach Les Kiss.
With a team that is “eager and keen to want to be better”, Hilton said a strength of the team is that the players already have great habits and a great culture.
“They’re really close as a playing group, and there’s a real love for each other and a real care and connection there.”
“…One of our strengths as a group is the ability to help the individual because we’ve already got the care piece there.”
Reflecting on the different approaches he has seen from the different teams he has coached, he said Queensland players will “stay in the fight”.
“We’re going to battle, that’s the Queensland way.”
Queensland Reds play against the New South Wales Waratahs on March 24 at Suncorp Stadium.
For tickets, head to www.suncorpstadium.com.au.
Photo Caption: QLD Reds Assistant Coach Zane Hilton