Reds v Crusaders ’16

The Reds Super 18 season is pretty much done and dusted, however moving forward tomorrow’s match in Christchurch is a chance to erase the thrashing they received there last year. As I stated earlier in the season, this side has the cattle, just lacking a lead drover.

With Richard Graham’s instant dismissal after the Queenslanders suffered a disastrous start to the 2016 season with two heavy losses from two matches; Ballymore’s swift action has reignighted the Reds’ players passion. The two head coach policy of Nick Styles and Matt O’Conner has been rewarded with success on the scoreboard and wins under their belt. Two matches that they should have won were the draw against the Auckland Blues and loss against the NSW Waratahs, both at Suncorp. The Blues match was in the bag with five minutes to go when the Reds replaced Andrew Ready to win greater dominance at scrum time, which they did resulting in a penalty. The kick for touch and resulting line-out was the correct option, but the poor throw into the line-out resulted in the Aucklanders’ turnover to rampage back into the match. Blues Head Coach, Tana Umanga, complained after the match that a poor refereeing decision by Andrew Lees to not allow advantage, that ended up with a try being scored under the posts. Later analysis showed a clear knock on by a Kiwi player.

Those two losses should have gone down as wins in the log and positive results are what the Reds fans deserve. They will desert the drowning ship in droves if massive losses become the norm, once again. Jake McIntyre & Sam Greene will be great Reds players of the future, but what is needed is a senior No. 10 to come in and motivate what is already the crystallisation of a winning Super Rugby franchise. My suggestion two years ago was to bring Frederic Michalak in, Tony Shaw thought it a great opportunity moving forward, but Sam Cordingly refused the opportunity. Now Freddy has contacted me and wants a second crack, especially if John Mulvihill is appointed head coach.

Rugby World Cup 2015

The eighth instalment of the Rugby World Cup Pool stage has been completed with the usual suspects of teams from the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship making up the final eight teams. Hosts England are the notable exception, but there was always going to be a top tier team being knocked out in the so called, “Pool of death”, Pool A. The real highlight of the Pool stage was the 34-32 upset by Japan over South Africa in the first week. Possibly the most improved team of the tournament, Japan, were unlucky not to progress to the finals series with only one loss to Scotland in Pool B.


It has been one of the most popular tournaments with most matches played to sellout or near sellout crowds and a national TV record of 25 million achieved in Japan for the Brave Blossoms clash with Samoa, surpassing the French record from 2007 tournament they hosted.. Georgia’s win over Tonga and Romania’s one point, come back, win over Canada are standouts from the lower tier nations and the gap is narrowing, making this the most hotly contested World Cup in history. No longer are the 100 point blowout scores seen as the lower tier nations are really challenging the big guns…

The knockout stage of the 2015 tournament has some real juicy match ups with Ireland pitted against their nemesis Argentina, New Zealand against France at Millenium, South Africa verses Wales and the Wallabies against their bogey team, Scotland, back at Twickenham. It has worked out as a classic Southern Hemisphere verse Norther Hemisphere affair with the respective troublemakers to face each other. Three nations have won two World Cups a piece and of the other five nations, France has made three finals.

The finals series is certain to take the World Cup to another level and it is those hard matches in the Pool stages that really propel teams to achieve their goals in the sudden death knockout part. It will be another weekend of late nights in the Antipodeas with the mouth watering match ups and may the best teams achieve victory.


All But…

One of the Reds better performances of the season, with the much anticipated return of Quade Cooper, was not quite enough to secure a win against an impressive Johannesburg Lions side, that have won three from four on their Australasian road trip. Less than 20,000 diehard fans had come out to see the return of some of the missing stars.

After some razzle-dazzle from Cooper in the first half with James O’Conner running off him, the impenetrable Lions defence remained intacked with the Reds trailing 8-3. A miss-throw from replacement hooker Saia Faingaa to James Horwill in the second half gifted the South Africans 7 points, to lead 15-3.

A short time later the reds were back in the contest with a penalty try after Greg Holmes came on and added much needed grunt to the front row to trail 15-0. A neat backline move with James O’Conner standing at first receiver lead to a try by Samu Kerevi which put the Reds in front until Ben Tapuai gave away a penalty in the 72nd minute which Elton Jantjies slotted to put the Lions ahead 18-17. A desperate field-goal attempt by Cooper was charged down right on fulltime to leave the Reds one point behind.

“We’re incredibly disappointed by this result.” Reds coach Richard Graham said after the match. “We put ourselves in a position to win the game. Had we managed the last portion of the game better we could have left here with a win tonight.”

It does not get any easier for the Reds now as they depart on their road trip, first to Melbourne then off to South Africa. They are beginning to show positive signs, but the next few weeks together will see where this team is headed and how secure Graham’s position will be.

Seeing Red

As the 27,199 spectators at Suncorp Stadium filed out after another loss to the New South Wales Waratahs, 23-5, questions started to be levelled at Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham. Queenslanders are a pretty passionate lot and to lose so easily to arch rivals the Waratahs, with the 133 year rivalry seeming a pointless advertising gimmick to heighten pre-match anticipation, seems like the players are lacking direction.

Eddie Jones and Phil Mooney were shown the door before Ewen McKenzie arrived as the saviour and turned the Reds fortunes around winning the Inaugural Super 15 Competition in 2011. Since Graham has taken over the Reds have spiralled down to 13th place last year, the position they are currently placed, and with a rampaging Brumbies match next weekend their prospects do not look much better.

QRU chief executive Jim Carmichael and chairman Rod McCall have some serious decisions to make over the next few weeks if they want to maintain their healthy membership base. Despite an horrific amount of injuries (Quade Cooper, Rod Simmons, James Horwill, Beau Robinson, Ed O’Donoghue, Ed Quirk and the suspension of Karmichael Hunt) this season, that are a natural occurrences in professional rugby, the fans expect results.

Graham’s contract runs out at the end of this season and there are number of suitably qualified Australian head coaches plying their trade in Europe and Japan that should be considered. We all want to see a strong Reds side and the buck stops with the coach.


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Elliot

Little Gidding

© September, 1942


As I board QF 537 at Brisbane Domestic Terminal the Third Test against the French is kicking off at Sydney Football Stadium; where, at the 11th hour, I was granted a coverted media pass to attend the sold out match. Thanks to a man I just happened to run into at the Sofitel in Brisbane two weeks before, Bill Pulver, CEO of Australian Rugby Union (ARU). I had introduced myself as the Editor-at-Large of and he handed me his business card and said, “Whenever you are in Sydney, give me a call.” Well I wasn’t in Sydney, I was going there, and it was 11:46am in Brisbane.


Now we go back two weeks to June 4th when I just happened to be walking through the Sofitel lobby, because I knew I could get a hit of my latest addiction, free Wi-Fi. Like a junky suffering withdrawal, I took my Galaxy S5 and gingerly searched for the free Sofitel Lobby Wi-Fi. Typed in “accept” and sat back in relief while my emails, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. loaded. I ordered a coffee and looked around at my fellow junkies tapping away at the phones, tablets, laptops etc. with sheer pleasure on their faces, like a heroin attic scoring a hit in Fortitude Valley. 


I glanced over to the reception area and noticed a young gentleman that I had never met before, but had first seen on the rugby pitch 11 years ago at Lang Park in the 2003 World Cup. With a sense of disbelief I walked over to the man and introduced myself, to which he replied, “I’m Freddy”.


The French number 10, Fredric Michalak!


To be continued…Image 







Super 18 & Beyond

Yesterday, Bill Pulver, CEO of the ARU, announced that initial discussions with the CEOs of the five Australian Super 15 franchises on SANZARS proposed format for Super 18, coming into effect in 2016, are positive. Greg Growden, from ESPN, told me this morning it was “ridiculous”. On Foxtel’s The Rugby Club last night they discussed the concept and I understand Tim Horan’s wish for a South Pacific team to be included, but television rights demand that greater audiences in Asia will benefit from their inclusion. Obviously with the 2019 World Cup in Japan, including matches in Hong Kong & Singapore, a franchise based in Tokyo or Osaka is almost a fait accompli.


With the time zone of Japan only being one hour behind Eastern Standard Time, or an hour ahead of Western Australia, the television audiences in these areas is where the money will be generated for Murdoch & Co. Even if some of those “Asian” matches were played in Hong Kong or Singapore, they would align with the Perth time zone. After all, as Pulver says, the money is in the television rights and the positives he was hinting at was some Super Rugby matches will be shown on free to air channels.


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The Gold Coast 7s party is over for 2013 and the Kiwis finally claim the spoils after two exhilarating days of action defeating the Aussies 40-19 in an exciting Cup Final where initially the local team lead 12-0 after two quick tries. All the weekend action was hot on and off the field with the Robina Stadium bathed in glorious sunshine, until the twilight sessions began, of course. The usual costumed spectators from ninja turtles to ostrich jockeys were in the crowd to support Round 1 of the HSBC Sevens World Series.


Last year’s winners Fiji, under new coach, former England boss Ben Ryan, proved not quite up to their usual high standard. Despite a loss to Wales they did top Pool C, however they squandered this opportunity losing to England, 12-26, in the Cup quarter final. As a consolation, they did win the Plate with a rousing 36-0 victory over Kenya.


The Bowl was won by France 19-14 after a strong challenge from Canada that went into extra time. France were relegated to the Bowl after losing 5-29 to South Africa and 12-26 to England in Pool B on Saturday. Canada were their due to a count back in Pool C, where the top three teams finished on 7 points. Fiji were given the top berth with Wales second.


Team USA took out the Shield Final 22-0 over Portugal, after coming third in a tough Pool A with the likes of New Zealand, Tonga and Kenya.


England showed the talent they had in their stocks by defeating South Africa 47-0 in the play-off for third. After a mammoth Cup semi-final loss to Australia 19-24, South Africa, were just too weary to put up much resistance to an English side that had scored the first points against New Zealand for the tournament in their 5-14 semi-final loss. But, the New Zealanders, as they showed all tournament, with an unblemished score line after day 1, that they were always going to be the team to beat. Under coach Michael O’Conner the Aussies came out firing in the Cup Final leading 12-0, however their draining semi-final with South Africa, that went into a second 5 minute extension, proved too much against the much fancied Kiwis.


Rugby league school of excellence, Keebra Park State High, proved their versatility by once again winning the national schools sevens title 24-10 over TSS in an all-Gold Coast affair. Forced off the main oval to Robina station reserve due to Australia’s semi-final double extra time with South Africa did not deter from the determination for Keebra Park to secure their fourth straight 7s title, extending their unbeaten record to 40 matches.


Numbers attending the two days were 25,320 which is down on last year’s 27,000+. Rugby Union boss, Bill Pulver, will be sitting down with a team of professionals to see how an improvement can be made to have more people attending. The Gold Coast contract is up next year, 2014, and it’s important to keep this location leading up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which has sevens, as the Gold Coast is the host.



IMG_0110The first round of this season’s World Sevens rugby junket 2013/14 started at 10:30am on the beautiful Gold Coast with New Zealand playing USA in their Pool A match. The Kiwis were victorious over the Americans 38-0. This was followed up by the ever improving Kenyans, with a huge supporter base, smashing the Tongans also by 38-0. With a rain shower threatening, the action was boiling over on the field. And when the Aussies squandered a 21-0 lead over Scotland to draw their match, upsets were looking like a strong possibility.

I was with a nervous Australia 7s coach, Michael O’Conner, watching Samoa playing an impressive Scottish outfit. The latter almost forced another draw, however the Samoans were not giving up easily and managed a 19-12 win. O’Conner said, “We just have to win our next two matches to top our pool.”

Australia then accounted for Argentina 22-7 in the following match with their eyes firmly focussed on the 7:46pm match with Samoa. In the meantime New Zealand was progressing through nicely, easily beating Tonga 26-0 and defeating Kenya 31-0 in the twilight to top Pool A. Last year’s champions, Fiji, were looking alright until they lost to Wales in their last Pool C match 19-22 to Wales. Since Wales had lost 17-24 against Canada earlier in the day the top three teams all finished on 7 points. On count back Fiji topped Pool C.

South Africa had an impressive first day defeating France 29-5, Spain 38-7 and a strong England side 22-14. They topped Pool B and will play Wales tomorrow in the Cup quarter final, with England placed second in Pool B they will have to face Fiji in the quarters.

The Aussies played some of the best rugby I have seen them play to defeat Samoa 12-0 nil in the final match of Day 1. Thereby topping Pool D, which sets them up for a quarter final with Kenya tomorrow at 12:42pm –just like last year when they beat eventual champions Fiji in their last pool match. With Samoa coming second in Pool D, they will have to play the Kiwis at noon in their quarter final.

Basically going to form, Sunday’s action is going to be a mouth-watering feast of 7s rugby. If you are still without a ticket there are a few available at the gate so come on down.