Category Archives: Rugby Australia

Red Fans See Red over Higger’s Red

Red Card to Higginbothem
New Zealand referee Brendon Pickerill gives Reds captain, Scott Higginbotham, a red card. Source Foxsports

The tsunami of response to revisiting the question of whether changes are needed to the red card system has been ignited by New Zealand referee Brendon Pickerill’s decision to send off Reds Captain, Scott Higginbotham, in their opening match against the Melbourne Rebels last Friday. Recent results have proven that an early red-card send off have resulted in obscuring the final result so much so that the offending team usually loses. This can be exemplified last year when the mighty All Blacks were dealt a fatal blow when Sonny Bill Williams was red-carded against the British & Irish Lions in their second test match denying them the win and consequently a record series white-wash. Wallabies prop, Sekope Kefu, was red-carded against Scotland in their end of season match which resulted in losing the test match 53-24. Also, in 2011, Welsh captain, Sam Warburton, was sent off early in their World Cup quarter-final match against the Wallabies and subsequently suffered defeat and being knocked out of the tournament  (see more).

Therefore, it can be demonstrated the devastating effect of a red card, especially early in a match. It can be argued, and heavily was debated by Reds fans, that the Higginbotham dismissal in the first 10 minutes of the Reds opening Super Rugby match had a devastating effect on the final result. Losing your leader so early in a match denies the team the attacking momentum and direction for such a young team and that was noticeable. However, to start questioning the referee’s decision is going against the fundamental principle of rugby, which has been ingrained in our heads since we first picked up the ball. As I have consistently reiterated throughout my rugby career that if there was no referee there is no game and they should be considered sacrosanct. Whether it was Paddy O’Brien, head of World Rugby’s referees, or another official, the decision to protect player welfare is paramount to the continuation of rugby union. An official line in the sand has been drawn and the decision to award a red card when a tackle to the head is enacted, regardless of how much force appears to have or have not occurred.

Players should be taught how to tackle properly and that anything high should be obliterated from the game. The fact that a player of Quade Cooper’s pedigree, having played over sixty tests for the Wallabies, can consistently be sent off for high tackles is astonishing. How can a player come out of such a rugby nursery as Church of England Grammar School’s 1stXV and not be able to tackle is incredulous? Maybe Brad Thorn has a point in his axing.

Player well-fare is the real question that has to be addressed and proper coaching from the grassroots up is the key. Take the emotion out the equation and have a real discussion about how we want OUR game to progress. It is still a contact sport, but we no longer send Christians to the lions, so a little bit of cool-headed clarity is needed.

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Final squads confirmed for action-packed Brisbane Global Rugby Tens

All 12 elite men’s squads and the four women’s teams that will contest the 2018 Brisbane Global Rugby Tens have been confirmed.

Julian Savea, the second-highest All Blacks try scorer of all time, will spearhead the Hurricanes’ challenge, while young tyro George Bridge will lead a raw but talent-packed Crusaders side in the spectacular day-night tournament at Suncorp Stadium on Friday and Saturday.

Bridge starred at the 2017 tournament as the Crusaders made it to the final without dropping a game, only to be defeated at the final hurdle by the inspired Chiefs.

The Crusaders side also features Ethan Blackadder, the highly-rated son of former All Blacks captain and Crusaders legend Todd Blackadder.

“It’s awesome to be heading to Brisbane once again for the Tens,” Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said.

“Last year’s tournament provided some valuable lessons for us leading in to the start of the Super Rugby season, and I’m confident we have a side full of exciting young talent who will be keen to showcase their skills against some quality opposition.”

Drawn in Pool C, the Crusaders begin their campaign with a showdown against Savea’s Hurricanes,  followed by a match against Will Genia’s Brumbies on Friday evening. They then meet Olympic Sevens champions Fiji in their final match of pool play on Saturday afternoon.

The Hurricanes’ squad boasts former New Zealand Sevens star Ben Lam and exciting back Jonah Lowe who scored a hat-trick of tries in last week’s pre-season win over the Crusaders in Greymouth.

Up front, young try-scoring prop  Alex Fidow – one of Wellington’s Bash Brothers  – will add plenty of grunt to the pack.

The 2018 edition of the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens brings together some of the biggest names in the global game alongside some of the brightest stars of the future.

A star-studded Pau line-up featuring seven former All Blacks (including Conrad Smith and Carl Hayman), former Wallabies captain Ben Mowen and former England flanker Steffon Armitage is one of the major drawcards of the 2018 event.

The extensive line-up of internationally-capped players competing this weekend also includes Will Genia (Rebels), Berrick Barnes, Digby Ioane (Panasonic Wild Knights), Samu Kerevi, Taniela Tupou (Reds), Henry Speight, Andrew Walker (Brumbies), Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Liam Messam, Charlie Ngatai (Chiefs), Elliot Dixon, Luke Whitelock (Highlanders) and George Moala, Akira Ioane (Blues).

The 2017 edition of the tournament featured the likes of breakout stars Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape, who both went on to play for the All Blacks against the British & Irish Lions.

This year’s intake of thrilling prospects is led by the likes of Crusaders captain Bridge, Fidow and rising Blues star Caleb Clarke, the son of former All Blacks star Eroni Clarke.

The 2018 wildcard class is headlined by the return to the Blues of ‘King’ Carlos Spencer, while Carl Hayman (Pau), Drew Mitchell (Waratahs), Andrew Walker (Brumbies), Adam Freier (Rebels) and Pita Alatini (Highlanders) will also make cameo appearances back in the professional ranks.

The 2018 tournament also features an expanded four-team women’s competition, presented by Wallace Bishop.

Teams from Queensland, New South Wales, the Brumbies and Rebels will play a full round of pool matches followed by a grand final.

The Brisbane Global Rugby Tens is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and Brisbane City Council through Brisbane Marketing.

BNZ Crusaders squad for Brisbane Global Rugby Tens:                             
Jone Macilai, George Bridge (C) Manasa Mataele, Braydon Ennor, Jack Stratton, Zach McKay, Brett Cameron, Tima Faingaanuku, Ngane Punivai, Richard Judd, Andrew Makalio, Billy Harmon, Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie, Jordan Manihera, Hamish Dalzell, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Ben Morris, Dylan Nel, Harrison Allen, Nathan Vella

Hurricanes squad for Brisbane Global Rugby Tens
Julian Savea (c), Brayden lose, Ben Lam, Alex Fidow, Fraser Armstrong, Tolu Fahamokioa, James O’Rielly, Murray Douglas, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Will Mangos, Liam Mitchell, Sam Henwood, Chase Tiatia, Finlay Christie, Jamie Booth, Losi Filipo, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Malo Tuitama, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Jonah Lowe, Trent Renata, Hunter Prescott

Fiji squad for Brisbane Global Rugby Tens
Joeli Veitayaki, Rautnaisa Navuma, Mosese Ducivaki, Viliame Rarasea, Filimoni Seru Camaitovu, Mosese Ducivaki, Peni Raidre, Albert Tuisue, Serupepeli Vularika, Jone Manu Taufaga, Aparosa Tabulawaki, Timoci Senaite, Ifereimi Tovilevu, Lepani Rayala, Inia Tawalo, Veremalua Vugakoto, Kalivate Tawake, Vesi Rarawa, Timoci Sauvoli, Levani Kurimudu, Frank Lomani, Enele Malele, Chris Kurandrani, Penasio Kunabuli, Fabiano Rogovakalali, Eroni Mawi.

See full squad lists HERE

Brissy Tens 2.0

Brissy 10s, 2018

Once again, in the rejigged Brisbane Global Tens, the River City plays host to a star-studded line-up of Wallabies, All Blacks, Super Rugby champions past and present for two days of action-packed abridged rugby with 10-a-side players on the field. As last year’s inaugural event proved the record heatwave was sapping on the players and having lots of subs was essential. This year the organisers, Duco Events, have decided to tweak the program to play afternoon/evening matches on Friday and Saturday.

Backing up from last weeks electric HSBC Sevens International event last weekend in Sydney where both Australian teams won their respective tourneys, Tens bridges the gap between fast-paced 7s and the more technical 15-a-side game. Five man scrums means grunt is needed with space out wide for electric backs to impress. However, seeing Brumbies prop, Ben Alexander, have a run with space at last year’s competition was a highlight. This year we have another mobile prop in Taniela Tupuo for the Queensland Reds, which will be great to see in action.

Last night at the Reds intra-squad trial and Twilight Fan Day, Brad Thorn had a few words on the upcoming 10s tournament,

The Tens provides a good opportunity for the players to put into action what they’ve worked on throughout the pre-season. 

“We’ve got three pre-season fixtures this year, we felt it was important to give everyone an opportunity to showcase their skills. It’s a good reward for their hard work. 

“Last year’s tournament was fast and physical and provided a good challenge a couple of weeks out from the season. No doubt the guys are looking forward to getting out there in front of our home fans.”

As a precursor to the 2018 Super Rugby competition, both the Australian and New Zealand franchises will showcase their respective 2018 squads alongside the international sides of the Robbie Deans’ Panasonic Wild Knights from Japan, the All Black-studded powerhouse Pau from France and rugby entertainers Fiji rounding out the 12 teams. The 4 teams from Australia, 5 teams from New Zealand combined with the three overseas teams making three even Pools: A, B & C of four.

Pool A: sees the Queensland Reds, Auckland Blues, Melbourne Rebels and Panasonic Wild Knights fight it out. In Pool B: last year’s champions the Chiefs play the Waratahs, Highlanders and Pau. Pool C: sees the Brumbies, Crusaders, Hurricanes and the newcomers, Fiji. This format will run in conjunction with a women’s competition from the four Australian franchises of Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies and Rebels.

The ambassadors for this competition are Kurtly Beale from the Waratahs, Julian Sevea from the Hurricanes and Liam Messam from the champion Chiefs outfit. Also, the French side, Pau, provides former All Black greats Conrad Smith, Colin Slade and others plus former Wallaby captain and Brisbane rugby product, Ben Mowen. Another Brisbane rugby great, Reds & Wallaby hero, Digby Ioane playing for Panasonic Wild Knights says he’s keen with a post on Instagram: “Come support the boys at Suncorp next week. Up the Wild Knights!”Rugby 10s 2018

Vale Stan the Man

It is with great sadness that this week has seen the passing of legendary Wallaby No. 594, Stanislaus Josef Pilecki, the “Pole” from Queensland. Stan was a larger than life character I had the fortune to watch play out at Ballymore in the early 1980s. I was astounded by the fact that he was 36 and still playing for Australia, thinking that playing in the front row may add to your longevity to your career, not realizing that prop forward was the hardest position.

In recent times I met him a few times on his beloved Moreton Island where he had a sort of bungalow place that he brought rugby teams over to train. He talked often about how he loved being involved in rugby, especially his cherished time with the Bulldogs at Wests on Sylvyn Road.

Having played over 100 times for Queensland and his name will be forever immortalised in the Pilecki Medal given to the best performing Queensland Reds player of the season.

A New CEO at Rugby Australia

The annus horribilis at Rugby Australia culminates in current CEO, Bill Pulver, falling on his sword and a newly minted boss in Raelene Castle being named. From the outset, this caught the Australian rugby community off guard as a past player or rugby union minion was not elected. No NSWRU or QRU baggage to overcome or have to justify. Castle has worked for the past 4 years as the CEO of the Bulldogs Rugby League where she had to deal with the strong personality of Des Hassler, putting her in good stead for ‘handling’ the Wallabies coach, Michael Chieka. There were salary cap issues at the Bulldogs and Hassler was sacked after she had left, but it seems on the surface she did a good job. She also had 6 years before that as the head of Netball New Zealand building great relationships with other administrators, notwithstanding NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew.

If Rugby Australia had of picked Phil Kearns, then a business as usual mentality would have set in and the rot and coverups would have continued to permeate. Sydney’s North Shore brigade would retain its power base, leaving the rest of grassroots rugby to try and tread water unassisted.  This might have been where Eastwood President, Brett Papworth, may have been parachuted in, as he has had plenty to say about developing grassroots rugby (see here). Although, his health may have been of concern (more info). It was even believed that belated saviour of the Western Force rugby union, Andrew Forrest, could have even been given a nod, despite not having sports administration background (see IPRC).

So we turn to Ms Castle and her credentials certainly stack up as a competent administrator with high profile positions in various sporting landscapes. There will always be detractors out there, though, on a whole, it appears she has done a wonderful job. Also, she sees opportunities for both male and female athletes to develop with international opportunities not found in AFL or NRL. My question, however, turns to the fact that she is a New Zealander and an avowed supporter of the All Blacks, “There wouldn’t be a Wallabies-All Blacks Test match that I have missed in the last 35 years, unless I was travelling.” When every fibre in the collective conscious of rugby aficionados in the Australian rugby community focussed on regaining the Bledisloe Cup, would getting into bed with the ‘enemy’ be seen as a positive step? The overall attitude of the rugby leader is, of course, to build relationships and seek to increase participation in our game (that they play in heaven). Grow the grassroots and plant the seeds for Wallaby success. But, the end goal for young aspirants is to see a successful progression and ultimately an all-conquering Wallabies outfit with at least a Bledisloe Cup in the cabinet, then there may be a conflict of interest.

I hope I am wrong, though the Robbie Deans saga was arguably a mistake. Rugby followers are passionate beasts and any chink in the armour at the top is not looked on too fondly. Pulver has had some great initiatives for Australian rugby, especially in developing women’s rugby, but regrettably botched the handling of the Western Force in Super Rugby with a complete coverup and will forever hang his head in shame. Not since John O’Neill has Australian had a rugby boss of pedigree and after Ms Castle has sorted out New Zealand Rugby League’s failure at the RL World Cup she can attend to our rugby woes. Hopefully, she does not see this appointment as a stepping stone to take Steve Tew’s position as the head of New Zealand Rugby, because, with the announcement to apply for the Women’s World Cup in 2021 and the Men’s in 2027, we need someone here for the long haul.