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Don’t Cry For Me Argentina

Last weekend I was reminded of the #RWC2007 in France where the Argentines defeated France twice to claim 3rd overall in that tournament. To defeat a nation on their home soil is a really difficult assignment and Los Pumas have not achieved this in Australia since 1983, some 35 years ago. At Cbus Stadium on the Gold Coast, 16,009 people witnessed a truly historic occasion on the fast paddock in the outer suburb of Robina.

Highlights of Wallabies v Los Pumas

The Wallaby coaching staff must be ruing another missed opportunity to put some home ground results on the board ahead of six overseas matches after a long period of losses on Australian soil starting with the first white-wash by England with Eddie Jones’ side winning 3-0 in 2016, straight after a successful Wallabies showing at #RWC2015. Losing a series to Scotland in 2017 and the first series loss to Ireland this year, 2-1, since 1979. The Wallaby fortunes of nine losses have seen their world ranking drop to 7th, which hasn’t occurred since the early 1970s.

Chieka & Larkham
Wallaby coaching staff Steven Larkham and Michael Chieka. Photo courtesy of AFP

The analogies with #RWC2007 where the English knocked off the Wallabies in mystifying circumstances with messers Gregan and Larkham seeming like they had the match under control and simply ran out of time were reflected by the Wallabies on Saturday night. A few hours later, on the same night in 2007, the French beat the All Blacks in their quarterfinal in Cardiff; once again, like last Saturday night when the Springboks beat the form ABs.

Highlights of South Africa defeating the ABs

The big difference for the Kiwis was they had a packed stadium in Wellington and lead 12-nil early, the Wallabies had 16,009 at Cbus Stadium on the Gold Coast and were behind from the outset. All of New Zealand was glued to television sets from Auckland to Bluff and on the Gold Coast at the Grand Hotel in Labrador, there was a stunned silence when Beaudan Barritt missed the conversion to tie the match 36-all. A bit like trying to have a conversation with a Kiwi in the last 10 minutes of #RWC2011, where they French should have won. By contrast, most of Australia was watching the AFL or NRL finals series.

The problem with Australian rugby is we are not attracting enough interest in the game. Super Rugby is on the nose with our teams getting thrashed by the Kiwi franchises and the Wallabies being hammered by the All Blacks in the first two Bledisloe Cup matches; we do have a chance to address that for Bledisloe III in Yokohama, a prelude to the #RWC2019 final there on next year on November 2nd. What Rugby Australia should be doing is getting Andrew Forrest more involved in providing a solution, as I have mentioned before:

Bankwest-backs-the-Force
Twiggy Forrest with Bankwest Managing Director Rowan Munchenberg and Captain Ian Prior. Photo courtesy of Western Force

Rugby Australia needs Twiggy

As Topo Rodrigeuz said in his article, “Mental Toughness’? This is what they refer to! Do Not Retaliate, Do Not throw silly or clever punches or Do Not spit on anyone on the playing field!!! You play to WIN, and the only reflection of it is the scoreboard…”

CJ & Topo, lunch
CJ with Dr Scrum at Le Sands Restaurant

Topo’s article in LinkedIn

But for the Wallabies to have any chance of dreaming about back to back World Cup final appearances, there has to be a lot of navel-gazing done. Cheika had a good run taking over from McKenzie in 2014, winning the Super Rugby final with the Waratahs then taking the Wallabies to the RWC2015 final. Just as his teammate from Randwick, Eddie Jones, enjoyed a honeymoon period, the sad reality is HIS TIME IS UP!!!

Discuss.

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Quade Cooper Isn’t Going Anywhere

Quade_Cooper_2014Out at Shaw Road, Wooloowin over 4,000 people had gathered to watch a magician that has been hiding at local rugby parks in Brisbane’s Premier competition and being paid handsomely for it by Rugby Australia and the QRU. As a regular at Souths’ Chipsy Wood this winter, where bumper crowds have enjoyed the pure entertainment this entertainer provides, I felt almost guilty seeing his talent for gratis (or a couple tinnies from the can bar).

There are many people out there that want to see him playing at the top level again, and as last Sunday proved the higher level he plays the better he plays. Four of Brisbane City’s five tries (he scored one himself) came from a Cooper offload, none more so than to South’s teammate Jayden Ngamanu in the 62nd minute. Although the City team was beaten 47-29 by a well drilled Western Force side, under Tim Samson, they are studded with Reds players and when they work out their combinations they will get some wins on the board.

All the tries for #BNEVFOR RD #1 NRC

A lot of speculation on Quade Cooper’s future has been thrown around this week, such as Tim Horan suggesting the Sunwolves might be interested and Rugby Australia releasing details of discussions between the QRU, Rebels and Cooper’s manager, Khoder Nasser.

Nasser told me on Monday morning that he was looking at all offers on the table from New Zealand to the world. He said that Rugby Australia and the cash-strapped QRU want his player fee of $800,000+ off their books to free up more cash for developing players. Quade is not budging, quite content to run around for another season at Chipsy Wood and draw the crowds to Brisbane club rugby, which is not a total waste of money in the grand scheme of things.

Whatever decision Cooper makes over the next few weeks, he should be supported and the mercurial genius will draw the crowds to whatever paddock he’s playing on from Shaw Road to Sapporo…

Play rugby and See the World

CJ & Peter Grant
CJ & Peter Grant at Courtney Oval

At a suburban rugby ground in Brisbane’s north on Sunday, I met former Springbok five-eighth Peter Grant, still running around a rugby paddock at 34. We talked about rugby and the opportunities it provides for you more so than any other sport. The camaraderie that it instils is second to none and the greatest event of the 20th Century was how the 1995 World Cup in South Africa united the Rainbow Nation under Nelson Mandela.

I told him I have friends in Japan well into their 50s that regularly play rugby on the weekend, that’s when he replied that he played four seasons for Kobe Steel. The conversation ensued on how rugby provides an opportunity to travel the globe playing a game you love. Born in Durban to farm owners, Grant, grew up dreaming of playing for the Natal Sharks. When he matriculated from Maritzburg College his father told him he would never make money from rugby so he did business at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape province of South Africa. His skills on the rugby pitch were not overlooked and the Super Rugby franchise the Stormers picked him up, eventually playing 104 games for them. He also went on to play 5 test matches for the Springboks, at a time when they had some of the best No. 10s playing the game.

From 2010 to 2014 he played the offseason with the Kobelco Steelers, one of the most successful company clubs in Japan, winning the inaugural Top League in 2003/4. Currently, Dan Carter is the Steelers five-eighth. After Kobe, Grant played a season, 2014/15, with La Rochelle in the French Top 14 before joining the Western Force for the 2016 season. He has settled in Perth with relatives galore and has established his own family. Grant told me that Andrew Forrest is a great man with deep pockets that wants to see rugby succeed in a country dominated by AFL and NRL. The exciting part is that Asia is the future for rugby expansion and Twiggy Forrest with his World Series Rugby will be part of the future when Super Rugby dies and comes begging for a solution. As for Peter Grant, he just wants to get a bit of land in Western Australia and get back to his roots and run a farm. A true gentleman of rugby.

30th Anniversary Dinner for Souths USA/Canada Tour 1988

I have booked the plantation room at the Pineapple Hotel for the 9th of November, 2018, almost exactly 30 years from when we departed Brisbane for Sydney, Hawaii, LA and eventually arrived in Vancouver where we played our first match. Dress code will be smart casual and if you have any clothing from the tour that would be great (Mickey Mouse ears included for Fast Cars). Also, if you have any photos, I will be setting up a Facebook event, so that they can be uploaded and shared around. The original party was around 41, so I endeavour to try to contact everyone individually, however, if you know someone from the tour please let them know. Costs for the three-course meal and drinks package will be $100, which is really good value. Of course wives, girlfriends and partners are allowed to attend this unique event in the club history.

Cheers

CJ

UQ Wins the Minor Premiership

Minor Premiers UQ
UQ Rugby Team Photo: CJ via Instagram

Round 18 completed the regular season for 2018 with no change to the top four which will contest the finals series from next week at Ballymore. Uni will play GPS in the major semi-final and Easts will take on their finals nemesis, Souths, in the minor semi after being thumped by GPS yesterday 39-5.

UQ Red Heavies defeated Souths Magpies 33-14 at Chipsy Wood to not only take the minor premiership, but also the Welsby Cup.

Welsby Cup at Souths
Welsby Cup Photo coutesy of Souths rugby on Facebook

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.