Last Tuesday night at Bond University on the Gold Coast the Japanese women’s rugby team, known as the Sakura 15, defeated the Wallaroos 12 to 10. Despite 10 personnel and positional changes due to COVID Tests on the eve the match, they were able to overcome their more fancied rivals.
The first half was dominated by the decidedly larger Aussie side in both scrums and lineouts. However, the tenacious Japanese side made their tackles and held them out to keep the score at nil-all going to the sheds.
In the second half it was No. 10 Ayasa Otsuka that kicked through a dropped ball by the Wallaroos in their own 22 to snatch a try in the 49th minute. She successfully converted her try to put the Sakura 15 ahead 7-0.
The Wallaroos continued to work the ball downfield and off a rolling maul, Ashley Masteri, was in for the Aussies first score. The Sakura 15 put some good phases together and eventually put Kyoko Hosokawa in to extend their lead to 12-5. However, the Wallaroos were not going to give in and Adiana Talakai managed to cross out wide. Once again Lori Crammer missed the conversion so the score remained 10-12. Crammer had an easier penalty shot in the 79th minute to steal the match for the Wallaroos, but was unsuccessful. Crammer’s 0 and 3 with the boot proved decisive for the home team.
The short turnaround from Friday night’s 36-19 demolition of Fijiana at Suncorp Stadium was no excuse for Jay Tregonning fielding the same 23. The last time the two sides met on the 19th of July, 2019, the Aussies won 46-3 after beating them 34-5 on the 13th of July, 2019. The only other time the two side have met was the 17th of August, 2017, at the Rugby World Cup in Ireland where the Wallaroos were also victorious winning 29-15.
It was history making on the Gold Coast for the Sakura 15 with plenty of Japanese in the crowd. This bodes well for their campaign for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later this year in October/November.
Well technically not, as it’s only the third biggest global sporting event. A mere 20 nations qualifying after an exhaustive elimination process, however, the tournament is three times longer at six-weeks and 12 venues from Hokkaido to Kyushu. The influx of foreign invaders will be the greatest since Commodore Perry’s arrival in 1853 at Shimoda.
Perennial favourites the All Blacks from New Zealand will be looking for an unprecedented three-peat, having won the last two incarnations in 2011 & 2015. Although, Ireland will go into the tournament as World No. 1, due to the quirky World Rugby algorithm that determines placings. Never before have the ‘Men in Green’ made a RWC Final, although their Quarter-Final match against RWC1991 winners, the Wallabies, at Landsdown Road will go down as ‘the one that got away‘.
The teams descending on Japan, somewhat delayed due to Typhoon Faxai, should be embraced by the Japanese populous along with the tsunami of international supporters. Rugby people are a different breed: beer-swilling aficionados as opposed to football (soccer in the English speaking world outside of England) hooligans. They will appreciate the culture, the ceremonies, the nature and the history that abounds there; as well as the onsen or hot springs, the most renowned are found in Beppu, Kyushu; with matches played in Oita, including two very important quarter-finals, these are a must-see (map below).
Visiting Japan 12 months out from the Rugby World Cup I got a sense that the ‘general’ Japanese population were somewhat unaware of the tournament. When questioned they would reply with, “Tokyo 2020?” Just last week at a theme park on the Gold Coast some university students visiting from Japan on their summer break in Australia looked puzzled when I said I was going to Japan for the Rugby World Cup (admittedly, they were from Ibaraki Prefecture, an hour or so north of Tokyo on the Joban Line, where no matches are being played). Also in Australia, when people ask why I am going to Japan the response often is, “Do they play rugby in Japan?”
Undoubtedly, when RWC2019begins this Friday at Ajinomoto Stadium the vast majority will get on board. Not everyone is a diehard rugby fan, but when a spectacle such as the Rugby World Cup is on your doorstep you can be assured that the populous will respond and Japanese ‘omotenashi‘ (hospitality) will come to the fore. At the 2015 tournament, 25 million in Japan tuned in to watch Japan v Samoa on their television sets, so the interest is there. The other takeout from that tournament held in the UK was the 34-32 last-minute win over the Springboksby the Japanese Brave Blossoms; recreated in cinema with the just-released “Miracle in Brighton“.
Rugby Union has a long history in Japan dating from 1866 in Yokohama and, while being more popular in the universities, the company based Top League has started to attract larger crowds. Unfortunately, Japan’s Super Rugbyteam the Sunwolves will be axed from the competition after the 2020 season, though I’m sure their company based Top League will eventually open up to international teams from Hong Kong and Perth (convincing the JRFU will be a challenge, though).
All and all this bodes well for a spectacular tournament that I am very much looking forward to attending. 楽しみですネ‼
Having returned from just over a month in North Queensland, I am buoyed by the fact that the boutique sport of rugby union in Australia is growing healthily in the regional areas of Queensland. Despite not being able to watch my beloved Queensland Reds play Super Rugby on one of Townsville’s The Ville Casino’s numerous television screens, I did encounter plenty of diehard rugby people in FNQ, none more so than my mate Severin “Bunny” Andreassen from Brothers Cairns, now the President of Brothers Juniors in Townsville. His son Jack is a rugby development officer for Townsville and District Rugby Union (TDRU)and shows a passion for the game like his father. I watched him play a spirited match for Brothers’ 1st Grade side against a strong Teachers-West at Mike Carney Toyota Park (above, where I had played myself for a Brisbane Colts v North Queenslandside, back in the day).
Club rugby in Townsville has this year seen the merger of Western Districts with James Cook University (JCU)which WestsPresident, Athol Giddens, told me was a much needed shot in the arm for both clubs -especially since JCU had recently started a rugby league team. The 2019 amalgamation has provided a junior club for JCU to develop players from and proper training facilities, with lighting –far superior to Wests‘ previous locations, I was told. I watched them going through their paces at the university under the guidance of Kiwi ex-pat, Campbell Yates, whom Giddens would like to have several of. “The main issue is finding quality coaches and getting them accredited with Level 1 and 2 coaching certificates from the QRU,” Giddens said.
The tyranny of distance is always an issue in the bush. However, they are rugged people up north and travelling over an hour one way for a Saturday fixture is not unheard of. Charters Towers is over an hour and a half away and they are in the Townsville competition, along with Burdekin and Ingham. Brothers Townsville are traditionally the stronghold, though lately Teachers-West has built up their ranks and have two quality backs in Curtis Rayment and Josh Fletcher. Both these local boys orchestrated Teachers’ 54-0 win over a young Brothers side, in a match where plenty of passion was on display.
During my time in Townsville, I also met Brolgas stalwart coach, John Rauch, for many lunchtime conversations at the school we were both teaching at. Originally from New South Wales, he has taken a passionate interest in the rugby scene in North Queensland over the past 30 odd years, playing for Brothers Townsville before being involved in coaching. Every two years, around Easter, Rauchtakes a representative side from Townsville, under the Brolgas banner, to Japan to play select schools over there. Later this year, he will take a team from The Cathedral School to Europe for rugby union matches -another bi-annual trip he organises at his school.
Last week, the Queensland Junior State Championships were held at Downlands College in Toowoomba. It was great to see representative teams from all over the State, including the Brolgas from Townsville. One of my students who I had seen play in Townsville made the U13 Brolgas side which I was pretty chuffed about. Next month we see Townsville host the annual Queensland School Sport (QSS) 11-12 years rugby union championship, which bodes well for the future of our code. In a rugby league stronghold, ‘the game they play in heaven’ is in good hands.
The last Rugby World Cup of the century began with much fanfare at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff two weeks ago. The top seeds won their pool games quite easily through the second week provided some interesting results.
The first real match-ups of rugby heavyweights took place last weekend with New Zealand verse England and Australia v Ireland.
In the former game, England realised it had to play 15-man rugby to repeat their finals appearance of 1991, but the superiority of the All Blacks came to the fore in Jonah Lomu. As in the 1995 tournament, the 58th minute proved Lomu was back with a trademark 60 metre run through the English backs to break the 16-16 deadlock.
New Zealand scored a further try by in-form halfback replacement Byron Kelleher and took the match 30-16.
In the latter match, the passionate Irish couldn’t back up their rough play with any try-scoring opportunities and the Wallabies went away with two tries to win a scrappy contest 23-3.
Instrumental in the win was mid-field saviour Tim Horan. As he was in the successful 1991 campaign three-Cup veteran Horan is the centre of attack.
I caught up with Tim Horan before he and the team left Australia a few weeks ago on a typical early spring day in Brisbane.
In contrast to the light rain that fell at Lansdowne Road before Sunday’s match, blue sky with the sun shining brightly greeted me as I parked out the front of Tim’s Queenslander house. His daughter directed me to ‘the office’ where the interview was conducted.
It had been about 10 years since we played in the Colts (under 19) “Dream Team” that won the 1988 Grand Final convincingly and just like then he can still carve through backlines as he proved with vintage aplomb on Sunday against the Irish.
The Aussie campaign to “Bring back Bill”, the affectionate name they have given the William Webb Ellis trophy, is underway and November 6, just three weeks off, is looming as a very significant day for a young nation entering the new millennium.
For also on that day a referendum will be carried out in Australia to decide whether to become a republic or hold onto a dying monarchy. The players have already voted and Captain John Eales had one regret that they won’t be playing England on that day.
“It would have been good to play England in the final,” he said. “We could stuff them on the field – and stuff them in the vote.”
I asked Tim his opinion as to Australia winning the 1999 World Cup. He said, “We have a fairly good chance, but Ireland won’t be easy.”
“At the moment we are concentrating mainly on Wales in the quarters”.
He didn’t seem too concerned about Larkham’s injury noting that it was not as bad as the thumb injury he sustained in a Super 12 match where he had to go off at halftime.
His lack of concern proved justified as Larkham had a solid return to test match level rugby last Sunday and again yesterday against the Americans.
‘At the moment we are concentrating on Wales in the quarters’
Australia’s chances of regaining the Webb Ellis trophy are looking pretty good. As Bob Dwyer stated in his 1992 autobiography that the best two prepared teams contested the final in 1991 and should that be the case this time the Wallabies (and the Kiwis) are starting to come good at the right time.
An emphatic win over the Kiwis at Stadium Australia, 34-9, in front of 107,000+ people was a psychological shot in the arm after some lacklustre games preceding it.
“The atmosphere was ecstatic…great for Australian rugby”, Tim said. “Crowd support like that is something we don’t often get in Australia.”
“In New Zealand and South Africa you come to expect to play 16 (including the crowd) but at Stadium Australia it was excellent.”
This game provided the springboard for Australia’s assault at retaining rugby’s Holy Grail, the Webb Ellis trophy.
In a year that has seen our cricketers, hockey and netball players win their respective world championships it would be another piece of silverware on the mantelpiece of a proud young nation.
Australia’s first match of the tournament was against Romania in Belfast. Once again Tim Horan proved too good for the weak defence and scored in less time then it takes to pour a pint of Guinness (119 seconds).
For his effort, sponsors Guinness will donate £10,000 to the charity of his choice (this probably should go to the under-financed Romanian rugby team).
The tournament run by the Five Nations has had its detractors noting the lop-sided results. But as Sydney Morning Herald writer Peter FitzSimons says, “Wouldn’t rugby league love the chance to show it had a similar array of cultures, backgrounds and socio-economic firepower united through a common passion?”
When Australia hosts the next rugby World Cup in 2003 these same arguments will be brought out along with the problems of where each game will be held.
As rugby has become professional the bottom line has been to make as much return from the game as is put in and that means bums on seats.
At the present World Cup, we have seen good numbers at games in England, France and Wales but poor ones for matches in Scotland.
The Scottish Rugby Union is responsible for this balls-up due to their traditional opposition to any innovations or improvements of the game and their initial rejection of having a World Cup when first raised by the IRB.
I remember asking a Scottish friend about tickets for the World Cup early this year and he told me that even the clubs are finding it hard to obtain any – what a travesty that has proven
Fast forward to 2003 where the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is calling the shots, will the spectators be looked after then?
Will Queensland, a strong backyard for Wallaby talent, be overlooked for the choice matches by Melbourne; or even Perth?
ARU head, John O’Neill has decided not to give Brisbane a Bledisloe Cup match next year opting for Melbourne where rugby is hardly played because they can guarantee numbers through the turnstiles.
However, when I asked Tim about the lack of major test matches in Brisbane he cited that only 34,000 people came to Suncorp Stadium for the Tri-nations match against South Africa in July.
With the present debates over a super-stadium in Brisbane in the professional age of rugby, Queensland may be left out on a limb.
The debacle when Queensland topped the Super 12 and was given a home semi-final over whether to play at Ballymore or Suncorp Stadium meant that those schoolboys who supported the Reds all season weren’t allowed to use their schoolboy passes.
Subsequently, many locals boycotted and a proportionally larger Kiwi contingent turned up to see Canterbury outplay an uninterested Queensland side.
A further point I raised with Tim was that of the end of season Rico Challenge played between Queensland, New South Wales and ACT.
He supported the concept saying it is a good way for fringe players to get a Super 12 contract.
Although spectators to these games are low if marketed properly and positioned better in the rugby calendar, as proposed, we may see this problem overcome.
Finally, I asked Tim of his plans after the World Cup.
“Well I have another year to go on my Super 12 contract, but after that, I’d like to play in Europe”, he said.
“The pressure of Super 12 and test matches are great and I’d like to relax for a while with my family”.
No chance of following in your father’s footsteps and entering politics?
“No way!!!” he replied.
“You could give me a million bucks for a day in politics and I’d say no.
“For all the hard work my father does he doesn’t seem to get any popular response”.
The interview ended at 3pm as Tim apologized that he had to pick up one of the kids from school.
This weekend the final pool matches of the World Cup will be wrapped up with Pool D looking the closest; the clash between France and Fiji to determine the winner of Pool C being unclear; and England against Tonga no certainty.
“You could give me a million bucks for a day in politics and I’d say no.”
New Zealand’s hundred plus points against Italy was very impressive while Australia’s line was crossed for the first time this tournament by the USA, but went on to win 55-19.
Finishing the top of pool E Australia is guaranteed a semi-final berth, however, they will be without star running loose forward Toutai Kefu banned for 14 days for his toe-to-toe with Ireland’s enforcer Trevor Brennan.
Australian coach Rod McQueen was upset about the “selective citations”, but acknowledges the tournament has been well run.
Whichever team holds aloft the Webb Ellis trophy on November 6 rugby will be the real winner.
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.
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!”
The annus horribilisat 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.
Rugby Australia CEO, Raelene Castle. Photo courtesy of AAP
The Coaching merry go round that has now become synonymous with the Qld Reds has once again reared it’s ugly head with Nick Stiles the latest to fall victim to the position which could be referred to as a ‘poisoned chalice’.
If what former Coach Mark McBain has hinted at recently is true, then player power is still alive and well, in fact, it’s never been better at Ballymore.
With Brad Thorn set to become the 10th Coach in the last 16 Seasons what does that tell you about loyalty and staying strong? Not a whole lot, I would have thought.
Sure, Stile’s record in the 2017 season wasn’t great, in fact, it was the worst of any Qld Reds Coach so far with a 4-11 win/loss record. Also, they finished 14th overall in the Super 18 Competition, but as is the case a lot of the time the Head Coach is made the scapegoat while the players appear to get off Scott free with little or no accountability being taken.
There will be those who are quick to point out that Coaching at the elite level in any sport is results driven and if you don’t perform you’ll fall on your sword and pay the price. Well that’s fine if all of the players buy in to that and give the coach their full and unwavering support. Did that happen at the Qld Reds this Season?
For the Qld Rugby Union (QRU), who are supposedly cash strapped, to continue to sack coaches mid-term time after is beyond belief Now they’ll have to fork out another substantial amount of money with Stiles contracted to the Qld Reds until the end of the 2018 Season, unless they can shuffle him to another position within the QRU.
In 2018, a rookie Head Coach at Super Rugby Level, Brad Thorn will be under the spotlight and he may very well succeed with his tough uncompromising nature and respect that he had as a player sure to rub off on his players in his new role with the Qld Reds.
An outstanding and distinguished career in both Rugby Union and Rugby League, Thorn, achieved major success at the highest level. He enters the coaching fold with impeccable credentials as a player, but that doesn’t guarantee that he will be able to replicate that success as a Coach at the Elite Level.
As well as Qld Country are performing at the moment it’s a quantum leap from coaching in the National Rugby Championship (NRC) to being a coach in the Super Rugby Competition.
You can only imagine the pressure that Thorn will be under next Season, fully aware that if the Qld Reds don’t perform his Career as a coach at the Elite Level may very well be short lived.
I think you will find though, that no matter what. the QRU will persevere with Thorn if what has been reported is true in that the Australian Rugby Union are impressed with Thorn and that his coaching credentials have been rubber stamped. It does seem to have some credence, when you consider how Thorn has been seemingly fast-tracked through the system to become the Head Coach of a Super Rugby Team in a very short time.
It can only be hoped that Thorn’s tenure as Coach of the Qld Reds will be long and successful and act as a pathway to one day possibly becoming the the Wallabies Head Coach. How ironic, if in the future the Wallabies coached by Brad Thorn were to play the All Blacks. Would Thorn be able to sing ‘Advance Australia Fair’ with the same pride and passion that he sung ‘God of Nations at thy feet’ and how would he feel watching the ‘All Blacks’ perform the ‘Haka’ before kick off? When you consider that as a boy Thorn’s dream was to play for the ‘All Blacks’ and to perform the ‘Haka’.
Watching rugby leagues gala event, the Dally M Awards,live from The Star in Sydney, tonight, one questions what is the future of a code that has been relegated to “boutique” status that rugby union now occupies. Queensland and New South wales are the only true “rugby” states in the Australian landscape with the Australian Football League (AFL) dominating the rest. I am reminded of a guy from Melbourne I was talking to in China, in 2011, and how he remarked that it was incredible to him that Australia did so well in rugby union when most of the country does not understand the game; at the time we were ranked No. 2 in the world behind the New Zealand (who went on to win their second World Cup later on that year).
A stark contrast to our near neighbours, New Zealand, that absolutely worship the code from Auckland to Bluff. I remember visiting there in the late 1990s and being amused by the New Zealand Herald’s coverage of news being dominated by rugby union. Even the real estate pages making note of All Black legend Murray Mexted (1979~86) selling a property in Auckland. So often I scan the Courier Mail in the hope that there’s a least some mention of rugby union amongst the voluminous coverage of rugby league and more often then not there is not any.
Mal Meninga (Kangaroos Coach) made a great speech praising the exploits of Dally Messenger, from which the awards are taken. Reiterating the fact that this rugby union great was instrumental in the creation of rugby league in this country over one hundred years ago. Built on mateship and looking after the guy who was injured on the weekend playing the game he loves without any recompense from his employer. Once rugby union became professional in October 1995, the relevance of rugby league would then come under question. However, this was not to be, the stranglehold of that code has on the eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales were to prove too strong. The fact that the State of Origin has such a powerful following in those two states, akin to the AFL grand final in the rest of the country, that to supplement it would be sacrilege.
Growing up in a decidedly pro-rugby union family the code has always been my passion. To pull on my high school’s 1st XV jersey was an honour that I will cherish to the grave. The opportunities and friendships that it has created for me throughout the world bodes testament to a code that has relevance, just maybe not so much in my home country, Australia. Having played in Canada, USA, Japan, France and even China has opened my eyes to a sport that is truly an international game and growing stronger and broader every year. There is not an international bar in Asia worth its salt if rugby union games are not telecast, sadly that is not the case in Brisbane. I have driven to several pubs on a Friday night trying to find a venue showing the Super Rugby, despite the local Queensland Reds playing, to no avail.
After what I described as our annus horribilis the code will surely resurrect itself and hold a prominent position on the Australian sporting landscape. If it takes billionaire, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, in Western Australia to inject the capital to garnish more interest in rugby with his IPRC than that is not a bad thing. There will surely be more pain before a silver lining, but the code will survive and hopefully come out better for the anguish that has been caused in 2017.
The farcical Super 18 Rugby Competition has reached an all time low with the two protagonists now decided for the Super 18 Final, the Lions and the Crusaders.
What doesn’t sit right at all here and the fact that the whole Super 18 Competition is totally flawed is that the Lions never had to play any of the New Zealand teams thereby giving them a huge and unfair advantage.
Could somebody please explain to me how the current format of the S18 Competition can be deemed as a level playing field when the Jaguares, Kings, Lions or Sharks didn’t have to play any of the N Z teams through 17 Rounds of the S18 season?and how a Team which has played in a far inferior Conference (just take a look at the final standings on the table at the completion of the S18 Season) should be allowed to have a Home Quarter Final, Semi Final and Final?
For the Crusaders to now have to travel 11,500 kilometres to Johannesburg to play the Super 18 Final at High Altitude because they finished on equal points with the Lions (65) after the Home and away Season, even though they played in a far Superior Conference, but had only 7 bonus points compared to the Lions who had 9 seems like a travesty of Justice.
It’s little wonder then that the Credibility and Integrity of the Super 18 Rugby Competition has been brought in to question for a while now.
As a proud and passionate All Blacks supporter I hope that the Crusaders can draw on all of their resolve, self belief , superb skills, athleticism and will to win to defeat the Lions, if they do it will be a truly remarkable and memorable achievement with the odds stacked heavily against them.
Until SANZAR changes the current format of the S18 Competition and has every team play each other at least once through the Home and away Season then the Integrity and merit of the Super 18 Winner will continue to be brought in to question.