A tribute to Drew Mitchell

Fionn Roar Guru

By Fionn, Fionn is a Roar Guru

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    Australia’s 2015 world cup semifinal against Argentina started well for the men in gold – Rob Simmons scored the first try one minute in, and Australia went into the break ten points up.

    As unfortunately happens so often to Australia, our discipline started letting us down, and soon Argentina had kicked their way back into the game. For the first 30 minutes of the second half Argentina had all the possession, all the momentum, and it felt like only a matter of time before they got ahead.

    However, as also so often happens to Australia, when the chips are down a moment of pure brilliance from a single player – rather than a great ensemble play from the team – got us out of jail.

    The man in question was Drew Mitchell. Receiving the ball on halfway, Mitchell ran through five defenders – or was it six, or even seven? – and about 50 metres to set up Adam Ashley-Cooper’s winning try.

    I don’t care what anyone might say about the Wallabies already leading at that point or about the likelihood of us winning anyway, because to me it felt at the time that we were about to lose – and it felt that Drew Mitchell got us into a world cup final.

    It was one of the great Wallaby moments in recent years.

    The last ten years have been a hard time to be an Australian rugby fan. In a period of inconsistent form Drew Mitchell has been one of the few consistent positives, both on and off the field.

    He was never the best player in Wallaby gold but, then again, Mitchell was probably never appreciated as much as he deserved.

    Drew Mitchell loves life. He’s never taken it too seriously. Despite the average results in Australian rugby, much like Nick Cummins, he was never seen without a smile on his face. His interviews were always the funniest, and he always seemed to treasure the opportunities he had in Wallaby gold.

    In his acceptance speech for the Wallabies try of the year in 2015 was predictably humble.

    “I’d like to say thank you to the forwards who managed to move that driving maul maybe three metres forward, which meant I only had about 60 metres to run,” he said.

    “I’d like to say thank you to Nick Phipps for that gem of a ball he threw.

    “And, lastly, to Adam Ashley-Cooper: thank you, mate, for picking up the ball off your toes, even thought you didn’t communicate to me – and that’s probably because you were out of position. I just need you a little bit tighter there, Swoop.”

    The speech didn’t stop there.

    “On a side note, I believe Nick Phipps is actually accepting this award on my behalf. To the presenter, I would just like to say, please be careful – Nick has a track record of pushing people over who have things that he wants.

    “And also to the people down there in the front row, also be careful, because Nick has a track record of throwing things into the front row of crowds.”

    This should bring a smile to the face of anyone who has followed Phipps’ on and off-field exploits in recent years.

    I still remember the first time I saw Mitchell play for the Wallabies: I was a young lad sitting in front of a fire watching the Wallabies get annihilated by the Springboks in Johannesburg. In a hard game to watch as an Australian, his try was the one positive moment.

    Drew possessed good speed and a fantastic step as well as a penchant for the occasional brain explosion. This combination of X-factor and inconsistency made him a joy to watch.

    They were all on display in the Wallabies’ hugely entertaining matches in South Africa that year – I recommend finding and rewatching those tests.

    As much as I had hoped that Drew would come to the Brumbies after I heard he was leaving France, I respect his decision to end his career.

    Drew, thank you for all the smiles, thank you for all the laughs, thank you for the years you spent representing Australia and thank you for that world cup final.

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • April 21st 2017 @ 4:22am
      Frank O'Keeffe said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:22am | ! Report

      I liked Mitchell very much.

      I recall the disgustingly horrid year that was 2005, and all the injuries the Wallabies sustained – Larkham out, Flatley retired due to concussions, Mortlock out, etc. If I went back through George Gregan’s biography I’d recall about four or five more injuries.

      Gregan noted in his book that by the end of the year, Drew Mitchell was like a senior player.

      The high-point of that year for Mitchell was his scoring arguably the try of the year, FOR ANY COUNTRY, against New Zealand. He glided into five-eighth from full-back, beat a few players, and then in wet conditions he glided over the turf with Jerry Collins on his back.

      I recall ohtani’s jacket telling me that he thought Mitchell would one day replace Latham at fullback and that he was the most talented Australian footballer he’d seen in a while. It didn’t happen though.

      I have enormous respect for Adam Ashley-Cooper, but in 2008 he wasn’t as good as he would later become, and I felt with Latham retiring in 2007, that Mitchell would have been the better choice. Certainly after AAC’s game against South Africa where Australia lost by their biggest margin in history, I thought Mitchell should have been selected.

      What’s disappointing is that I’m not sure Mitchell was really given a platform to utilise his full potential. For me, the highpoint of Mitchell’s career and Robbie Deans’ coaching stint, was the performances of Australia’s back three in 2010.

      Kurtley Beale… oh how people forget how great you were in 2010! When Beale had an electric year, James O’Connor finally found his feet at international level, and that back three performed incredible that year, with Mitchell having his best year for the Wallabies.

      Unfortunately I do regard Mitchell as someone we never saw in full-bloom.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 7:15am
        Rebellion said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

        Mitchell’s form in Super rugby 2011 was a potential indicator he was finally going to produce truly great, world beating form in test rugby however we will never k ow now after he broke his ankle against the Reds.
        Good solid player for the Wallabies but definitely thing spectacular and only had threatening pace in the very beginning of his career.
        Personally I found him to be a self-gratifying media tart but I do wonder how he would have fared if he didn’t snap that foot 6 years ago

    • Roar Guru

      April 21st 2017 @ 9:15am
      sheek said | April 21st 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Yeah Fionn,

      I was a fan of Drew Mitchell. I liked him as a person, he had an impish sense of humour & didn’t appear to take himself too seriously.

      Without being disrespectful, I preferred him to AAC.

      I agree with Frank, we probably only saw the best of Mitchell in small glimpses.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 11:09am
        Link said | April 21st 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        sheek,

        Pity he didn’t take his 71 tests for Australia seriously..,.. The mercenary rocks up last year in oz 10 kilos overweight and doesn’t play a test match ..He`s a dope , or is Checka the dope for selecting him? No one will remember him..
        He scored most of his test tries in rugby world cups against minnows in pool matches ( Look it up), That was the small glimpse sheek you were referring to…

        He aint no
        Campo
        Grigg
        Roff
        Tune
        Latham
        Rogers
        Tuquiri
        Sailor

        • April 21st 2017 @ 3:18pm
          RubberLegs said | April 21st 2017 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

          Mitchell fits nicely into that group. He had better rugby vision and kicked better than most of them. He was versatile, had flair and composure and knew how to go hard into a tackle without losing the ball unlike our league imports

        • Roar Guru

          April 21st 2017 @ 4:00pm
          sheek said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

          No Link,

          I didn’t say he was the best. I said I liked him & preferred him to AAC.

          Of the players you mentioned, Rogers & Latham were essentially fullbacks. But you’re right, I wouldn’t pick Mitchell ahead of any of the others, except maybe Sailor. Maybe.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 4:04pm
            Fin said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

            Yeah but you’d have a beer with him before any of the others.

            • Roar Guru

              April 21st 2017 @ 4:19pm
              Fionn said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

              Agreed, Fin. No doubt!

        • Roar Guru

          April 21st 2017 @ 4:18pm
          Fionn said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

          I’d take him over Sailor personally

    • April 21st 2017 @ 8:05pm
      Johnno said | April 21st 2017 @ 8:05pm | ! Report

      In his prime, Mitchell was unstoppable given any space at all. I could not say that about several of the list put up earlier.

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