Brilliant final befitting the best NRC season to date

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    It just capped off the season so perfectly in so many ways.

    Queensland Country’s 42-28 win over the Canberra Vikings to take their maiden NRC title caps off a very obvious fairy tale turnaround, and one that will just as obviously have Queensland Reds fans feeling confident of a similar up-bump heading into the 2018 Super Rugby season.

    I said in last week’s preview and several other radio and podcast chats that there really wasn’t much between the two sides other than the game was being played in Canberra. When James Slipper wasn’t named last Friday, I thought that might tip the scrum slightly towards the Vikings, but it still wouldn’t be enough to have them installed as raging favourites.

    And happily, that’s the way it the match played out. The scoreboard shows a fourteen-point final margin, but I don’t think anyone watching the game would say Country were a fourteen-point better side on the night.

    It was a brilliant NRC Final, a close contest that could’ve swung either way until Country scored the two match-winning tries in the last four minutes. Of the four Finals played now, this one was easily the most fiercely contested.

    In the inaugural Final in 2014, Brisbane City were already leading 29-21 when Junior Laloifi scored the runaway try that sealed the win over Perth. The following year, City only led 13-10 when Alex Gibbon sealed their undefeated back-to-back title in the 72nd minute, but Canberra had done well to remain that close for that long.

    Even last year, Perth were well ahead 20-8 before NSW Country staged something of a late fightback to score in the 74th minute and bring the margin back to four. But even then, Perth’s defence was so effective that the damage had been done.

    This year it was all about momentum, and particularly momentum shifts. Country scored first, but then looked in trouble by halftime, by which time the Vikings had scored three converted tries in fifteen minutes. Their scrum was being forced back, and the Vikings – with only two real jumping options – were even stealing lineouts.

    Whatever Brad Thorn said to them at the break worked, however, and Country hit back with three converted tries themselves to regain the lead and the momentum by the hour mark. Duncan Paia’aua’s yellow card was a turning point – and while I agree it looked a touch rough, I’ve also seen cards given for very similar examples – with Canberra scoring shortly after to level the scores for the third time in the match.

    With four minutes to go, Paia’aua’s second incisive hard-line run of the match saw him crash through to score, and when boom Country try-scoring freak Filipo Daugunu scored from the restart, the match had literally been decided in the space of two-and-a-half minutes.

    Yet, despite the closeness, the better team on the night certainly won. By the time Paia’aua crossed for his second try of the night, Country had already dominated both territory and possession for long periods of the second half.

    Queensland Country NRC Grand FInal

    (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

    The final stats sheet reflects this. Country beat 35 defenders to Canberra’s 18, with twice as many offloads, and making 14 clean breaks to the Vikings’ 9. On average, Country made 4.2 metres every time they carried the ball to the Vikings’ 2.6 metres.

    The set piece numbers were pretty even, highlighting how Country squared things up in the second half, and the breakdown stats showed both sides won all their own ruck ball, essentially.

    The big difference? Canberra missed nearly twice as many tackles as Queensland Country did.

    Paia’aua was an obvious choice for the Phil Waugh Medal as the Player of the Final, but I’ll admit to getting a bit caught out in my RUGBY.com.au match report, by pre-emptively giving him the Player of the Season gong as well.

    It’s fair to say I was stunned when Caleb Timu’s name was announced. The Country no.8 finished the season really strongly, but I’m far from convinced he was as good as even the Vikings’ Rob Valetini, let alone Paia’aua, whose performance in the Final convinced me it would be enough to have him deservedly recognised.

    Timu didn’t even feature in the discussion at no.8 for the RUGBY.com.au Team of the Year; that was a two-way discussion that Isi Naisarani was always going to win out over Jed Holloway. Anyway, it’s a small quibble.

    I’ve said a bit of late that while I don’t think it’s been as big a step up in quality from season two to three, season four has definitely been better again; a view fairly widely shared among those covering the competition regularly, and generally agreed by players and coaches.

    I was sceptical of the move back to the traditional points-scoring system this season, but I needn’t have been.

    In 2016, there were 301 tries scored in 31 games at an average of 9.7 tries per game. The home side took a slight advantage, winning 17 games to 14, at an average score of 36.3 to 34.9, 5.0 tries to 4.7.

    James Tuttle Queensland Country NRC

    (Photo by Jason O’Brien/Getty Images)

    In 2017, there were 397 tries scored in 39 games at an average of 10.2 tries per game; a figure that remained pretty constant across the eleven weeks. The home side enjoyed more success, winning 23 games to 15 (with one draw). The home side again averaged 36.3 points per game, to 30.4, 5.5 tries per game to 4.6.

    Over the last week, but especially since the final, the comment has been made that the NRC has been better to watch than the Australian Super Rugby derbies. Aesthetically, it’s probably hard to argue with this, but it’s also the kind of judgement that can be safely handed down knowing it can never be proved or disproved.

    Either way, it’s an intriguing comment; it doesn’t just recognise the quality of rugby on show during the NRC, but it also reflects a growing legitimacy about the competition as a now-crucial part of the development pathway.

    And that’s probably the best part of the 2017 NRC above all else. A brilliant season has genuinely been seen for its on-field brilliance.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (103)

    • November 14th 2017 @ 6:41am
      eeds said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      If I could pick one of club rugby, NRC, or super rugby for FTA, NRC would be my choice hands down. In terms of growing the game its a fantastic advertisement of beautiful running rugby with a near total of heavily populated areas of Australia covered by local games for people to go too at some point over the season. If only!

      • Columnist

        November 14th 2017 @ 8:44am
        Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        Yeah, that’s not a bad shout Eeds. Certainly in terms of tv product, an average of 10 tries per game would make the NRC a good fit..

        • November 14th 2017 @ 9:06am
          eeds said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

          Exactly, that and obviously time zones being a non issue…

      • November 14th 2017 @ 9:50am
        Hello said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        I agree eeds

      • Roar Guru

        November 14th 2017 @ 11:02am
        Who Needs Melon said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        I agree too.

        As I mentioned before the final, what’s crazy is that I hear admission to the final was free!

        I feel surely someone will realise they’ve established an audience and a demand and we will see prices start to go up for NRC games. I was tempted to use the word “unfortunately” in the previous sentence but we really shouldn’t feel that way – I think most people are happy to pay a reasonable price for quality entertainment. And understand that it’s required in order to move towards a sustainable model for the NRC competition.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 1:04pm
          mzilikazi said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

          ” I hear admission to the final was free! ”

          Did not look to be a very big crowd on TV…anyone got a figure for the final ?

          “we will see prices start to go up for NRC games. ” I’m not sure that will happen. Never seemed to be any reasonable crowds at any of the games….despite the great rugby on display.

          I wonder if an approach was taken to ask spectators to pay what they think the game is worth, what kind of returns would ensue. Perhaps a gold coin donation at the gate on the way in…..and then at the end of the game on the way out, further “donations”

          • November 14th 2017 @ 1:09pm
            Fionn said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

            There weren’t many there. It had been raining a lot of the day, was poorly promoted and most north siders don’t like going down south.

            • Columnist

              November 14th 2017 @ 2:48pm
              Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

              Whoa, Fionn, let’s back this up because “it was poorly promoted” is just patently untrue.

              With no word of a lie, this was comfortably THE most-promoted and most-covered NRC game ever played in Canberra. Comfortably.

              In the lead-up, we saw:
              – paid ads on the commercial FM stations all week
              – radio interviews on commercial AM/FM radio, plus the ABC (I did three separate NRC-specific chats on ABC radio myself)
              – Tom Cusack and Tim Sampson did the radio rounds in the back of the week (I heard Sampson on two different stations Saturday morning alone)
              – the Friday presser at Parliament house had three TV and one online camera, and about half a dozen journos and writers firing questions. And photographers. That’s more than most Brumbies pressers.
              – both the Vikings and Rugby Aust put money into promoted social media

              Honestly, there would be Super Rugby games that don’t get anywhere near that coverage and promotion.

              “Well over three thousand” is how I’ve seen the crowd reported, which automatically makes it the biggest NRC crowd in Canberra for the last few years, probably the home semi in 2015. The Fiji game this year had been the biggest in years, but the Final topped that easily..

              • November 14th 2017 @ 2:58pm
                Fionn said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                ‘With no word of a lie, this was comfortably THE most-promoted and most-covered NRC game ever played in Canberra. Comfortably.’

                Coming off a low base doesn’t mean a whole lot, however.

                Speaking to my friends who were into sport but not particularly into rugby most of them had no idea it was on, Brett, and only decided to go because I got the info about it to them.

                For various SR matches there are signs up all around north Canberra (like Limestone Avenue) advertising it. I saw none of that for the NRC.

                Also didn’t catch much on the TV. Didn’t realise about Friday, but Friday feels a bit late to promote it on TV. Yes I did hear it on the radio.

              • Columnist

                November 14th 2017 @ 3:56pm
                Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

                Sure, it’s coming from a low base, but it was a significant amount of promotion for a significant game.

                You’re right about the road-side signs, but that’s often all the Brumbies do (apart from what they do themselves online and via social…

              • November 14th 2017 @ 9:35pm
                Fionn said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:35pm | ! Report

                Fair point, Brett, maybe a more accurate statement would have been: ‘it still wasn’t promoted well enough for the average Canberran to be aware of it’.

                That said, I don’t know how they would actually promote it well enough for people to become aware. I just know that, unfortunately, not enough people knew about it.

                I know a lot of people didn’t go due to the weather though.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 1:16pm
            eeds said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

            As a compromise I’d settle for a payment of something like $30 a season for an app with all the games. As it stands I’m thinking of a VPN and rugby pass for next season but I don’t think they have NRC which is a bit of a bummer…

          • November 15th 2017 @ 10:24am
            kaiviti said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            This years NRC, in comparison to other previous years, has only really come alive since the Fijian Drua were invited to play. The Fijians have brought the excitement, flair and joy of playing Rugby to the tournament that just wast there before. When the Fijian Drua were first invited I made a comment on ‘Roar’ that this wasn’t the first time that Fijian Rugby has helped resurect the flagging interest in Rugby Union in Australia. Maybe it’s time that one of the ‘Roar’ contributers delved into archival material for a story on the 1950’s Fijian Rugby Tour.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 1:40pm
          Train Without A Station said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          I doubt prices will go up.

          Super Rugby tickets already start at about $20.

          There’s nowhere up to go really. And venue costs are almost non-existent for NRC in comparison.

        • Columnist

          November 14th 2017 @ 2:40pm
          Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

          Melon, I don’t think the NRC is anywhere near the point of excessive demand driving admission prices up yet, not by a long way.

          I still believe one level of admission across the competition is the way forward for the next season or two at least, whether that’s free (which is the way I’m leaning) or very low cost (like $15 for families, max). This hotch-potch approach isn’t helping – where it’s free in Perth, Melbourne and the Qld games, $5/10 in Canberra, and $15-20 in Sydney. One level, competition wide, and make it selling feature..

          • Roar Guru

            November 14th 2017 @ 3:52pm
            Who Needs Melon said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

            I’d love matches to remain free and/or as cheap as they are.

            Like eeds, I’d more than happily pay $30 per season or more for an app or some sort of web-based subscription that allowed me to watch the NRC games. Even if the proviso was that they weren’t live. I think that would be a great idea. Couldn’t be that difficult to do, could it?

            • Columnist

              November 14th 2017 @ 4:01pm
              Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

              I know you’re talking about all games, but you could access the live streamed games for about $5/week – and Fox had a two week free trial offer, so it wouldn’t have been that much more than the $30 you mention.

              The issue with what you’re talking about is that Fox hold the digital rights through to 2020. But they have done season pass-type arrangements online for the EPL in the past, so it shouldn’t be that difficult, no..

        • November 14th 2017 @ 3:22pm
          Rugby Floss said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

          I think in terms of growing the interest in the game, the matches being free is an important step. Over here in Perth, I invited along quite a few of my friends to the games as just an alternative venue for an afternoon picnic. Some had never seen a rugby game before and they all really enjoyed themselves, especially the kids. Even the old rusted on AFL fans were really impressed with how close to the action we were, and how good the after game accessibility to players was.
          I loved going to all the games this year and found it so healing after having the Force ripped away from us. One of the best things was seeing competitors of so many levels and development points playing together, from very experienced Wallabies, to Super Rugby players, right down to the boys fresh out of club teams. And even getting familiar with names of lesser known players from other teams that I remember from last season, or the season before. It will replace Super Rugby for me next year (although I will always have a soft spot for the Brums!!)

          • Columnist

            November 14th 2017 @ 4:02pm
            Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

            That’s a great comment, Floss…

      • November 14th 2017 @ 11:29am
        ethan said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        I often enjoyed the NRC games more than the Aussie derbies in SR this year – which can turn into scrap heaps. Not sure I’d prefer it to SR yet given the quality of matches when Kiwi teams are involved (and a rather tentative belief that Aussie sides will perform up to standard next year), but its great to see how the quality is improving each year. Oh, and I guess it helps when your team takes the title too 😉

        • November 14th 2017 @ 12:47pm
          Boris said | November 14th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          At least the NRC competition structure is fair and makes sense. Unfortunately we can’t say the same about super rugby at the moment.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 6:49am
      Daveski said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      Nice Brett, a summary worthy of the final it’s written about with lots of juicy discussion points:

      DP is a bit of a favourite on this site ( mainly from the ‘anyone-but-Foley’ brigade) and I thought the uproar at his yellow card was a little ott. It was harsh but not outrageous. Credit to DP however after a quietist first half, the 30 minutes he did play in the second stanza were brilliant.

      Timu was very good in the couple of games I saw including this match. Maybe he got a little lost in the Tongan Thor fog but the award givers managed to find him. Though you have to feel DP or Tom Cusack were a little unlucky.

      Loved the Qld Cntry attitude of not taking penalty shots even when DP was in the bin. A little foolish perhaps but exlempified the attacking spirit of the comp.

      Without a doubt most NRC games were better spectacles than most Aus Super derbies. But then I’d say the same about almost every Shute Shield game I watched this year too.

      Finally a challenge for you as the pre-eminent rugby journalist in the country ( for all matters NRC at least 😊)….. what’s the update on Drua 10 Nacebe who dazzled in the first few rounds before a nasty injury. Want to see more of that guy.

      • Columnist

        November 14th 2017 @ 8:46am
        Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        Daveski, I would have to agree that “harsh but not outrageous” is the perfect description of Paia’aua’s yellow.

        And he couldn’t thank his teammates enough post-match for saving his bacon while he was off, who h again just speaks for the attitude shift under Thorn and Carozza..

      • November 14th 2017 @ 10:27am
        AndyS said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        I noted the turning down of penalties too, and have to say I probably would have taken at least the first shot. Perhaps it was just force of habit, but being generous I think it actually showed a great deal of situational awareness. Taking the kick would probably have been the right call if everyone was fully professional and you had total faith in the defensive structure, but they are in a competition where Super Rugby players are running at amateurs and an average 10 tries get scored a game.

        In that situation, and a man down, and with a beaten pack, he was probably right and smarter to keep hands on the ball. Wait on getting your man back rather than take three and put yourself back on your own line hoping that the opposition can’t complete. That defensive mind set and conceding of initiative wins some games, but loses plenty too. Just pleased it worked out for them.

    • Roar Rookie

      November 14th 2017 @ 6:52am
      Paulo said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      Indeed Brett, this was a great game to watch (and I’m not a supporter of either team). Well done to both teams.

      I didn’t make the comment that the NRC games are better to watch, but do subscribe to it. An average NRC game this season (I watched all the Rams games) was more fun to watch than an average Tahs game this season (I witnessed all home games live) . Neither team did extremely well this year, but the NRC games were great to watch.

      Hope the next season is even better.

      RA needs to invest in the marketing to get more crowds onto the fields, as the product is certainly there.

      Mainstream media (e.g. SMH, etc) needs to shed their biases and provide proper coverage.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 9:11am
        Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

        Paulo, there needs to be a buy in by the Premier clubs. If the NRC could become a proxy ‘Regional Rep’ comp by defining itself with clear geographical catcments (such as Manly, Norths Rats and Gordon feeding their ‘regional team’ for Instance) then the passion and crowds seen at Club level could flow into the National comp.
        I see this as the final missing piece in the puzzle in the offer to make to FTA for inclusion.
        The rugby is top notch, and provides a template for design tweaks to be made each year.
        When it runs directly out of Premier Club and Super comps it could eventually offer a product to rescue back ground lost to nrl and afl recently.
        Great final. Well described Brett.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 10:03am
          concerned supporter said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          KCOL,
          What you say is true about NSW,.
          Rams, Rays are meaningless names.no boundaries & importantly no members & hardly any supporters.
          A mishmash of players from the clubs.
          NSW Country are mostly Easts, Randwick & Sydney University players.Newcastle & Wollongong need to be involved.
          Also Queensland Country does not seem to be truly representative of country areas, it is domiciled on the Gold Coast.Where are genuine country towns included.\? Particularly in the North Queensland Area, which has proved a goldmine for the NRL.
          Perth & Melbourne seem OK. Canberra ???
          Whilst the rugby has been of a good standard, plenty of tries scored, the games are mainly acting as trial games for the Wallabies.

          • Roar Guru

            November 14th 2017 @ 10:42am
            Train Without A Station said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

            I certainly admire your ability to completely ignore well established facts.

            Queensland Country are not “domiciled” on the Gold Coast.

            They played 5 home games in 2017.

            1 at Noosa
            2 at Bond University (Gold Coast)
            1 at Ipswich
            1 at Toowoomba

            In fact they’ve never played more than 2 games on the Gold Coast in any season, whilst taking games to Rockhampton and Townsville in past seasons.

            And also, an important fact. The Gold Coast is considered part of QLD Country and the traditional team has always selected from there.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 11:16am
              concerned supporter said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

              TWAS,
              You are such an authority on everything, but you may be right this time,but this is what I based my blog on, together with other Roarers past blogs about the lack of a true Q’ld Country Team.
              “Queensland Country secured Bond University as principal partner in 2014, with the team officially known as Bond University Queensland Country
              The Queensland Country team has its training base at Ballymore in Brisbane”
              Pretty country TWAS.
              Maybe you can give us the home clubs of the 2017 squad(Australians only),I have no idea but I would like to bet that the vast majority come from Brisbane Premier Clubs.
              Current squad[
              The squad for the 2017 National Rugby Championship season:
              Props
              Australia Richie Asiata
              New Zealand Fred Burke
              Australia Sef Fa’agase
              Fiji Kirwan Sanday
              Tonga Taniela Tupou
              Hookers
              Australia Alex Casey
              Australia Efi Ma’afu
              Australia Alex Mafi
              Australia Stephen Moore1
              Locks
              Australia Harry Hockings
              Australia Phil Potgieter
              Australia Izack Rodda
              Australia Rob Simmons

              Loose Forwards
              Australia Tainui Ford
              Australia Fraser McReight
              Australia Ted Postal
              Australia Tyrone Pritchard
              Australia Angus Scott-Young
              Australia Caleb Timu
              Australia Liam Wright
              Scrum-halves
              Samoa Scott Malolua
              Australia Tate McDermott
              Australia James Tuttle
              Fly-halves
              Australia Hamish Stewart
              Fiji Teti Tela

              Centres
              Australia Conor Chittenden
              Fiji Filipo Daugunu
              Australia Patrick James
              Australia Duncan Paia’aua (c)
              Wingers
              Australia Byron Hutchinson
              Australia Campbell Magnay
              Fiji Veresa Mataitini
              Australia Eto Nabuli1
              Australia Izaia Perese
              Fullbacks
              Australia Jock Campbell

              • November 14th 2017 @ 11:41am
                concerned supporter said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

                Thanks JohnR,
                Not too many players selected from outside Brisbane Premier Rugby,like none.
                TWAS must have been indoctrinated by Canned Heat music,”Goin up the Country” is pretty catchy & addictive.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 1:22pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

                None as far as I’m aware.

                Because there are very few adequately skilled players who aren’t already playing QPR.

                The gap to other competitions is so far that you can’t even judge whether they’d be capable at NRC level.

              • Roar Guru

                November 14th 2017 @ 11:53am
                John R said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

                I think the issue is that the level of competition outside of the metropolitan centres isn’t quite up to NRC standard, so if players want to get noticed, they need to move to the big smoke.

                I’d assume the majority of the Aussie players are from a regional centre originally though.

                E.g. Paddy Ryan for NSW Country Eagles is frmo Tamworth originally.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 1:21pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

                Yes they train at Ballymore.

                The Reds own the facility, the Reds players are based in Brisbane. It’s a central location as players like Tate McDermott travels from Sunshine Coast and Tai Ford travels from Gold Coast.

                Where would you propose they train?

            • November 14th 2017 @ 12:04pm
              bigbaz said | November 14th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

              Well twas I’m QLD country and I’m telling you only Toowoomba could be classed as QLD country, the rest is the SE cnr, about as country as Bondi.
              That the GC is regarded as country is a joke and a bl**dy insult to country people.

              • Roar Guru

                November 14th 2017 @ 2:19pm
                John R said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

                QLD Not Brisbane?

                Doesn’t roll off the tounge as nice you must admit!

              • November 14th 2017 @ 3:09pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

                Well I’m from the Gold Coast and we certainly don’t consider ourselves to be part of Brisbane.

                And the GCDRU is part of QLD Country and always has.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 5:07pm
                Hello said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

                Hi Bigbaz
                Gold coast has always been part of the QLD Country Heelers catchment.
                Anything outside of Brisbane I thought went to QLD Country.

            • Columnist

              November 14th 2017 @ 3:01pm
              Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

              This is honestly such a petty argument. What we’re effectively saying with the ‘Not too many players selected from outside Brisbane Premier’ angle is that despite the Brisbane Premier Competition obviously being the bet standard of rugby in the state, we should actively ignore some players in favour of those from the obviously inferior country competitions just so the label is accurate.

              Honestly, think about how ridiculous that sounds. That would be like insisting Michael Cheika pick someone from the Adelaide or Tasmanian comps just so that ‘Australia’ is an appropriate team name.

              Now in the past, both Qld Country and NSW Country have picked guys from the country-based representative teams. I strongly doubt that these policies have been abandoned. But even when these country guys have been selected, they’ve at best played a few games off the bench.

              And why is that? Because, blow me down with a feather, they’re just not quite as good as players from the Premier Rugby programs.

              The obvious – and completely appropriate – compromise, therefore, is to pick guys of country origin, which both Qld and NSW do. Some country players choose not to play for the Country teams, and that’s their prerogative, but it’s hardly the fault of the Country teams if they make that choice.

              Guess what, players will go where they think they have the best opportunity to start games…

              • November 14th 2017 @ 5:11pm
                Hello said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

                Well said Brett.
                We have found that anyone from our area that wants to play rugby seriously goes to play premier rugby in Brisbane with the odd clown going to Sydney 🙂
                These are country boys most of whom played for the Heelers or another rep team at least.

                Go QLD Country 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 10:12am
          PeterK said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

          KCOL – Disagree.

          The NRC should make the premier clubs irrelevant in terms of alignment.

          2 teams from NSW just like Qld.

          Sydney City and NSW Country.

          Everyone rugby fan in Sydney regardless of which shute shield team they support can barrack or align themselves with Sydney City.

          NSW Country every home game would be in a different regional centre. Newcastle, Armidale, Hunter Valley, Wollongong and so on.

          Everyone rugby fan outside Sydney can align themselves with NSW Country.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 11:49am
            Marto said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

            ^ Exactly Peter..

          • November 14th 2017 @ 12:28pm
            Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | November 14th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            Peter, happy for either of us to be right on this one. The essential result sought is ‘tribal engagement’. A city/country siege mentality is fine by me. Whatever connects or challenges the crowd along geographical lines should do the trick.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 1:43pm
            Train Without A Station said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

            Peter I honestly think that now they should align NSW Country with the Brumbies, likewise the Spirit with the Rebels.

            Then each franchise feeds 2 teams.

            Given both situations I imagine both NSW Country and the Spirit would basically run autonomously, but just get the benefit of access to half a Super Rugby team’s players.

            Doesn’t change much other than even out the competition a little bit.

            • Roar Guru

              November 14th 2017 @ 3:10pm
              PeterK said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

              good idea

              • November 14th 2017 @ 3:16pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

                I just think a huge issue is 1 town teams in the same competition that the Waratahs are split into 3.

                Get 1 year like 2017 where a lot of players are injured, a lot depart and a few players make wallabies and it almost decimates 3 teams.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 14th 2017 @ 1:56pm
          piru said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          Is this another Sydney problem being considered a national one?

          Easy fix – take one of their teams away and give it to SA

          There, now your clubs all support the same side.

          • Columnist

            November 14th 2017 @ 2:50pm
            Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

            Yes it is, Piru, yes it is…

        • Columnist

          November 14th 2017 @ 3:06pm
          Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

          Ken, the Rays are exactly that; Manly, Norths, Warringah and Gordon feeding their ‘regional team’ as joint-venture partners.

          But as I’ve said above, players will go where they think they have the best opportunity to start. (Think Manly players going to the Rams, ditto some from Sydney Uni; there’s plenty of other egs).

          Effectively, the NSW teams are franchises with a general geographical area attached, which I honestly don’t have a lot of trouble with.

          The real issue here, and the reason why I reckon most of the NRC criticism exists from Sydney-based followers, is the complete lack of input from the Waratahs. The sooner they realise the importance of this, and actually buy-in to the NRC properly, the better it will be viewed in Sydney particularly..

          • November 14th 2017 @ 6:59pm
            rebel said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

            Brett that is an excellent point about the Tahs involvement. The Premier clubs cop a lot of unwarranted criticism but the critics forget that it was basically the clubs that put their hands up when EOIs were called for.
            Ridiculous calls about them being removed ignores the contributions they have made.
            If the Tahs stepped in then fair enough, but untill then, the clubs have a rightful place.
            Yes it is a NSW problem, but one allowed to occur by letting the clubs be involved.
            The only other place that cops a bit of criticism is Canberra due to the Vikings involvement. However like Sydney, they have contributed a lot.
            In regards to structure I beleive it is almost right. I have said before that I think there should be a North, West and City breakup. Drop country but make sure each squad has 2 genuine country players and each play at least one home match in the country.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 14th 2017 @ 7:23pm
          Paulo said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

          Ken, I’m with TWAS on this one – two NRC clubs aligned with each SR franchise, with NSW Country feeding and being fed by the Brumbies, and the Spirit aligning with Melbourne. More than that, I think the SR clubs should be obliged to encourage their contracted players to play for a NRC club if not in Wallaby duty (with some control for an even distribution between the NRC clubs and a degree of liberty for starting positions).

          As to the clubs, they should each just align with one of the two local NRC clubs. I’m an Eastwood supporter, can very easily identify with the Rams. I actually don’t see why people find it so difficult to understand. The club where I coached in England, Cobham, was a feeder club to the Harlequins, which ran promotions (kids got discounted tickets), tournaments, clinics and looked at the feeder clubs for their academy.

          Agree that you can’t have perfect player alignment (there might be three great hookers in the feeder clubs), no need to have it be automatic. Just make it the natural pathway. Going back to the Cobham example, a couple of my Cobham boys ended up in the London Irish academy.

          In terms of timing, I think its so very simple as well – SR and top clubs competition happen in parallel in the first half of the year (roughly), NRC and Wallabies happen in parallel in the second half.

          Clubs can certainly remain active in the second half of the year, just knowing their top players will be in the NRC. Rams had a few all day events in TG, with lower grades playing in the morning leading up to the NRC match. I couldn’t go to watch the whole day (wife gets mad), but did arrive early to catch a bit of the later preliminaries.

          On that, I think clubs should play opening matches before Tahs games, and NRC teams should play opening matches before Wallabies games.

          I think the Premier clubs just need to stop the foot dragging and moaning (particularly the eastern suburb ones) and just align and get on with it. A pure club competition isn’t going to fly, NRC is a great middle tier.

      • Columnist

        November 14th 2017 @ 9:15am
        Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Paulo, it’s a reasonable point, but it the case of the SMH currently, Tom Decent is their only rugby writer. And the Wallabies will obviously take priority, so that’s where he’s been focused.

        That said, The Canberra Times ran a double page spread in the run up to the Final, yet the Rugby Heaven page showed very little of it. So even when Fairfax have covered the comp, they’ve managed to ignore themselves online.

        I’ve actually found the coverage to be a lot better this year. News, Fox Sports all had regular content, here and GAGR, and obviously what we were pumping out for rugby.com.au all helps..

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 9:27am
          John R said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

          What happened to Georgina Robinson? I thought she was the head rugby writer there?

          • November 14th 2017 @ 2:47pm
            P. Danntick said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

            From GeeRob’s Twitter account:

            “I write about rugby and other sports for the @smh and @rugbyheaven, and talk about it on @OffsidersABC. Currently off surviving two under two.”

            I did see her on ABC Offsiders a couple of weeks ago.

            • Roar Guru

              November 14th 2017 @ 4:31pm
              John R said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

              Thanks mate

          • Columnist

            November 14th 2017 @ 3:07pm
            Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

            On maternity leave, John…

            • Roar Guru

              November 14th 2017 @ 4:31pm
              John R said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

              Ah copy that, thanks Brett.

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 10:52am
          Train Without A Station said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

          Pretty disappointing they didn’t even seem to run an article on the final result at SMH though.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 14th 2017 @ 7:29pm
          Paulo said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:29pm | ! Report

          Bret, I’m a SMH subscriber. I see Tom, but also Paul Scully, Eamonn Tierman, Daniel Gilhooly, Melissa Woods, Justin Chadwick with names on articles in the Rugby Heaven site.

          Content can be syndicated, not that hard to have a Brett McKay article published there as well. RA should offer the content you produce to other media.

          I just find it too under-covered. You get articles about fringe sports that have a very low following (just because they are olympic sports), but no coverage for NRC. Its is still small, but not that small anymore.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 7:18am
      Sam said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      First game I watched of comp but pleased to see Paia’aua’s progress. Although slight he is bulking up and his NZ heritage and league grounding in early years can only enhance his potential. Brad Thorn’s influence seems to have provided a spur because man did he run the angles with ferocity and determination. Still not sure he isn’t better staying at 12 but glad he will get another year learning balldistribution alongside Cooper.

      • Columnist

        November 14th 2017 @ 8:41am
        Geoff Parkes said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        Sam, he reminds me a lot of the All Black Walter Little. Which is meant as a huge compliment.
        Similar hand skills and low centre of gravity when running.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 10:54am
          Dave_S said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:54am | ! Report

          Here’s hoping he’s in Walter’s class, Geoff!

    • Roar Guru

      November 14th 2017 @ 9:05am
      Machooka said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      It was a cracka eh Macca!

      I posted yesterday in G‘s Wrap that for mine it was the game of the w’end… and I was deadly serious.

      I had thought the PaddyBok test would be the ‘game of the w’end’ but, alas, that was a fizzer except if you were an Irish supporter.

      Anyhoos, the NRC is now most definitely a part of the Aussie rugby landscape… so now even more needs to be done in continuing it’s growth. Unquestionably it is a pathway for players, coaches et al to go on to better things.

      As to the ‘player of the season’… I, too, was surprised to hear Timu named as such. Although I rate him, and his form has been excellent, I thought Paia’aua had done enough, more than enough, to snag the award.

      Lastly, as the NRC has now finished it’s fourth successful season, I’d like to thank you for all the support you have given it right from the get go. We all knew, if given a chance, the NRC could work but your support, over the last few years, has really contributed to it’s ongoing success. Well done buddy!

      • November 14th 2017 @ 10:55am
        Dave_S said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        Well said, Chook.

        Great work, Brett.

      • Columnist

        November 14th 2017 @ 3:11pm
        Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

        Thanks Chookman, it’s very nice of you to say…

    • November 14th 2017 @ 10:37am
      Worlds Biggest said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

      Well put da Chookman, I have found myself watching more of the NRC this season, it is starting to grow on me ! Great turn around season for Qld Country, just hope for Qld Rugby perspective this momentum can flow onto the Reds with Thorn at the helm.
      Great to see Paul ‘ Squabba ‘ Carrozza in the coaching set up, he was a very handy player !
      Great job covering the NRC season Macca, thanks mate.

      • Roar Guru

        November 14th 2017 @ 11:03am
        Machooka said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        Biggest… ‘ just hope for Qld Rugby perspective this momentum can flow onto the Reds with Thorn at the helm.’

        I said similar last week… and I think it will.

        Must! 😉

      • Columnist

        November 14th 2017 @ 3:20pm
        Brett McKay said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

        Cheers Worlds, and great point on Paul Carozza.

        I spoke to Thorn about three weeks ago, and what struck me about him (aside from the fact I had to cut the interview short after 30 mins, he’d have happily kept going!) was that he mentioned Carozza three times in the first eight minutes.

        It’s very clear they have an excellent coaching partnership, really only established this season with the Qld U20s, that could go on to be very successful…

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