The Wrap: Dave Wessels hits the ground running in Melbourne

Geoff Parkes Columnist

By Geoff Parkes, Geoff Parkes is a Roar Expert

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    If Australian rugby is in disarray, it seems that nobody told Dave Wessels.

    With 2017 one of the most tumultuous years in the history of rugby union in Australia, culminating in the exit of the Western Force from Super Rugby, then-Force coach Wessels could have been excused for feeling less than enamoured of the professional rugby environment in Australia and stepping away from the carnage.

    But Wessels – a thoroughly likeable family man, who just happens to have a passion for his sport – has managed to find a way to move forward, taking charge of the Melbourne Rebels.

    “Fundamentally I love rugby”, he told me after a recent training run. “I’m not really interested in the politics of it all, or people who might feel I’ve crossed over to the establishment side – whatever that might mean. I’ve come to Melbourne because there is a great challenge and opportunity to do something positive for rugby here, and for Australian rugby and for the game as a whole – the game that I love.”

    It hasn’t taken Wessels long to settle in Melbourne, not that this implies any disrespect for what he left behind in Perth; “I really enjoyed my time in WA. The most frustrating thing about what happened to us was that we didn’t understand it. There was a lack of clear process and we didn’t really know why.

    “So that’s still the thing that hurts and disappoints, but on the plus side, I believe there are too many passionate and great rugby people in WA, and too much energy, for professional rugby not to return in the future. I’m actually very confident that the long-term outlook for rugby in WA is positive, even if it’s not immediately obvious to everyone right now.”

    It clearly matters for Wessels to stay connected with the region that provided him with his first Super Rugby head coaching opportunity, while at the same time not letting that get in the way of the future.

    Dave Wessels Super Rugby 2017

    (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

    “We fought much harder – on-field, media, admin, in the courts – than perhaps what a lot of people expected us to, to try to remain in Super Rugby.

    “So it’s important that I stay in touch with people there and help try to keep the energy going for rugby in WA, although I’m very understanding and respectful that myself and these players now have a great opportunity to move forward in Melbourne.”

    For fans and media keen to paint the Rebels as a replanted Force sprinkled with the best of Melbourne, it is obvious, from observing the squad during and after training, that the group has gelled and is well into the process of forging their own path.

    Wessels again: “It’s like we’re a start-up. We’re still working out ‘what is our own identity’ and ‘what do we stand for’, which is typical of any young organisation. There’s been lots of honest talk about how we feel and what it all means for different individuals.

    “We’re aware that we haven’t done anything yet, we’ve still got a huge task ahead to prove ourselves against some of the best sides in the world. But it’s already clear that there’s a lot of good people and real energy around this place and it’s gone better than I could have expected.”

    In order to illustrate what is possible, Wessels explains how he has shown the team a table that lists Super Rugby winners in column one and their finishing position the year prior to winning in column two. It reveals how a high proportion of winners have come from unsuccessful seasons the year before.

    “This shows two things. How the margin between success and failure in Super Rugby is incredibly tight, and that it’s possible to achieve success in a short space of time.”

    One of the success factors Wessels has identified is intensity; “Intensity around the way we train, prepare, our thoughts around what we’re all doing collectively and individually. How I manage this is by providing very clear definitions around when we’re working and being totally switched on, and when we can relax outside of that – because nobody can maintain that high-intensity level all the time.”

    Certainly, a Rebels training session – early 2018 version – feels nothing like a typical pre-season run. The intensity levels are sky high and watchers-on could be excused for thinking there are starting places up for grabs with every drill.

    Indeed, with AAMI Park now oozing with talent, Wessels has quietly gone about assessing all of the members of his squad. “Initially, I took the Rising/Rebels group away for a week, we played against Jake White’s team, then I had the first two weeks of pre-season with these guys. So that’s given me a really good handle on the abilities and personalities of the whole group.”

    Wessels is full of praise for how the local players have presented for the pre-season, singling out Sam Jeffries, Rob Leota and Colby Fainga’a as players to catch his eye. He’s also very happy with how the Wallabies have come back and is full of admiration for how the Australian conditioning program has stepped up in 2017.

    Reece Hodge of the Rebels

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    As for any hints as to Round 1 selection, Wessels is clearly playing no favourites. “We’re not going to move from last to first if we’re not going to be brave. That’s the players on the field, in the style we play and myself, in my selections. It’s my task to reward players who are performing, whether they are Wallabies or not.”

    There is a thought posed by some fans that the Rebels squad is in fact too loaded with talent, and that this will lead to problems keeping everyone engaged. Wessels doesn’t see it that way.

    “Last year the Force used 38 players and the Rebels 39. If we want to win we need to be realistic and genuine about having real depth in the squad. Look at the top teams and the quality of player they have sitting on the bench.”

    That depth was tested on Saturday in the Rebels’ first trial match against the Brumbies; a 19-50 loss less important for the result than for providing Wessels with a final opportunity to assess all of his fringe squad players. Expect the line-up for the Rebels’ next trial match against the Waratahs to include their full contingent of internationals.

    Whoever takes the field during the season, fans can expect to see a continuation of the attacking brand of rugby shown by his side last year, one which is almost demanded by the competition itself, where it’s a matter of keep up with the pace or suffer the consequences. In that respect, Wessels doesn’t see himself as an innovator, but someone who has learnt from the best.

    “I’ve been incredibly lucky. I worked with a special group in South Africa and then went to the Brumbies and worked with Jake (White), Laurie (Fisher) and Steve (Larkham). So being a fly on the wall at those places, absorbing all of the knowledge and different approaches, I’ve been able to develop my own authentic style as a result.

    “Essentially, my primary role as a coach is as a facilitator, to create the best environment for everyone to flourish and the team to come together and be successful. I’m not a micro-manager but the non-negotiable is that I expect everyone to come with a high level of intensity.”

    As for the prospect of righting the Super Rugby ledger against New Zealand franchises this season?

    “The biggest difference between New Zealand and Australian rugby in recent years is athleticism. We’ve seen how they pull away at the end of games, and how they’re more dynamic in contact. With that comes confidence and the willingness to try things – all of which links back to superior athletic ability.”

    Julian Savea of the Hurricanes

    (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    Wessels isn’t over-promising but nods to a friendlier schedule in 2018 that will allow his side time to settle into the competition before facing a New Zealand franchise. He also hints at improvement lurking in the local game.

    “The Wallabies have done a tremendous amount of work on improving the athleticism of their players, and combined with what Rod Kafer is working on with his coaching program, looking at where we need to be placing our emphasis, I expect we’ll see improved results to start to flow through.”

    It is typical for coaches, players and fans to feel optimistic at the beginning of each season. Scoreboards and ladder tables are reset to zero and the media teams at each franchise do a great job of selling fresh hopes and dreams to members and fans.

    Gradually those hopes will be overtaken by the harsh reality that is Super Rugby – injuries, the effects of travel and the sheer relentlessness of facing high-quality opposition week after week.

    For the Melbourne Rebels, circumstances have come together in a way that, perhaps for the first time in their eight-year existence, allows them to be a genuine contender for finals action. If the rugby smarts, personality and commitment of their coach is anything to go by, they are well placed to take advantage of that opportunity in 2018.

    Irish rugby union player Jonathan Sexton

    (Warwick Gastinger / CC BY 2.0)

    Meanwhile, opening Six Nations action delivered two vastly contrasting matches, Wales comprehensively beating Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff, and Ireland escaping from Paris with a rare win, 15-13, courtesy of a stunning 45-metre drop goal from Johnny Sexton in the final play of the game.

    Wales coach Warren Gatland, in his final season in charge, delivered a tactical master-class, anticipating Scotland’s expansive approach and employing an impenetrable sliding defensive screen that overwhelmed the increasingly ragged Scots. Inevitably, defence created opportunities for attack, and a four-try bonus point accrued from clinical finishing.

    If Gatland is serious about contending for the All Blacks coaching role after Steve Hansen steps down, this win will not have escaped the powers-that-be in Wellington.

    While Sexton rightly took the accolades for his wonderful winning strike, the seeds of this Irish win can be found in their heartbreaking 24-22 loss to the All Blacks in Dublin in 2013. Like the All Blacks that day, Ireland stuttered for much the match, yet when provided one final opportunity, found the composure and self-belief that only good, experienced sides have, to retain possession and steal the game.

    Heartbreaking for the French but a wonderful example of how sport gives and takes almost in the one breath.

    Geoff Parkes
    Geoff Parkes

    Geoff is a Melbourne-based sports fanatic and writer who started contributing to The Roar in 2012 under the pen name Allanthus. His first book, A World in Union Conflict; The Global Battle For Rugby Supremacy, was released in December 2017 to critical acclaim. For details on the book visit www.geoffparkes.com. Meanwhile, his twin goals of achieving a single figure golf handicap and owning a fast racehorse remain tantalisingly out of reach.

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    The Crowd Says (104)

    • February 5th 2018 @ 7:14am
      sheek said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      Good morning Geoff,

      A nice article about an apparently very nice human being.

      It’s important Australian rugby fans don’t forget the treachery committed against Australian rugby by its own board when they shafted the Force.

      By all means enjoy your rugby. But don’t ever forget the treachery.

      • February 5th 2018 @ 7:24am
        Bakkies said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:24am | ! Report

        Hi Sheek. The RA are expecting ASIC to hand down their findings any day now as they have been in touch with them.

      • February 5th 2018 @ 12:15pm
        Lesley Kelly said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

        Yes good luck to Dave Wessels he is a very nice man but as you say don’t forget the treachery.As a former Force member and would still be if our our team had not been thrown out ,I like many other Force fans here will never forget ,because even though we would like to, until the terrible betrayal inflicted on us by the ARU is put right and Clyne and Pulver admit they lied and apologise,well we will never get over it.

      • February 5th 2018 @ 12:26pm
        Ex force fan said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        “The most frustrating thing about what happened to us was that we didn’t understand it. There was a lack of clear process and we didn’t really know why”. So even Wessels still does not know….neither do we.

        The ARU/AR has so little respect for the players, the staff, the fans, the WA Government and the WA rugby community that they did not even think that they owe us an honest explanation on why they axed our Superugby team that not only made rugby union invisible in the state but also cut off the professional arm of rugby. Also they do not even think that they need to close the gap left that they left from axing the Force in an ultimate betrayal of WA. This is what is driving the anger towards the ARU/RA and Cameron Clyne and Bill Pulver: You made a decision that have a severely impact on our community without the decency to give us an honest explanation. We can handle bad news delivered in a respectful way, however bad news delivered with contempt it very difficult to “get over”.

        Castle missed the opportunity to apologise for the clumsy way this whole process was handled when she visited Perth this week. Clyne still lacks the situational awareness to take responsibility for the ARU/RA – as this happened under his watch. These symbolic actions would have gone a long way to help restore relationships, but as the ARU/RA refuse to admit any wrongdoing they continue to treat WA with contempt. Actions speak so much louder than empty promises that the Force may return in 2021, that WA may bit for Sevens and that we still look for ways to stall the IPRC. Castle failed in her visit to WA!

        The “excuses” given to axe the Force were all proven to be lies. This include the claim (that TWAS keep on repeating) that the ARU/RA was facing “insolvency” in 2019. If that was true surely the ARU/RA would not spend money like drunken sailors so this claim is clearly false. Also the excuse that they need to create depth and spread the talent among the remaining four franchises is a lie as the bulk of the Force players ended up with one franchises – including the coaching staff. The Reds, Tahs and Brumbies clearly did not need more “depth”.

        I have two theories of why the ARU/RA really axed the Force:
        (1) NSW is struggling to retain their Wallytahs (Tah players that form the core of the Wallabies with Pocock and Genia). By axing the Force they can pay those few expensive Wallytahs to prevent them from going to NH teams.
        (2) The ARU/RA feels threated by the AFL made inroads into the “heartlands” (Giants and Suns). They think that if there is a strong rugby union presence in AFL heartland (Victoria) that this will someone stop the AFL’s momentum in NSW and QLD. In this case the axing of the Force is designed to prop up the Melbourne team by creating a “Super strong team” by directing players, funds and staff to the Rebels. The ARU/RA has been prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to prop up the Rebels and in my view will even bet the future on Australian rugby on the Rebels franchise despite the Rebels already going bust twice in 6 years.

        Both strategies are stupid and short-sighted. When the Wallytahs stop playing after 2019, rugby will be no better off as there will be less professional players to choose from and fewer sides. Also as we seen with the CBA, giving in to the demands of the starts raise the pay of everyone and having less players to choose from to backfill your stars weaken your position to negotiate better balanced pay packages in the long run. The second strategy to go head to head with a far better resourced AFL in AFL heartland is also doomed to failure. You cannot beat an organisation that is much stronger than you on their terms. Strategy 101.

        The ARU/RA would be better serve to invest in the areas that they are growing fast and have a realistic opportunity to beat NRL and soccer as the 2nd most popular code – e.g. WA. If you do not have the resources to compete head to head, then you have to hit them where they aren’t. With Twiggy’s financial backing the ARU/RA still have the opportunity to do this but it is clear that they continue to drop the strategy ball. There are not even a single tests scheduled for Perth in 2018 (!), there are no Superugby games here (!), the ARU drag their feet to frustrate the IPRC (!) and the promised additional funding that the ARU/RA would provided WA to close the gap left with the axing of the Force have not materialised. The ARU/RA is doing absolute nothing in WA and leaving a gap that the NRL has pounced on. This already put WA Rugby 3-5 years back and will make it difficult for the Force to return in 2021. The ARU/RA desperately needs real leaders, Clyne and kie has to go! Castle’s visit show has been a disappointment!

        • February 5th 2018 @ 2:09pm
          concerned supporter said | February 5th 2018 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

          Ex Force Fan,
          I am from Sydney and have signed petition for Cameron Clyne to resign.
          I agree fully with most of what you say.
          Normally I disagree with most of what TWAS says, but in this case “that the ARU/RA ïs facing insolvency by 2019.”
          As a matter of fact the ARU went within a bee’s d==k from being insolvent in their latest published financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2016.
          They were saved by Qantas & other sponsors paying 2017 monies in advance and the ARU banking these “Payments in Advance”before the 31 December 2016.
          ARU Balance Sheet Items 31 December 2016:
          “Cash & cash equivs. AUD $ 13,699,000
          Now this Cash/ bank balances were stumped up by “Deferred Revenue” AUD $17,289,000. Without this deferred revenue banked in advance , their Bank(s0 Account(s) would had OVERDRAWN by AUD $3,590,000,
          Their “Trade & other Payable s”were AUD $10,034,000.
          They would not have been able to pay their Trade Creditors and would have been insolvent.
          The ARU Financial Statements for 2017 will probably be released by the ARU Board mid April 2018.
          I am certain that they faced similar solvency problems. They have been saved in the past saved by the goodness of Qantas & others.
          Maybe it would have been better for Rugby in Australia if they went insolvent, and a new constitution, and Board was
          instituted.

          • February 5th 2018 @ 3:44pm
            Bakkies said | February 5th 2018 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

            They would be far better off had they not ploughed 10s of millions down the Rebels’ pit.

            • February 5th 2018 @ 5:29pm
              Train Without A Station said | February 5th 2018 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

              Wasn’t aware there was a choice to go back in time and not do that.

              In fact not even sure there was a choice at the time.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 12:41am
                Bakkies said | February 6th 2018 @ 12:41am | ! Report

                Like writing off 13 million in debt owed while they had an offer to restructure it so they will get some of the money back?

              • Roar Guru

                February 6th 2018 @ 9:52am
                Train Without A Station said | February 6th 2018 @ 9:52am | ! Report

                Were they going to get it back?

                Writing off a lot of it was part of trying to offload the liability to Cox.

                If you want to be angry, be angry at the people who set up the Rebels licence originally so they could be loaded up with debt and walked away from by the original owners. Not the people who tried to minimize the financial impact of the decisions of their predecessors.

                The failings seen now are from decisions made in 2010.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 12:59pm
                Bakkies said | February 6th 2018 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

                Winney offered to restructure some of the debt so at least a good portion would be paid back. Better than nothing.

                No the biggest mistake was letting the Rebels in the first place. NZRU should have used their right to veto told the RA to get your finances in order, sort out your development structures then come back to us down the road.

                Bringing in a fifth side with no NRC and under 20s comp to feed in to it while struggling to stay afloat was just plain stupidity.

              • Roar Guru

                February 6th 2018 @ 2:51pm
                Train Without A Station said | February 6th 2018 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

                Where did Winney say that?

              • Roar Guru

                February 6th 2018 @ 2:53pm
                Train Without A Station said | February 6th 2018 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

                This is Alan Winney’s own words on the proposed bid:

                The Consortium advised that all matters up to 31 December 2014 would remain as the responsibility of the ARU and that all matters related to the post 31 December 2014 period would be the responsibly of the buyer

                Pretty sure any past debt that was written off at the time of the sale to Cox would be “up to 31 December 2014″…

              • February 6th 2018 @ 7:07pm
                Bakkies said | February 6th 2018 @ 7:07pm | ! Report

                You picked the wrong wording Cameron.

                Cuw you would think if it was done properly the Rebels would have been pushing for one of those expansion places going to 18.

              • Roar Guru

                February 7th 2018 @ 9:57am
                Train Without A Station said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:57am | ! Report

                I notice that you don’t state the supposedly correct wording. Simply because your claim is rubbish like usual.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 3:23pm
                Cuw said | February 6th 2018 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                @Bakkies

                it is stupidity that has been repeated more than once – in expanding super rugger to 18 teams.

                before they realized the boy is obese and needed to shed the fat 😀

                making mistakes is acceptable – but repeating the same mistake more than once is not and plain stupid dumb a$$. 😛

          • February 5th 2018 @ 3:59pm
            Ex force fan said | February 5th 2018 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

            The alternative is that they are incompetent by continuing to spend money they so.not have on rebranding and giving their employees huge pay increases. In either case Clyne needs to take responsibility and resign.

          • February 5th 2018 @ 4:29pm
            Ex force fan said | February 5th 2018 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

            Looking forward to the 2017 financial statements especially how the competent ex CEO managed to turn the organisation around by making the tough decisions such as axing the Force.

            Interesting that they are selling revenue for tests to be played in the next 8-10 years to cover the running cost of the Melbourne Rebels for the 2018-2020 period.

            This is the same organisation that snubbed Twiggy’s offer. May the get what is coming their way!

    • Roar Guru

      February 5th 2018 @ 7:40am
      Machooka said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Morning G… very enjoyable read. Many thanks.

      Intensity!

      Yep, it’s gonna be intensely interesting to see how Davo goes with his forced Rebels. I get the feeling that if he can do his thing, and the squad remains injury free, they are gonna surprise a few. There’s an air of anticipation nicely building.

      Onya Wales… good to see someone put those Scots on their arse!

      • Columnist

        February 5th 2018 @ 9:46am
        Geoff Parkes said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        Hi Chook

        It’s important to recognise that it’s all speculation at this stage – the coach and the Rebels haven’t achieved anything yet, (which Redsfan so stridently reminds us of below).

        But I think it’s good to report that things are progressing well if that’s the case. And certainly in terms of injuries, fitness, calibre of player and purpose at training, this team is far advanced over the same time last year.

      • February 5th 2018 @ 12:49pm
        Muzzo said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

        Hi Chook!1
        Lets wait till the Taffy’s meet the Irish, as I think they will be kissing more than the Blarney stone! Cheers.

    • Roar Guru

      February 5th 2018 @ 7:48am
      Fionn said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      Cheers Geoff,

      It’s good to see Gatland expanding his horizons in moving away from ‘Gatland-ball’ and trying some new tactics. But the question is, why did it take him so long?

      Also, I thought you might be interested in this – https://www.playersvoice.com.au/matt-ebden-54-flights-battle-for-fairness/#QbdJ9OGZlCl4t1Tm.97

      • Columnist

        February 5th 2018 @ 8:10am
        Geoff Parkes said | February 5th 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        Hi Fionn

        I think Gatland will leave Wales with a positive legacy, holding the national team together well despite a largely dysfunctional region/club system. And no question the Lions played some very good rugby in NZ.

        In this match some of the ball play from his forwards was outstanding, as was the defence, and Prince Harry at 10 really controlled the game well. They have some tough away games coming up but seem far better placed than most people gave them credit for.

        Thanks for the link 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          February 5th 2018 @ 8:14am
          Fionn said | February 5th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

          They’re definitely due for a win over the Wallabies the way that they played against Scotland, that’s for sure.

          • Columnist

            February 5th 2018 @ 8:37am
            Geoff Parkes said | February 5th 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

            Yes. Given the overall win/loss records of both sides in recent years it’s incredible how Wales have continually drawn blanks against Australia.

            • Roar Guru

              February 5th 2018 @ 8:45am
              Fionn said | February 5th 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

              I think it’s a mental thing. For so long Federer could hardly buy a win over Nadal, even on neutral surfaces.

              Federer even came out and admitted that he played Nadal on clay too often in their early rivalry, and it affected how he went into matches against Nadal. He implied that he lacked confidence going after his shots and too often played grinding tennis that played into Nadal’s hands. Then, after the 08 French Open (Rolland Garros) final where he was beaten 6-1 6-3 6-0 he just lost all confidence against Nadal in Grand Slams especially, to the point that he lost on surfaces that favoured him (e.g. in Wimbledon a month later).

              He said that after he took some time off and looked back at their rivalry and matches he realised what he had to do to turn the rivalry around. Result is that Rafa hasn’t beaten him since the 2014 Australian Open, and Federer has won 5 times in a row, including 4 times last year, with the last 3 being in straight sets.

              I would’t be surprised if there was a similar mental block in the Welsh players by this point. They should be beating Australia much more frequently given the standards of both teams.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 2:04pm
                AlisterS said | February 5th 2018 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

                Yes let’s hope they finally don’t find a way in the World Cup Pool

    • February 5th 2018 @ 8:37am
      Train Without A Station said | February 5th 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      Geoff what are your thoughts on the squads for this trial and the 10s chosen by Wessels.

      While I understand the first choice Wallaby contingent missing, I can’t understand why so many fully contracted squad members have been left out for uncontracted players.

      By half time the trial was closer to a Rising vs Brumbies trial.

      The Brumbies seemed to have a more expected approach of playing their best 23 players for 70 mins and giving fringe players a 10 minutes crack to ease them in.

      • Columnist

        February 5th 2018 @ 9:14am
        Geoff Parkes said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        Hi TWAS,

        Dead right about the side resembling the Rising more than the Rebels and exactly the reason why Redsfan and any other posters who are looking at the scoreline only might be better to hold judgment for a few weeks.

        A couple of reasons

        1. I believe the coach has a strong idea about who his best 30 players are but is still sorting through the next 10 or so. In that regard this was a ‘trial’ match in the truest sense of the word. It’s a long attritional season and the bottom half of the squad will prove as important as the top half, so its important to get this part of the selection right

        2. many of the trial sides didn’t run their internationals – for much the same reason, it’s very early days just yet. There are also a few little niggles, and Coleman for example not long into full training after recovering from his thumb injury.

        It will be much the same this week, with the Bris 10 squad containing mostly up and comers, but immediately that is over I’d expect the focus to switch very sharply to the Waratahs trial using something close to a first choice line-up.

        Would it be better to be as advanced as the Brumbies in terms of selection and combinations? Sure, but that’s the reality of it.

        • February 5th 2018 @ 10:16am
          Train Without A Station said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Yeah I certainly understand that view.

          Where I’m a bit concerned is the time put into out of squad, much older players like Chubb and Armstrong for example.

          The Rebels are already quite deep in these positions as it is.

          In Armstrong’s case with Coleman, Parling, Philips, Jeffries and Toolis plus young up and comers on training/development contracts like Ha’angana and Hosea, what purpose does having a 27 year old NRC lock around really serve?

          Ha’angana is probably already ahead of him so we are talking about him as the 4th back up outside the 23.

          Likewise I can understand putting time into Mahe. They’ll have 4 hookers in a 40 man squad so may as well look at him.

          I can especially understand local players who are cheaper. But all these Sydney based guys come at a bit of a cost and aren’t exactly young up and comers.

          • Columnist

            February 5th 2018 @ 11:25am
            Geoff Parkes said | February 5th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

            Perhaps its more a matter of these interstate guys putting their hand up and asking for an opportunity and getting one (of sorts)? Probably no harm in the Rebels taking a look on the off chance that they pick someone up of value – without making any promises and keeping in mind the local up and comers.

            But yes I agree that the time for that is fast running out and that we’ll soon see the concentration switch to the front end of the squad.

            • February 5th 2018 @ 5:36pm
              Malo said | February 5th 2018 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

              Yeah the Shute shield should be compensated for all the players the rebels pilfer. The rebels will be gone within 3 years.

              • Roar Guru

                February 5th 2018 @ 10:13pm
                Train Without A Station said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

                Yeah you’re right.

                We’d be better off if these aspiring professional rugby players went overseas for opportunity instead of coming to Melbourne…

          • February 5th 2018 @ 12:42pm
            DaveR said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

            Yes it certainly seems like Wesselss used the Brumbies trial to cull the extended squad rather than cement in his first 15 combinations.

      • Columnist

        February 5th 2018 @ 9:28am
        Brett McKay said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        It’s certainly interesting that the 10s squad features a handful of players who didn’t even play the trial. I can understand wanting to get more game time into ‘lower’ squad players, but bringing in new players completely? I’m not sure I get that…

        • Columnist

          February 5th 2018 @ 9:39am
          Geoff Parkes said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          Yes, fair point, but let’s just say (my speculation, nothing from the club) that some sides might be going to Brisbane to win the tournament, and other sides might be going there desperately trying to avoid injuries to important players.

          Also, I think there is a view that this tournament doesn’t really help with preparation for SR and that what happened to the Chiefs last year has made some sides even more gun shy?

          Must say, with all the on-field changes and lesser known players, you guys did a pretty decent job on the commentary on Sat night. In front of what looked like a reasonable crowd too?

          • February 5th 2018 @ 9:54am
            Cynical Play said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            I see the Tens a bit like last years Baa-Baa game for the WBs. Primarily a chance for valued players to get injured in a relatively meaningless (but entertaining) competition. Look how that went for the WBs players.

            I cant see any Oz coach risking any of the SR starters this weekend, no matter what names are in the program. I thinks they’ll see it as a fitness hit-out mostly for those still tubby, with some further chance given to the potential dirt-trackers to stake a claim.

            • Roar Guru

              February 5th 2018 @ 10:05am
              Machooka said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

              Tend to agree with this Cynical… and although it’s somewhat a cynical approach to the 10s, there must be an attitude of protecting ones’ players, in essence, before the season has already started.

            • February 5th 2018 @ 10:13am
              Train Without A Station said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

              You could say the same about a contact training session too though.

          • Columnist

            February 5th 2018 @ 10:12am
            Brett McKay said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

            Oh, well thanks mate, very nice of you to say. The second wave of seven or eight Rebels’ changes certainly tested us, particularly when numbers didn’t match team sheets (which was also the case for the Brumbies). There were time in that last ‘third’ were we just had to talk about other things!

            And yeah, decent crowd, more than 4000, which please all parties – most notably the Queanbeyan Whites rugby club who were manning the canteen and BBQ. We reckon they got a new batch of steak midway through the game because suddenly our commentary position directly above them was flooded with the waft!

            • February 5th 2018 @ 10:42am
              Cynical Play said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

              Yep, nice diction on the mic Brett. Were those cameras using i-phones to transmit? Looked like it.

              Looked like a great crowd in a great mood.

            • Columnist

              February 5th 2018 @ 10:51am
              Geoff Parkes said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

              It’s like the Steak Sandwich the official food of the ACT…

              • February 5th 2018 @ 1:22pm
                Ed said | February 5th 2018 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

                The steak sanger came with gravy on Saturday.
                Brett just had to yell from his commentary spot if he needed more.

                Those steak sangers are far more tasty than the lukewarm pies in the press box at Bruce.

        • Roar Guru

          February 5th 2018 @ 10:07am
          Machooka said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          From people on ground Brett… it sounds like there was a good crowd on hand!?!

    • February 5th 2018 @ 8:55am
      Redsfan1 said | February 5th 2018 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      Yes Wessels is a genius. A 50 point hiding to go with multiple hidings last season. I don’t understand why some people don’t think Wessels is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

      To the naysayers who say he should be judged on results and this smashing is a bad start – they don’t understand he is a nice guy who the players all like. Way more important than actually winning games.

      • February 5th 2018 @ 9:05am
        Train Without A Station said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        I certainly don’t think Wessels is proven to be the superstar that people claim him to be.

        But perhaps have a look at the Rebels said, have a look at the team chosen for the trial and have a look at the time players spent on the field and that will give you a pretty good understanding of the 21 point loss.

      • February 5th 2018 @ 9:21am
        jameswm said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        Hmm. Jut quietly, I think if you’re going to judge someone on results, it should be results in proper matches, don’t you think?

        You do realise, don’t you, that this was a trial?

        • February 5th 2018 @ 9:39am
          Redsfan1 said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          You do realise that the Brumbies took it as a trial as well? You don’t have to search far to find similar smashings of Wessels Force last season.

          What I just find amazing is the pumping of Wessels with absolutely nothing concrete behind it. Beat some equally pathetic Aussie teams (but still did lose to some like the woeful Tahs round 1).

          Id be keeping the champagne on ice with Wessels until he actually achieves something worthy of such praise.

          • February 5th 2018 @ 9:44am
            Train Without A Station said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            The Brumbies also played a much stronger team for a good chunk of the match.

          • Roar Guru

            February 5th 2018 @ 2:13pm
            The Neutral View From Sweden said | February 5th 2018 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

            I doubt anyone is drinking champagne in Wessels honor right now RD.

            And to be fair, one does not need an excuse to drink champagne, it tastes good almost all the time 😉

      • February 6th 2018 @ 6:51pm
        RahRah said | February 6th 2018 @ 6:51pm | ! Report

        Remind us where the Force finished in the Australian conference again?

    • February 5th 2018 @ 9:14am
      Cole said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article Geoff. This is our glimmer of hope in the SR season, if the Rebels can make the finals then maybe we can talk about Oz Rugby in a positive light again after a horrible 12 months.

      Interesting that Wessels sights athleticism as the component missing in Oz SR sides as it has been so obvious how off the pace we have been in this regard for the past few seasons. Our players are always the first to look gassed or drop off in intensity. Out of all the things you’d think you could control as a coach, fitness and conditioning would have to be number 1, so why has it taken so long? Do the kiwis train harder? Have better facilities?

      • Columnist

        February 5th 2018 @ 9:23am
        Geoff Parkes said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Hi Cole

        All good questions but, no I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with better facilities. It’s interesting too to note the focus that Eddie Jones is placing on improved fitness for England, but if everyone is doing it you’d have to think that any advantages there are going to become increasingly marginal.

        Remember also that athleticism is not just fitness, but power into and through contact, agility, speed and so on. And that the disparity is particularly obvious at schoolboy and U20 level.

        • Roar Guru

          February 5th 2018 @ 2:20pm
          The Neutral View From Sweden said | February 5th 2018 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

          Certainly, agree that the fitness-talk can get out of proportions many times. There are no secrets in the fitness-business, just hard work, and self-discipline.

          The answer to Cole’s question if the Kiwis train harder I say no they don’t, but I am pretty sure they train smarter and thereby are better prepared when it is game time.
          As my old favorite quote goes: High speed never compensates the wrong direction.

      • February 5th 2018 @ 11:16am
        Ed said | February 5th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        It was noticeable at the game that the tight-five players for the Brumbies appeared to be fitter than their counterparts in the Rebels. Maybe it was because the Rebels were using more of their lower ranked players. The Rebels had the best waterboy – Mafi.

        Also, passes from rucks were too often to the player and less in front of them. Let’s hope this improves as the season progresses for all Australian teams.

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