The Wallaby squad is out. Next up is the All Blacks and the full Springboks squads. It’s about this time each year that I start to think that there are as many underrated and overlooked players in each country as there are those who are widely seen as overrated.
If it isn’t on Setanta or RugbyZone, I don’t see it, so I cannot comment on local competitions in any of the Three Nation countries to broaden the scope of the discussion.
That said, Super 14 matches reveal an array of ‘fair-haired’ favourites who only rarely live up to their billings and a list of those who are relegated to ‘journeymen’ status who regularly play above their reputations.
During the Bulls-Crusaders Semi-Final I was struck (once again) at what an intelligent and consistently productive ‘nuisance’ Thomas Waldrom is.
The Bulls scored thirteen points while he was in the bin.
The momentum had shifted and the game was effectively gone by the time he came back on. With the sin bin and an early replacement, Waldrom played about half the match. Even so, his stats look very solid in comparison to the other semi-final number 8s – Spies, Lauaki, and So’oialo.
Waldrom Spies Lauaki So’oialo
Tackles 4 3 3 11
Missed Tackles 1 1 3 4
Ruck/Mauls 6 13 12 10
Turnovers 2 1 2 0
Runs 6 14 12 8
Meters 28 177 99 32
Line Breaks 1 2 1 0
Off loads 0 1 1 0
Who gets the most press and hype?
In this group, it certainly isn’t Waldrom.
However, in addition to consistency and apparent intelligence, his numbers suggest that across the board his claim to an All Black jersey should be on a par with his more highly touted peers.
If Rory Kockett missed out on the Boks initial squad, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Waldrom to start for the All Blacks.
Perhaps these two players aren’t the best examples since my interest is in Australia where we constantly hear that we have “no depth.”
Is it possible that at least part of the issue is a systemic failure to take a consistent and coherent look past the hype that surrounds the players that manage to get an agent who persistently push them forward – and keep on pushing long past their due dates?