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Get the legends back in the game

CJ Roar Rookie

By CJ, CJ is a Roar Rookie

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    Who is arguably the best player to have pulled on the gold of the Wallabies in the last century? John Eales? Stephen Larkham? David Campese? Nick Farr-Jones? Tim Horan?

    I would hope that many of you could agree with me that Mark Ella is probably the greatest player to have played for the Wallabies in the last century.

    He was one of the greatest proponents of running rugby to ever pull on a jersey. Mark, along with Larkham, were two of the best playmakers this country has ever produced.

    Even after his retirement Larkham is making a splash – look what happened when Jake White and Larkham came together at the Brumbies. They went from cellar dwellers to the edge of the finals in one season.

    I think the emergence of Lealiifano is down to the mentoring he received from Larkam. I think Lealiifano will only continue to get better under the tutelage of “Bernie”.

    With the current state of Australian rugby, I think it’s time to send an SOS to Mark Ella. Can you imagine if the Wallabies fly halves were being mentored by the best fly half Australia has ever produced?

    Imagine Mark Ella being the Wallabies backs coach imagine the things Mark could do with players like Digby Ioane, Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor.

    Perhaps he could even create some magic from Quade Cooper and Berrick Barnes. The Wallabies forwards have never been dominant in international rugby, so perhaps Ella could teach our fly halves how to deal with it.

    If he was not interested in coaching the Wallabies, perhaps a grass roots program would tickle his fancy, the sort that Campese has attempted to create. Imagine the next generation of Australian running fly halves mentored and coached by Mark Ella.

    I get chills even imagining it.

    I think it is a crying shame that one of the greatest rugby minds of our century is no longer contributing to Australian rugby.

    I understand if he is doing this by choice but surely if it was even remotely possible, mountains should be moved to allow such an inspirational and legendary player back into the fold.

    Mark could help the Wallabies back to the top of the rugby world.

    On a another note, it is a crime that the ARU is making it so difficult for Campese to pass on his experience and enthusiasm for the game onto the next generation. So difficult in fact that he has no choice but to go abroad and help other nations expand their rugby.

    Campese and Ella were the legends I grew up hearing about, my father telling me stories of these guys making something from nothing and pulling wins from the jaws of defeat.

    These are the guys that made me want to play rugby.

    Not only would these two legends bring huge levels of experience and help to the players they coached they would also bring much needed publicity to a sport starved of exposure.

    Mark Ella, Stephen Larkam and David Campese should be in a coaching capacity in Australia at some level as these ex-players have so much to offer to the next generation.

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 12:40am
      Johnno said | September 22nd 2012 @ 12:40am | ! Report

      Quade lol. He he just t joking there lol. SOme say Quade has the most talant him or JOC or beale but that is debatable. Andrew Walker had so much talant joe roof not he rugby club said Andrew walker was the most gifted rugby player he had played with. Zambia’s finest George gregan was one hell of a competitor . All this talk about overseas born wallabies in the squad eg pock, vickerman,inane. Thought i’d point out one of our finest. David knox who was a part of of no 8 micheal chieckas great randwick teams was one hell of a passer and playmaker. Cheika played over 300 games for Randwick during the 1990’s the golden generation of randwick rugby. Talant wise Brendon Nassar had a lot of talant but didn’t reach his potential . Greg marto martin off the rugby cub had a lot of talant but didn’t reach his potential either, and micheal brial, big garrick morgan and big tom bowman who chris handy used to get so excited when he scored a try vs the ab’s in 98 also didn’t reach his potential. brett robinson didn’t either he was good. Chris latham was an awesome player so much talant,, and stirling mortlock was a powerhouse took it too Umaga and O’driscoll in his prime.

      Then of course campese, john eales who could of played cricket for australia was a top cricketer too, and larkham, gregan, ella brothers , russell fairfax another matraville high man, ray price, ken catchable, john hipwell, phil kearns, far jones, micheal lynagh, ben tune, roff, horan, little, and big willie O in his time was awesome, as was kefu, steve cutler, andy slack,micheal hawker, as was big dan vickerman in his prime, and George smith who was phenomenal vs the british lions in 2001. I don’t think i have ever seen a player dominate series like George smith did vs the lions in 2001 and that includes Mcaw at his best or micheal jones and lomu’s 95 world cup.

      So many to choose from i don’t know where to start. Heck wally lewis aussy schoolboy,andrew johns if he crossed over to rugby union which he nearly did joining sailor,tiquri,matt rogers may of been greats , and same with lockeyar. Cliffy lyons who was the nearest toy of player to Mark ella would of been sensational rugby union player.
      Rickey stuart could of been a great but he left too early. Matt Giteau everyone had high hopes on and around 2004 he was just about the best player in the game may of been our no 1 wallaby if he got on better with deans .

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2012 @ 10:20pm
        Mantis said | September 22nd 2012 @ 10:20pm | ! Report

        you love a big comment dont you johnno

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 1:57am
      Shungmao said | September 22nd 2012 @ 1:57am | ! Report

      Agree our base skills need improving but I honestly think a lot of the players mentioned would struggle with the up to date defensive and attacking structures from the opposition. I would also be interested by a dominant vs a nn dominant pack

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 4:28am
      bluerose said | September 22nd 2012 @ 4:28am | ! Report

      Mark Ella was, is and will always be the greatest to ever wear the green and gold, his flat line attack was pure magical.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 10:45pm
        Rip Van Winkle said | September 22nd 2012 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

        Mark Ella was nearly as big a thief of rugby league ideas as Rod Macqueen.

        • September 26th 2012 @ 7:34am
          Blinky Bill of Bellingen said | September 26th 2012 @ 7:34am | ! Report

          Unless it’s illegal, it’s not theft but rather Adopt and Adapt. 😉

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 5:34am
      AndyS said | September 22nd 2012 @ 5:34am | ! Report

      I’d say Ella was probably the best amateur to play for the Wallabies. Maybe it would have translated into professionalism, maybe not – it could be argued endlessly as there are so many aspects that have to be aligned, including external considerations such as the massively increased training load and the need to be away from home/work etc. For mine it is Eales, having made the transition and excelling both sides.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 6:45am
        Frank O'Keeffe said | September 22nd 2012 @ 6:45am | ! Report

        Ella’s loop plays etc wouldn’t have worked in the modern game. But vision, ball skills, awareness, reading the game, etc. Ella would have been fine in the modern game. Carter isn’t a stepper, but he’s a great distributor and engages the defensive line and directs play beautifully. I don’t even regard Carter that highly in terms of tactical kicking. He’s a good kicker in terms of finding touch when he needs to, and kicking goals etc.

        Of course that Sydney Test in 2010 (or was it 2009) where NZ won with a Carter penalty, after Carter put a perfectly weighted kick that stayed in play, pressured the back three to make a mistake, and then make the NZ pack run over them, getting the penalty. That hurt!

        Ella influenced modern attacks more than people realize. A five-eighth who stands as deep as Barry John can’t be successful in today’s game. Jonny Wilkinson was ineffective in attack from 2007 onwards because of the depth he ran at. Players have to engage attacks these days.

        Ella was a great defender too – a forgotten aspect of his game. He wasn’t great like Rob Andrew, Jonny Wilkinson, or Dan Cart. But he was very good.

        Actually Ella and Carter are probably the two best five-eighths I’ve ever seen. Hugo Porta maybe did more than both, but from what I saw of Porta (which isn’t much), I never liked how the onus to win the game was always entirely on him. If Porta played bad, the Argies lost.

        I remember seeing Nass Botha play a horrible 2nd Test during the Cavaliers Tour. There were other ways to try and win the game, but Botha had a bad game on a windy day, and no either I win the game, or we don’t win!

        • Roar Guru

          September 22nd 2012 @ 9:48am
          sheek said | September 22nd 2012 @ 9:48am | ! Report


          I don’t agree Ella’s loop plays wouldn’t have worked in the modern era. It’s all about adapting, & Ella was a master at improvisation.

          My point is, today’s defences, while better organised, aren’t challenged anywhere near enough by things outside the norm & the expected.

          This is the result of homogeneity of players at the expense of individuality & flair. The craziness of Cooper an exception.

          • September 23rd 2012 @ 11:11am
            Bakkies said | September 23rd 2012 @ 11:11am | ! Report

            Jonathan Sexton uses a basic loop at Leinster with BOD on the receiving end. It’s Sexton’s pet play. Well he did have David Knox as his backs coach for a while.

            • Roar Guru

              September 24th 2012 @ 3:31pm
              El Gamba said | September 24th 2012 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

              And it’s not just the loop that worked so well for Ella, it was how hard he worked for a second and third touch. This principle is timeless.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 9:22am
        garth said | September 22nd 2012 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Agree, John Eales, the best all-round rugby player in the world. For the first century of rugby anyway. The man could even kick goals , broke more than a few kiwi hearts with that trick.

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 5:55am
      klatu said | September 22nd 2012 @ 5:55am | ! Report

      the best wallabies ever – WilliO

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 6:33am
      Frank O'Keeffe said | September 22nd 2012 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      I think it was Peter Jenkins who once ranked the 10 greatest Wallabies ever and listed the following names…

      Trevor Allen
      David Campese
      Ken Cathpole
      John Eales
      Nick Farr-Jones
      John Hipwell
      Tim Horan
      Michael Lynagh
      Mark Loane
      Col Windon

      As far as I’m concerned, those 10 are as good as any list you could make of Australia’s best ever players.

      Of those four I think the stand-outs are: Catchpole, Ella, Campese, Eales.

      I never saw Catchpole, but Chris Laidlaw once said he was the best halfback he ever saw, and Laidlaw played against Gareth Edwards, and had Sid Going as his rival.

      Ella… if he played longer he possibly could have been an easy number one choice. It wasn’t until 1984 (his last year) that he was a decent kicker. Although an underrated thing about Ella was he occasionally surprised teams with good kicks that looked ugly. Ella was the master of kicking ugly field goals. He kicked more than Paul McLean!

      People forget Ella made mistakes like Campo did… Every test I ever saw Ella play in had a mistake. 9/10 things worked out. But I loved how he immediately engaged teams the instant he touched the ball. There’s no time for them to think or adjust. So many times he looked like he’d get smashed and then the ball would pass through like lightning. Had he played until 1988 or even the World Cup he might have been the best rugby player ever.

      Campese is my choice for the best Australian rugby player ever. He’s got the longevity (played two years too long), the great memories, the success… People are forgetting how incredible he really was in attack! Earl Kirton once said New Zealand used to practice defensive formations designed specifically to stop Campese. The heights Campo hit in 1988 and 1991 were pretty awesome. His 1988 Tour to Britain might have been better than the 1991 World Cup. I’ve worn the DVDs skin-thin! He scored some of the best tries ever, too. Bryce Rope once said the whole plan for the 3rd Test in 1984 was to stop Ella getting the ball to Campese… they were successful. Bill McLaren said Campese was the greatest he ever saw. Tony Ward did too.

      I sometimes feel bad for Campo because he was judged by standards higher than everyone. Like people talk about his tackling and how he wouldn’t make it in today’s game. His tackling wasn’t the highlight of his game, but he often made tackles. He was more like Joe Roff than Quade Cooper I never noticed his defence on the Grand Slam tour or the 1988 tour. I only noticed it once in the World Cup against Ireland. I can think of a few badly missed tackles he made, but people have just gone over the top with this.

      Eales… made as many tackles as a backrow or fullback, was the premier line-out exponent of the 90s, destroyed Wales whenever he played against them… He’s retired and Australia hasn’t been the same since. He’d be my 2 after Campo #1.

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2012 @ 9:33am
        sheek said | September 22nd 2012 @ 9:33am | ! Report


        Beautifully written. Re Ella & Campo, yes, they made mistakes. But for every mistake they made, they did say 10 things well.

        You don’t taste success without first experiencing failure. Life isn’t about how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you keep bouncing back.

        Today’ youth regrettably, is being moddy-coddled by fear of litigation, duty of care, & all that suffocating red tape, bureaucratic stuff.

        Give kids back responsibility. Make them accountable for their own actions. That’s a start…..

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 10:12am
        bigbaz said | September 22nd 2012 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        Yea Frank, I mainly agree with you but most of these players had if not great packs at least good competitive tight 5s. Hipwell carried Aus rugby for years and as great a no 9 as he was he was also the prototype 9th forward. He’s in my top 3.

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