AAC: the man for this moment

AlBo Roar Guru

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    Adam Ashley-Cooper is tackled for the NSW Waratahs in their trial against the Crusaders (Image: Greg Seaton).

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    A quick glance around The Roar and you would think our hopes against the British Lions systematically come down to the trials of the same few headline players: Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Israel Folau and James O’Connor.

    They are unpredictable both on and off the field, they are interesting personalities, they are headline-grabbing superstars whose form differential is picked apart by journalists and couch experts alike and for good reason.

    They may very well make or break this Wallaby team and good luck to each of them in their efforts to be selected.

    However amidst the haystack of articles, comments, team lists, whys and wherefores, is a name which holds the key to our success over the Lions: Adam ‘Mr Versatility, Mr Reliability, Two Dads’ Ashley-Cooper.

    I am a big fan of Adam, and at some level always have been.

    In the past I have had to vehemently justify his inclusion in teams both provincially and internationally, even when I’ve not been entirely confident in his form myself. He’s been a victim of his own versatility, which has seen him play virtually every backline position on the park to the varied cries of:

    “Leave him at fullback”, “Keep him on the bench to cover 12-15”, “Outside Centre is his best position”, “He’s either an average wing or nothin’”.

    Finally however, for the first time in his career, he has been given what we’ve been crying out for since he came onto the scene – a consistent position that spans both Super Rugby and Wallaby seasons.

    His form since speaks volumes.

    He has combined with the Waratahs backline superbly and is a strong reason for their resurgence this year.

    Those will remember his last Super foray at outside centre was for the Brumbies to very little effect. In my opinion it was Matt Giteau’s unnatural 10 playing style which hampered him. Gits had a tendency to run across field, leaving AAC fighting a slide defensive pattern and the sideline.

    Foley runs straighter at the line leaving Adam with more time and space to get to the outside shoulder and get his famed fend into play.

    He’s also finally had time to make the position his own and work out how to get the best out of himself.

    There are still those who say he lacks the ability to pass. This, I believe, is short sighted. He does pass and a fair amount too – the stats speak for themselves.

    To be honest I would much prefer to see him take the hit or back himself more often anyway. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he always makes it over the gain line and he doesn’t push his wingers into touch.

    In short he keeps the ball alive.

    Funnily enough his attacking ability is actually what excites me the least. Defensively he’s as safe as houses, tackling anything that comes towards him. This will prove vital against Manu Tuilagi and the rest of the Lions big backs.

    He also cleans out on the fringes like a loose forward. He protects the outside backs in isolation and causes havoc to those on the opposition team who find themselves isolated with him around.

    Finally, he chases the ball like a rabid moodle. He chases high kicks, long kicks and even, as we saw on the weekend, penalty kicks. This is the kind of commitment that we’ve been missing.

    In short, it’s that commitment which is the Wallabies most valuable asset.

    He doesn’t rely on flashy plays or self-promoting sound bites. He lets his hard work do the talking and as a result is reaping the benefits more than any other player in the squad.

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    The Crowd Says (27)

    • May 21st 2013 @ 4:49am
      Shop said | May 21st 2013 @ 4:49am | ! Report

      He was my far MOTM on the weekend and completed all his duties as mentioned above. It is especially true about him playing better because he is not being shifted all around the park. Fantastic article and 100% correct.

      • Roar Guru

        May 21st 2013 @ 8:39am
        AlBo said | May 21st 2013 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        Cheers Shop. Agreed on the weekend. He was omnipresent and he lead by example in everything he did, even if it wasn’t always flash. His retrieval of the penalty kick off the post summed up his attitude to me.

      • May 21st 2013 @ 10:26am
        Elisha Pearce said | May 21st 2013 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        Agreed, Shop, this was a great article. Entirely correct too. AAC is one of the truly world class players we possess and is in red hot form atm.

      • May 22nd 2013 @ 1:43pm
        Rob said | May 22nd 2013 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        +1 Albo. He is on fire.
        I never thought I’d say this, but Horne is looking the goods at 12 this year too.

    • May 21st 2013 @ 5:51am
      dwayne said | May 21st 2013 @ 5:51am | ! Report

      Always baffled me why Aus rugby has not made this guy into a world class 13. This is his position and given time, could be world class.

      • Roar Guru

        May 21st 2013 @ 8:37am
        AlBo said | May 21st 2013 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        What saddens me most is that it’s taken us this long to make it happen. He should have been a consistent 13 for the last 5 years at least and now he’s heading rapidly towards his 30’s. Hopefully we still get a good couple of years out of him.

        • Roar Guru

          May 21st 2013 @ 5:14pm
          AdamS said | May 21st 2013 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

          in 5 years time we will be saying the same thing about JOC and 12.
          You could probably just resubmit this excellent article with the names changed.

          • May 21st 2013 @ 7:27pm
            Sickofthe10debate said | May 21st 2013 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

            Agreed. I reckon JOC plays 10 much the same as Gits. Will be interesting to see how the back line, and int context of this article, AAC goes against the Lions as a result of this.

    • May 21st 2013 @ 6:11am
      Chris of Vic said | May 21st 2013 @ 6:11am | ! Report

      Always was, always will be an outside centre, it just took Connolly/Deans 6 years to figure it out. I’ll always remember being at the 2010 test in Melbourne, the AB’s were giving us a right touch up (again), but it was AAC who managed to add some respectability to what was an otherwise ordinary display. Others see a pedestrian player at best and a has been who never had it at worst, I see a guy who has been one of the Wallabies most reliable players through a very lean period (against the AB’s)

      • May 21st 2013 @ 8:28am
        Shop said | May 21st 2013 @ 8:28am | ! Report

        Chieka worked it out pretty fast.

      • Roar Guru

        May 21st 2013 @ 8:54am
        AlBo said | May 21st 2013 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        I think his Achilles heal has always been his reliability. For that reason he’s always been used as the ”safe’ option in a decade of looking for X Factor.

    • May 21st 2013 @ 8:37am
      Mike said | May 21st 2013 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      “Finally however, for the first time in his career, he has been given what we’ve been crying out for since he came onto the scene – a consistent position that spans both Super Rugby and Wallaby seasons. His form since speaks volumes.”

      Precisely Albo. He is one of our best players, and he must be left in position at 13. Yet there are still frequent calls to move him elsewhere. It seems to be a disease of Australian rugby. A lesser player would have been crushed by it.

      • Roar Guru

        May 21st 2013 @ 8:51am
        AlBo said | May 21st 2013 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        True Mike. You can see why he’s kept his head up with his general attitude: He is the first to congratulate team mates; he’s the last to leave the field – signing autographs, meeting kids, taking photos; and he leaves nothing on the field after 80mins… all the while never getting injured somehow.

    • May 21st 2013 @ 12:00pm
      Blind Freddy said | May 21st 2013 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

      AAC has been our best backline player for years even when not playing at 13. Allways gives 100% and is very strong. He played a of great games for the Brumbies too and I dont think Giteau held him back in any way.

      • Roar Guru

        May 21st 2013 @ 12:10pm
        AlBo said | May 21st 2013 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

        He did have many great years for ACT. To be fair I probably should have been more specific – I was referring to his last year which for the most part was a forgettable one for the Brums. The backline failed to fire and he bore the brunt of criticism which I thought was harsh.

        • May 22nd 2013 @ 1:47pm
          Rob said | May 22nd 2013 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

          I agree with giteau. He was an outside centre killer. AAC played his best football with Larkham at 10 or giteau at the force.

    • May 21st 2013 @ 12:01pm
      Brendan Bradford said | May 21st 2013 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

      Spot on. Along with Horwill and Genia, AAC is one of the first names I’d be penciling in for any Wallabies side. His attack has been great – especially outside Foley. He will benefit even more once Barnes gets fit and hopefully plays 12. Like you, I think his defence has been absolutely outstanding this season, nothing gets past him.

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