Sheek’s best Wallabies XV (1967-present)

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru


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    So we come to the final installment of Sheek’s selection of team sports over the past 50 years (or nearly so).

    Of the six team sports discussed in this series, rugby union appeared last on my horizon in 1968. It happened to be a Bledisloe Cup match featuring the Wallabies and All Blacks.

    The great scrumhalf Ken Catchpole captained Australia on this day, but a severe injury just before half-time ended his career. He was just 28.

    Although I got to see Catchy in club rugby several years later, in which he outstandingly led Randwick to a premiership, on balance I had to make the decision whether to include him on the same brief criteria as I included Reg Gasnier (Kangaroos) and Bob Simpson (baggy greens).

    Sheek’s Wallabies first XV (1967-present)
    Matt Burke, David Campese, Dan Herbert, Tim Horan, Brendan Moon, Mark Ella, Ken Catchpole (vc), Mark Loane, George Smith, Simon Poidevin, John Eales (c), Dan Vickerman, Ewen McKenzie, Phil Kearns, Topo Rodriguez.

    I will make some brief notes on the firsts. At least, as brief as possible.

    Every team must have a recognised kicker, thus Matt Burke is essential at fullback, while I have finally come to acknowledge the genius of Herbert. Mark Ella, in my eyes, is under severe attack from Stephen Larkham’s all-round game, and Smith’s selection was 50/50. I considered quite a few different backrow combos.

    It’s also instructive that two tight forwards – Dan Vickerman and Topo Rodriguez – were born and played their formative rugby overseas.

    Sheek’s Wallabies second XV (1967-present)
    Roger Gould, Ben Tune, Jason Little, Michael Lynagh (c), Joe Roff, Stephen Larkham, John Hipwell, Toutai Kefu, David Wilson (vc), Greg Cornelsen, Nathan Sharpe, Rod McCall, Andy McIntyre, Tom Lawton, Tony Daly.

    Generally speaking, there is very little to choose between the firsts and seconds. It would be a ripper contest between the two teams. Michael Lynagh played so well at inside centre beside Ella on the grand slam tour in 1984, that he could easily have played half his career in this position.

    While I have lost a lot of love for rugby, it still remains my favourite deep in my heart. Old habits die hard. Consequently, I felt the need to include a third team.

    Sheek’s Wallabies third XV
    Chris Latham, Israel Folau, Sterling Mortlock, Mick O’Connor, Lote Tuqiri, Paul McLean, Nick Farr-Jones (c), Steve Tuynman, Greg Davis (vc), Tony Shaw, Steve Williams, David Giffen, Andrew Blades, Mick Foley, Dan Crowley.

    I am a massive fan of ‘Snoz’ O’Connor, who I still think was a more inherently brilliant player than Herbert, Little or Mortlock (with whom he can interchange in the thirds).

    Unfortunately, he only played 12 Tests for the Wallabies and 18 Tests for the Kangaroos. Not quite enough to make the top two teams in either code. But put those 30 dual Tests together, plus 19 rugby league State of Origin matches, and you have the picture of a truly stupendous athlete.

    Despite being a Kiwi, Greg Davis gave every last ounce of his heart for his adopted country. He is a very special gem. ‘Crazy Eyes’ Shaw is one of most favourite Wallabies.

    I included a thirds selection for rugby union to show how difficult the selection process is. Of course, I could quite easily have done the same for soccer, cricket, Australian football and rugby league.

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (104)

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2015 @ 3:41am
      taylorman said | February 20th 2015 @ 3:41am | ! Report

      Some good memories with some if those players. Was at Eden park for Cornelsons four ‘right man in the right place’ tries. I probably would have Farr- jones ahead of Hipwell- another Eden park hero that day- in team two if only to keep he and Lynagh together and I think Willie O is strong enough to be in at least teams 2 or 3. But as a kiwi watching over that period, pretty good reflection…

    • February 20th 2015 @ 4:02am
      John said | February 20th 2015 @ 4:02am | ! Report

      Thanks for the effort – this is fun.

      My first question is what about Rocky Elsom? Somewhere. Anywhere.

      My next question is – with AAC playing so many Tests, is he not included because we have so many better players ahead of him or is it a reflection of the current crop of players.

      Personal view – if you don’t include O’Connor for the reason you state I would think you have Sharp ahead of Vickerman for the same reason.

      Stephen Moore ahead of Foley and probably ahead of Lawton as well.

      Brendan Moon?

      • February 20th 2015 @ 5:09am
        Bakkies said | February 20th 2015 @ 5:09am | ! Report

        Surely there has been better locks in that time frame than Sharpe and Vickermann!

        ‘with AAC playing so many Tests, is he not included because we have so many better players ahead of him or is it a reflection of the current crop of players.’

        With the centres, wings and fullback options over the years you wouldn’t start him over any of them.

        • February 20th 2015 @ 5:36am
          riddler said | February 20th 2015 @ 5:36am | ! Report

          sadly says so much about the past 8 years that aac has got to 100 tests.. bit like baxter and alexander in the front row caps department..

          glad you agree on herbie. he was an absolute legend as a player, actually was voted by the french press as player of the year at one stage.. thought we couldn´t do better than horan and little but then daniel came along and made it even better..

          hate to say those were those days but australian sport cerca 96-01 was truly amazing.. how spoilt we were.. world class athletes and normal people..

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2015 @ 7:30am
            Shop said | February 20th 2015 @ 7:30am | ! Report

            Please don’t put AAC in the same category as Baxter and Alexander. He has been a top performer in a team lacking results. He hasn’t been picked because of lack of options like some of out prop stocks.

            • Roar Guru

              February 20th 2015 @ 9:01am
              Train Without A Station said | February 20th 2015 @ 9:01am | ! Report

              He has been a good player. But a top performer I disagree with.

              The issue has been that our top performers have failed to do it consistently. Look at Will Genia for example. Looks like a shadow of himself from 2 years ago.

              • Roar Guru

                February 20th 2015 @ 9:43am
                sheek said | February 20th 2015 @ 9:43am | ! Report


                I didn’t want to say this, but I thought about this the other day & came to the conclusion that of all the guys who have played 100 tests for the Wallabies, AAC is the worst (& I mean that in the nicest way).

                Look at the others – Gregan (139), Sharpe (116), Smith (111), AAC (103no), Larkham (102), Campese (101).

                Anyone who plays for the Wallabies is special, but some are better than others. That’s a reality.

                Another problem I have with AAC, is that despite being an experienced player for so long, his moral leadership has gone missing on critical occasions when player behaviour was an issue.

                It’s almost as if he’s invisible when it comes to defining & enforcing the Wallabies culture.

            • February 20th 2015 @ 10:33am
              riddler said | February 20th 2015 @ 10:33am | ! Report

              mate.. just not a fan.. beauty of opinion chats.. i respect yours.. but don’t have to agree with it.. am definitely with sheek on this one and also on his follow up comments.. aac i see the same as giteau without the natural talent..

        • Roar Guru

          February 20th 2015 @ 7:31am
          Shop said | February 20th 2015 @ 7:31am | ! Report

          Steve Cutler!

          • February 20th 2015 @ 8:54am
            formeropenside said | February 20th 2015 @ 8:54am | ! Report

            Doc Campbell

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2015 @ 7:57am
        sheek said | February 20th 2015 @ 7:57am | ! Report

        Thanks John,

        Elsom is good, but there are better I reckon.

        Although AAC is a centurion, that’s due to him hanging around long enough, & playing 13-14 tests a year. There are many better players than him.

        Vickerman gives any side he plays for a physical “presence.” More so than Sharp, who was a good grafter. Vicks played plenty enough of tests.

        As a rule of thumb, I think the bottom number of tests for consideration is between 15-20. O’Connor’s 12 is just a tad thin.

        Once a guy reaches about 20 tests, whether he played 20, 50, 70 or 100 becomes less relevant.

        Moore has the potential to move up the rankings, for sure.

        Brendan Moon was technically the best winger I saw, the complete opposite to Campo, yet brilliant without the fuss. They complement each other perfectly.

        • February 20th 2015 @ 2:02pm
          Geoff Hitler said | February 20th 2015 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

          You’ve forgotten about the world’s greatest ever winger – Paddy Batch.

      • February 20th 2015 @ 3:34pm
        AndrewWA said | February 20th 2015 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

        Maybe Rocky at his best but we didn’t see it often enough.

    • February 20th 2015 @ 6:25am
      Gurudoright said | February 20th 2015 @ 6:25am | ! Report

      There is no way Herbert was better than Jason Little. Leaving Willie O out was also a mistake in my view

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2015 @ 7:59am
        sheek said | February 20th 2015 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        For a long time I agreed with you, but Herbert’s toughness won out. He was a more silky player than we give him credit for.

        Yeah, Willie O bothered me (omitting him, that is). There are plenty of good flankers to choose from. I also omitted Ray Price.

        • February 20th 2015 @ 9:10am
          John said | February 20th 2015 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          Could you imagine a back row with Ray Price at 7 and Rocky Elsom at 6?

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2015 @ 9:44am
            sheek said | February 20th 2015 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            Yes indeed.

    • February 20th 2015 @ 6:56am
      MAJB said | February 20th 2015 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      Phil Smith, John Brass in the centres, Phil Hawthorne or John Ballistry as stand off?

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2015 @ 8:01am
        sheek said | February 20th 2015 @ 8:01am | ! Report


        Brass was awesome, likewise Hawthorne. They would have been in my 4ths. Smith was injury prone & we never saw the best of him. Ballesty below Hawthorne.

        • February 20th 2015 @ 11:30am
          MAJB said | February 20th 2015 @ 11:30am | ! Report

          I watched John Brass and Phil Smith demolish the best backlines in Australia and then the world. As a pair I rate them the best combination I have seen play for Australia. I am not sure that Phil was all that injury prone. His right knee was destroyed on one South African tour, which really finished his career. Phil is still the fastest centre I have seen in Australian colours. I would have put him on par with Gaznier for acceleration, step and swerve. He was also a good winger’s centre with soft hands. He was a much better centre than Horan, who dropped too many balls and sold too many dumps. My view is that Horan was overrated. I remember, well, the South African centres working Horan over, in both defence and attack in 1993. Sadly, I saw Phil and Bob Lay run rampart against the Woodies in the 1966 Grandfinal at the old Sports Ground. All opinions and good fun, thanks Sheek.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2015 @ 12:52pm
            sheek said | February 20th 2015 @ 12:52pm | ! Report


            That is a terrific insight & something I will take on board for future reference.

            Many thanks.

            i did comment once that Horan was inclined to be selfish. It doesn’t make sense, when you think about it, Ella quickly passing to Horan, only for him to take the ball up himself!

            Discussion was partly a purpose of me making these various selections, I was hoping fellow Roarers would help where my own memory of things was skinny.

            • February 20th 2015 @ 1:29pm
              Col Quinn said | February 20th 2015 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

              the one trouble is time dims or over enhances memories.


          • February 20th 2015 @ 1:56pm
            Phil said | February 20th 2015 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

            MAJB,also a Woodies supporter and remember that day well.Bob Lay was arguably the quickest winger ever(perhaps Cleary?)also being the national 100 m champ.Certainly not Wallaby material though,but Phil Smith certainly was.

            • February 20th 2015 @ 2:20pm
              MAJB said | February 20th 2015 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

              Phil, it was a long time ago. I checked recently and Bill (Peter Pan) Fegans ran quicker times than Bob Lay. You are right about him not being good enough to be Wallaby. However, on that dreadful day he seemed to grow an extra leg. He needed to he was so short. Interestingly, in 1965 or 1966 I saw a match race at Wentworth Dogs (not a nice subject now) between Ken Irvine and Mike Cleary. Had they not been professionals they would have broken the world record for 100 yrds. Cleary just won. I heard that in subsequent races Irvine and Cleary finished with equal wins. I think Cleary and Irvine would have just pipped Bob Lay. The fastest player I never caught was Jim McGann (think that the right spelling). He played for Manly for a few years and should have been a Wallaby but didn’t seem interested!

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2015 @ 7:12am
      Harry Jones said | February 20th 2015 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      Nicely written article, Sheek. It’s a pleasure to read it (and your well-composed posts). I will try to learn more about the guys I missed.

    • February 20th 2015 @ 7:21am
      kiwi said | February 20th 2015 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Still have cold sweats thinking about the O’Connor / Hawker midfield combination.

      With Gould and Campese also in that back line those were amazing days for Australian back play.