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The 'player depth' argument is a complete furphy

Ben Forsyth new author
Roar Rookie
29th April, 2017
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Kurtley Beale returns to the Waratahs in 2018. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Ben Forsyth new author
Roar Rookie
29th April, 2017
90
2636 Reads

One of the great furphies that is put around the Australian rugby scene, mainly by the ARU, is that Australia has a Player Depth Problem (PDP).

As I hope to demonstrate here, Australia’s development of players is fine, it isn’t a PDP – it is a Player Retention Problem (PRP).

To illustrate the point, I have simply gone to trusty Wikipedia and trusted the player country designations on Pro Club pages. There will definitely be more, there may be some no longer playing, however, with the wonders of Microsoft Excel I can at least state there are no double ups.

Over a few nights I managed to come up with a grand total of 104 professional Australian rugby players plying their trade in countries other than Australia.

Allowing for some veterans, that is at least two more Super Rugby Squads of Pro Australian Players. Yes, not all are stars, but they are good enough to be paid for their services somewhere.

Those who know me from when I was more regularly contributing (on TWF) will recall I love putting up a XV. Well brace yourself, here is three of them for different reasons.

The first is my selection of the best (or thereabouts) players available. I think it has the capacity to beat any of the current five Australian Super Rugby outfits.

Please remember this is to illustrate a point rather than worrying about the specific (social…) merits of individuals.

Australian Furphy first XV
1 Guy Millar SR Highlanders
2 John Ulugia TOP14 Clermont
3 Ollie Hoskins RFUC London Irish
4 Luke Jones TOP14 Bordeaux
5 Hugh Pyle TOP14 Stade Francais
6 Curtis Browning TOP14 Lyon
7 David Pocock JTL Wild Knights
8 Lachlan McCaffrey EP Leicester

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9 Will Genia TOP14 Stade Francais
10 Matt Toomua EP Leicester
11 Peter Betham EP Leicester
12 Matt Giteau TOP14 Toulon
13 Junior Rasolea PRO12 Edinburgh
14 Joe Tomane TOP14 Montpellier
15 Kurtley Beale EP Wasps

16 Albert Anae JTL Mitsubishi Dynaboars
17 Salesi Manu JTL Honda Heat
18 Paul Alo-Emile TOP14 Stade Francais
19 Sitaleki Timani TOP14 Clermont
20 Ben Mowen TOP14 Pau
21 Nic White TOP14 Montpellier
22 Mike Harris TOP14 Lyon
23 James O’Connor TOP14 Toulon

The second is to illustrate the depth of playing experience missing from within our shores, the players that can be called on as injury cover, playing assistant coaches, mentors and general Rugby community.

James O'Connor needs to grow up (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File

To be honest, if their bodies all held up I don’t think they would come last in the Australian Conference either. Our lack of depth in the front row does start to show here, in that there aren’t as many playing overseas.

Australian Furphy Veterans XV
1 Greg Holmes EP Exeter
2 Huia Edmonds PROD2 Narbonne
3 Salesi Ma’afu EP Gloucester
4 James Horwill EP Harlequins
5 Mark Chisholm PRO12 Munster
6 Hugh McMeniman JTL Honda Heat
7 Julian Salvi EP Exeter
8 Wycliff Palu JTL Toyota Verblitz

9 Josh Valentine PROD2 Beziers
10 Brock James TOP14 La Rochelle
11 Digby Ioane SR Crusaders
12 Berrick Barnes JTL Wild Knights
13 Adam Ashley-Cooper TOP14 Bordeaux
14 Drew Mitchell TOP14 Toulon
15 Mark Gerrard JTL TI Shuttles

16 VACANT VACANT
17 Lotu Taukeiaho PROD2 Aurillac
18 Dylan Evans PRO12 Scarlets
19 Peter Kimlin TOP14 Grenoble
20 Lei Tomiki PROD2 Narbonne
21 Brendan McKibbin RFUC London Irish
22 Myles Dorrian RFUC Bedford Blues
23 Clint Eadie PROD2 Narbonne

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And finally, the youth that is leaving our shores before they have even finished developing, either kicked to the curb by the ongoing pursuit of perfection by recruiters, or disillusioned and heading to bigger money or eligibility for other countries with their pathway to the Wallabies over.

These are the players that should be littered throughout our conference, coming through the ranks in the U20 comp, not bolstering the development and competition of foreign competitions.

Again, front row stocks a bit stretched.

Australian Furphy Future XV
1 David Feao TOP14 La Rochelle
2 David Porecki RFUC London Irish
3 Cameron Orr EP Gloucester
4 Thomas Boidin PROD2 Narbonne
5 Phoenix Battye PROD2 Beziers
6 Corey Thomas JTL Canon Eagles
7 Liam Gill TOP14 Toulon
8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco SR Sunwolves

9 Richard Kingi ITMC Tasman Makos
10 Zack Holmes TOP14 La Rochelle
11 Alex Northam PRO12 Edinburgh
12 Malieto Hingano JTL Honda Heat
13 Sasa Tofilau PRO12 Edinburgh
14 Henry Clunies-Ross TOP14 Lyon
15 UJ Seuteni PROD2 Oyonnax (Academy)

16 VACANT VACANT
17 Michael Alaalatoa SR Crusaders
18 Christopher Seuteni PROD2 Albi
19 BJ Edwards EP Bristol (Academy)
20 Harrison Orr EP Newcastle
21 Michael Dowsett EP Worcester
22 Sam Greene JTL TI Shuttles
23 Sam Johnson PRO12 Glasgow

In principle, the players from these ‘Squads’ (and the 38 so far unlisted, see below) should have a future in Australian Rugby. The rubbish being trotted out about not being able to support five teams is just that, rubbish.

The ARU needs to extract the digit and rather than whinging about a perceived PDP, actually get on to addressing the core root issues behind our ever growing PRP.

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The other players?
Feel free to make your own XV Selections, they are in descending age order here:

Daniel Heenan JTL Wild Knights
Ben Hand TOP14 Grenoble
Ben White EP Exeter
Junior Taavili PROD2 CS Bourgoin-Jallieu
Leon Power PROD2 Oyonnax
Henry Vanderglas TOP14 Grenoble
Dave Dennis EP Exeter
Beau Robinson RFUC Doncaster Knights
Jono Jenkins PROD2 Narbonne
Chris Tuatara-Morrison TOP14 Brive
Poutasi Luafutu TOP14 Brive
Ben Lucas JTL Toyota Verblitz
Nathan Daly PROD2 Albi
Anthony Fainga’a JTL Kintetsu Liners
Michael Bond SR Sunwolves
Lachie Turner EP Exeter
Sam Wykes SR Sunwolves
Brackin Karauria-Henry JTL Shining Arcs
Blair Connor TOP14 Bordeaux
Alfie Mafi TOP14 Brive
Dave McKern RFUC Jersey Reds
Tom Murday PROD2 Agen
Rory Walton PROD2 Carcassonne
Ben Tapuai EP Bath
Ben Barba TOP14 Toulon
Jesse Mogg TOP14 Montpellier
Rodney Davies JTL Mitsubishi Dynaboars
Nick Haining RFUC Jersey Reds
Afa Amosa TOP14 La Rochelle
Tala Gray TOP14 Toulous
Tom Matthews PROD2 Carcassonne
Afusipa Taumoepeau TOP14 Castres
Ed Quirk SR Sunwolves
Peter Samu SR Crusaders
Ben Adams RFUC Bedford Blues
Nicholas Price PROD2 CS Bourgoin-Jallieu
Kimami Sitauti PROD2 Colomiers
Ratu Tagive PRO12 Glasgow

A couple of things I noted in compiling is that a seemingly high number were associated with the Force at some stage and the really young fellas that really hadn’t been given a chance at all.

What the flow on from this scenario does is also attract the duel eligible players (PIs, NZ, Europe) to reconsider a move to Europe etc or in the case of modern South Africa keeps Australia on the radar to follow in the footsteps of names like Rathbone, Vickerman et al.

I would note, pre-Force I did a similar thing to get an idea of who we might see in the inaugural Squad and came up with about 30 names overseas, some of whom are also in this list. So clearly expansion has created more professional players from Australia, we just aren’t using them!