The ‘player depth’ argument is a complete furphy

Ben Forsyth Roar Rookie

By Ben Forsyth, Ben Forsyth is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    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

    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

    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

    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)

    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.

    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!

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    The Crowd Says (90)

    • April 30th 2017 @ 4:05am
      Jock Cornet said | April 30th 2017 @ 4:05am | ! Report

      Professional players don’t mean they are any good. Most of the players listed are crap and would not make a Nz club side. If we had good players our super teams would be winning . Professionalism is the furphy . There are 1000s clubs just need to fill roosters. Doesn’t mean they are any good.

      • Roar Guru

        April 30th 2017 @ 8:58am
        sheek said | April 30th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

        Hey Jock,

        Drove by Coogee Oval twice, on my way to & from the airport to pick up some in-laws.

        Looked like a great crowd & atmosphere there for Randwick-Easts, a throwback to the old days. Just have to get the club house functioning again!

        • April 30th 2017 @ 9:15am
          Daveski said | April 30th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Was there Sheek – beauty of an atmosphere. Full house, good game. David Knox on one side 5-10m away, Poido on the other.

          The Randwick full back might be the closest thing we have to Damian McKenzie.

          Jock Cornet – you do yourself and the chances of anyone taking you seriously with statements like “most of those players are crap”. I assume you’d run straight over the top of them back in the day huh ?

          • April 30th 2017 @ 9:28am
            concerned supporter said | April 30th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

            Thought that the Pincus brothers for Easts, Full Back & Winger looked pretty tidy. They came down from Brisbane, the same as Mack Mason.
            Are the Q’ld Reds a closed shop?
            How do Frisby & McIntyre get Q’ld Reds contracts?

          • April 30th 2017 @ 3:27pm
            Jock Cornet said | April 30th 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

            Keep your head in the sand. How are our super sides going. How will our wallabies go? Clubs our only hope and future, there were no real stars at the game but great passion and tribalism. Great to see Adam Frier still playing 1st grade

        • April 30th 2017 @ 10:50am
          Jock Cornet said | April 30th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          Saw a lot of ex wallabies but the actual game could have been better but good crowd. Was keen for a beer after and was shocked the club house was closed . If only a few more millionaires took control of club rugby and dissolved the ARU. There is still hope and a desire to follow rugby.

          • Columnist

            April 30th 2017 @ 12:59pm
            Geoff Parkes said | April 30th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            So the clubhouse was closed but somehow that’s the ARU’s fault?

            Even for you, that’s a stretch Squirrel.

            • April 30th 2017 @ 3:24pm
              Jock Cornet said | April 30th 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

              The ARU don’t protect rugby nurseries like Randwick but will pay qc millions of dollars. What a flipping joke. Who has heard of a governing body not looking after their rugby nurseries.

            • May 1st 2017 @ 9:14pm
              Bakkies said | May 1st 2017 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

              ‘So the clubhouse was closed but somehow that’s the ARU’s fault?’

              That’s Australian Rugby in a nutshell.

              Sense of entitlement, chronic mismanagement and living beyond their means. Clubs expecting the ARU (not the SRU or NSWRU) to bail them out after running themselves in to the ground.

              These planks are ruining their own club’s future by using it as a boys club and constantly budgeting for things they can’t afford.

          • April 30th 2017 @ 7:42pm
            Harty said | April 30th 2017 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

            Mate I’ve lived st Coogee for a couple of years and have been shocked to go down to Randwick Rugby club to watch a game and find it shut. A Randwick man could give more info but I believe they redeveloped the site with units above the club and then the unit owners complained about the noise until their licence was cancelled. They’ve only just got it back with very limited trading hours.

            • May 1st 2017 @ 2:56pm
              Max Power said | May 1st 2017 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

              No several owners of the units are big Randwick sponsors, it had nothing to do with them. It closed because it was horrendously run and was bleeding money, it borrowed $1m plus from the football club (a separate entity) to cover its costs but in the end had to be sold.

              • May 1st 2017 @ 9:17pm
                Bakkies said | May 1st 2017 @ 9:17pm | ! Report

                ‘It closed because it was horrendously run and was bleeding money, it borrowed $1m plus from the football club (a separate entity) to cover its costs but in the end had to be sold.’

                In other words píssed it up the wall literally.

          • May 1st 2017 @ 2:59pm
            Max Power said | May 1st 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

            It was millionaires that were on the board of the Randwick Rugby Club (the licensed club) and ran it into the ground resulting in it to be sold.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 1st 2017 @ 12:22pm
        piru said | May 1st 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

        What a ridiculous comment
        By definition they are good enough to be paid to play rugby

        If they are just filling out the roster why not head down to the unemployment office and sign up however many you need.

        • May 1st 2017 @ 1:55pm
          Mark said | May 1st 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

          what an even more ridiculous comment

          theres a difference between good enough to be proffessional (at some lower league club in the UK) and good enough for super rugby

          • May 1st 2017 @ 3:07pm
            Fionn said | May 1st 2017 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

            There’s a difference between being good enough for NZ Super Rugby teams and Australian and Japanese Super Rugby teams.

            These are the best players we’ve got.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 1st 2017 @ 4:51pm
            piru said | May 1st 2017 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

            theres a difference between good enough to be proffessional (at some lower league club in the UK) and good enough for super rugby

            England are better than Australia at the moment – all these players who are cast aside or ignored are just helping them improve.

    • Roar Guru

      April 30th 2017 @ 4:06am
      The Saint said | April 30th 2017 @ 4:06am | ! Report

      Ben, there are some excellent players included in your list of names plying their trade offshore. Liam Gill’s departure was a big loss for Australia, for instance.
      The player drain happens in NZ, too, but it is hurting Australia more, as the Kiwi production line seems to be forever consistent.
      A combination of both player retention and player development by Australia, perhaps?

      • April 30th 2017 @ 6:40pm
        Cuw said | April 30th 2017 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

        if a simmillar exercise was done to list out the saffas in europe , u may find enuf to make 3 or 4 super rugger squads 🙂

        but that does not mean they are “super” level players.

    • April 30th 2017 @ 4:41am
      AndyS said | April 30th 2017 @ 4:41am | ! Report

      The killer isn’t necessarily that they go, it’s the level of lost investment they represent when they go and that there is no-one ready to step into their shoes. Literally picking an example at random – Richard Kingi. Had he come through the NZ system he might well still have gone to Europe, but at his level of development he probably would still have been playing ITMC/M10 level when he left. But because he came through in Australia, he instead represented 4 years of a spot in a Super Rugby team because that was the only place he was going to get any professional development. Had he been taken from the NRC level, it would be much less of a hit; there would be 7 other players just like him coming through the system. But being taken from Super Rugby, his team instead had to start over from scratch with another young player, just beginning to find his feet in the professional game.

      To put that difference in context another way, that number of players overseas identified represents 104 out of the 280 Australian professional players. The same number of players taken from NZ would represent 104 out of 740 professional players. Which one is going to have the bigger impact?

      • Roar Pro

        April 30th 2017 @ 9:55am
        kickedmyheight said | April 30th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        Exactly this.

        The lack of depth is in our pathways. There is plenty of talent coming through, the main issue we have regarding retention is that when these youngsters get to the point of turning professional, we only have 5 (soon 4?) Super squads for them to have a crack at. Otherwise, they can try their luck overseas, keep playing as an amateur or move to a differant sport.

        This actually puts a lot of pressure on our talent identifiers to get things right in the first instance, because by the time you realise you have gotten it wrong, the second option is no longer available and you have to start again.

        • May 1st 2017 @ 1:57pm
          Mark said | May 1st 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

          NZ only has 5 sides

          Its not the number of sides (spots) available

          Its that they aren’t good enough

          If they were they would be picked

          Its not like what you have now is setting anything on fire is it

    • April 30th 2017 @ 5:55am
      peeeko said | April 30th 2017 @ 5:55am | ! Report

      the payer drain from our competitors in super rugby (NZ ans SA) is even greater. so yes we have a depth problem. The vast majority of that list are not going to solve any problems

    • April 30th 2017 @ 7:15am
      jon said | April 30th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      question about eligibility of some of these players:

      Some of these players only qualify for Australia on residency.

      Say a player comes to Australia at a young age, grew up here, played rugby here but was never selected for the Wallabies.

      He decides to go overseas to play rugby in Europe or Japan,does he still qualify for Australia?

      • April 30th 2017 @ 8:27am
        steve said | April 30th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report


        • April 30th 2017 @ 9:13am
          jon said | April 30th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          actually I’ve just looked this up and residency requirements say:

          Subject to Regulation 8.2, a Player may only play for the senior fifteen-aside
          National Representative Team, the next senior fifteen-a-side National
          Representative Team and the senior National Representative Sevens
          Team of the Union of the country in which:
          (a) he was born; or
          (b) one parent or grandparent was born; or
          (c) he has completed thirty six consecutive months of Residence
          immediately preceding the time of playing.

          • April 30th 2017 @ 9:18am
            jon said | April 30th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

            so in the case of say Guy Millar, born in South Africa, grew up in Australia, but now playing in NZ, does he still qualify?

            • Roar Rookie

              April 30th 2017 @ 10:15am
              atlas said | April 30th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

              Based on the Henry Speight qualification drama, then i would say Guy Millar likely a “no”.
              Speight returned to NZ and played a single ITM Cup season for Waikato that effectively put him back to zero in terms of the three year residency criteria for Australia.
              Millar has also played for Southland in the past two seasons of the NZ ITM/Mitre 10 Cup.
              Millar would therefore be the same as Speight unless he (and he may have) holds citizenship/passport ie is now an Australian.

        • Roar Rookie

          April 30th 2017 @ 12:35pm
          Shane D said | April 30th 2017 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

          Afraid the answer is no Steve. Once the residency period (currently 36 months) has been broken then the player is no longer eligible until he completes another residency period.
          Henry Speight is an example of that happening. The Ben Teo situation also served to clarify it when he was selected for England & the media said he had chosen England over Australia. He simply wasn’t eligible for Australia anymore.

          • May 1st 2017 @ 9:20pm
            soapit said | May 1st 2017 @ 9:20pm | ! Report

            once they up it to 5 years they should change the consecutive thing to you needing to be out of the country for 5 years ie when you qualify for another country on residency you lose your previous residency qualification.

            harsh on guys who havent been born there yet live their whole youth then go os for a year say

      • April 30th 2017 @ 6:43pm
        Cuw said | April 30th 2017 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

        not unless the player has obtained auzzy residency and thereby a passport.

        u can come to auzzy and still work without becoming a “resident”.

        guys like Pete Samu are eligible for auzzy becoz they are residents , i have been told 🙂

        • Roar Rookie

          April 30th 2017 @ 9:43pm
          Shane D said | April 30th 2017 @ 9:43pm | ! Report

          Pete Samu was born in Melbourne I think CUW.

    • April 30th 2017 @ 7:18am
      John said | April 30th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      There is a depth problem. There are a few players with the necessary skillsets to perform consistently at a high level and if all were banded together they would form a successful SR franchise. The majority of players lack the necessary skillsets to perform at a high level consistently. For example, the Reds and Waratahs were both guilty of kicking the ball away to the opposition too much and too many dropped balls.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 1st 2017 @ 12:26pm
        piru said | May 1st 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        kicking too much is not a skillset problem.

        It’s a coaching problem

        • May 1st 2017 @ 2:00pm
          Mark said | May 1st 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report


          ALL NZ sides kick – and kick more than some Aussie Sides

          Its a skillset

          Its poor execution of that skillset that is the issue

          When a NZ player attempts to make a contestable kick we expect to compete for it

          When an Aussie player does the same thing – we are surprised when theres actually an opponent making it a contest

          • Roar Rookie

            May 1st 2017 @ 4:52pm
            piru said | May 1st 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

            I feel like you don’t read comments before you reply to them.

            Explain how a player choosing to kick too much is a failure of his skillset

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