Who will feel the Force in Super Rugby 2018?

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

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    Where is the Force in Australian rugby? That is not intended as either a rhetorical or an abstract question. It is a question about how much of the Force’s quality manpower the other four Super Rugby franchises have managed to sign up.

    If there was one clear positive related to the reduction from five to four franchises over the past season, it was the opportunity to strengthen the existing teams with ex-Western Force players.

    This consolidation was essential for the plan to have any real substance whatsoever. The introduction of greater squad depth – and in many cases better starting quality – will give all four Australian sides a chance to improve their win-loss ratios in 2018, and in particular to play the New Zealand franchises on more even terms than they have been able to do over the past two seasons.

    One of the spin-offs from that critical period after the closure of the Western Force was announced is that the axis of power in Australian may be shifting further southwards, to Melbourne and Canberra. The Brumbies and the Rebels especially were the chief beneficiaries of the player and coach movement out of Perth, and those clubs stand to make the most improvements in the coming season.

    The Melbourne Rebels struck a key blow by signing Australia’s most impressive young coach, Dave Wessels, at the end of September. The signing of Wessels ensured many of his charges – who, like Adam Coleman, were still making up their minds about their futures – would follow in his footsteps down to Victoria.

    Wessels set a much larger template than even he knew when he commented, “From a loyalty perspective – and I know we haven’t had the greatest couple of months here in Perth with all the speculation about the Force – but the position I’m in, I owe it in large part to the people within Australian rugby.

    “A lot of the (Force) staff and players will now have the opportunity to come with us to Melbourne and I feel that if I turned my back on Australia now, I would live the rest of my life wondering where it could have ended up.”

    Wessels was under pressure to sign up as the next coach of Munster at the time, and according to David Nucifora (the Australian heading up Ireland’s high performance department), a deal was ‘close’.

    The fact Ireland is enjoying a true golden period in its rugby history at present gave Wessels’ decision to stay in Australia a positive global context. In the event, only two significant ex-Force players have been lost to Europe – hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau to Leicester, and back three Luke Morahan to Bristol, both clubs in England.

    Munster would also have been hoping that the appointment of Dave Wessels would tow Adam Coleman along with him to Ireland. As the premier second-rower in Australia, it would have been a huge blow to the domestic game if Coleman had left to go north.

    Adam Coleman Wallabies

    (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

    But when Wessels decided to stay put after the Munster interview in late September, so did Coleman. As the Wallaby lineout leader put it succinctly, “Dave was a big factor and I also wanted to stay in Australian rugby… I’m excited to get down to Melbourne.

    “There have been some great signings who have nicely added to the talented guys already there. We’ll be aiming to give Super Rugby a good shake next year.”

    Other key players like Jono Lance, the Haylett-Petty brothers and Richard Hardwick swiftly followed suit, with Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson adroitly keeping space open on the Melbourne roster for the new arrivals.

    That space was not so obvious on the rosters of the either the Reds or the Waratahs, with the Reds, in particular, having spent big before the beginning of the 2017 season on new contracts for Quade Cooper, Scott Higginbotham, Stephen Moore and George Smith.

    There is a distinct possibility that the balance of power may now move away from the traditional power bases of the game in Sydney and Brisbane towards the ‘outsiders’ in Canberra and Melbourne – at least at Super Rugby level.

    As Wessels said, “I always felt that the Rebels and the Force were bound together because we both lived with all that anxiety as the two clubs waiting for the axe. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s the Force and the Rebels against the rest of Australian rugby.”

    Wessels could justifiably have included the Brumbies on the list with the Rebels and Force. Historically, the Brumbies experienced the same cold draught of air from the big two unions when they were founded back in 1996. They took on their cast-offs and they derived strength from their position fighting the odds.

    Melbourne, under a fighter like Wessels, may now do the same.

    It is probably no coincidence that it is the Rebels and Brumbies who provided the open doors for ex-Force players, taking on board 12 and four respectively. The Waratahs signed only three (thanks to the recent addition of Curtis Rona) and the Reds none at all.

    Looking at the four rosters as they stand right now, it is hard to avoid the impression that it is the Rebels and Brumbies who have the most immediate improvement in them.

    Reece Hodge of the Rebels

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Here is a summary of what all four 23-man squads may look like on match-day, with everyone fit and raring to go:





    Loosehead Sa’aga Sio Slipper Robertson
    Hooker Uelese Abel Ready Latu
    Tighthead Faulkner Alaalatoa Tupou Kepu
    Second-rower Coleman Ro. Arnold Tui Staniforth
    Second-rower Philip Carter Rodda Simmons
    Flanker Timani McCaffrey Korczyk Dempsey
    No.8 Mafi Naisarani Higginbotham Holloway
    Flanker Hardwick Pocock G. Smith Hooper
    Scrum-half Genia Powell Tuttle Phipps
    Outside-half Lance Lealiifano Stewart Foley
    Winger Koroibete Speight Nabuli Clark
    Centre Hodge Godwin Paia’aua Beale
    Centre English Kuridrani Kerevi Rona
    Winger Naivalu Peni Perese Naiyaravoro
    Fullback D. Haylett-Petty Banks Hunt Folau
    Front-rower Daley Mayhew Fa’agase Ryan
    Front-rower Rangi Mann-Rea Mafi Roach
    Front-rower Ainsley Alexander J.P. Smith Sandell
    Second-rower Parling Enever Douglas Hanigan
    Back-rower C.Fainga’a Valetini Wright Wells
    Halfback Ruru Lucas Sorovi Gordon
    Inside-back Meakes Hawera Feauai-Sautia Mason
    Outside-back Maddocks Verity-Amm Maranta Kellaway

    Top Wallabies or imports area highlighted in bold, with those on the tier just below it in italics.

    It is immediately obvious that the Waratahs are depending on an established core of top Wallabies, fortified by Rob Simmons in the second row and a new centre pairing of Kurtley Beale and Curtis Rona, to do the business.

    The Reds, meanwhile, have been stripped back root-and-branch by their new head coach Brad Thorn, and he will be looking to grow a whole new generation of young players, particularly in the tight five and at 9, 10 and 12, in his new Queensland culture. It will take time.

    By contrast, the Brumbies and Rebels look ready to go. If Christian Lealiifano can continue the progress he has shown on the comeback trail with Ulster, they will have a threatening set of backs in 2018, while the deficiencies in last season’s back row will be remedied by the return of David Pocock and the signing of Isi Naisarani.

    The improvement in personnel on the Rebels’ roster is nothing short of spectacular. The second row, for example, has turned from a disaster area into an oasis of tremendous strength overnight, with Coleman, Matt Philip and one of the great global lineout thinkers in Geoff Parling, not to mention a bona fide international in the shape of Alex Toolis (who started for Scotland against the Wallabies back in June) waiting in the wings.

    The backs, under the management of Will Genia and Jono Lance in the halves, look potent with genuine Fijian strike-power on either wing.

    The one remaining area of concern is a group of ex-Force players who are at the time of speaking still unsigned. That group includes prop Pek Cowan, back-rower Ben McCalman, and halfback Ryan Louwrens.

    The Rebels should sign Cowan immediately, as loosehead could be a potential weakness as things stand, while McCalman would solidify the back-row options at either the Reds or the Tahs considerably. Signing with the Reds would give Louwrens an opportunity to start ahead of James Tuttle in 2018.

    Pekahou Cowan Western Force Super Rugby Union 2017

    (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    Now that the dust has begun to clear, in playing if not political terms, the positives of the return to four franchises should bring a genuine sense of excitement and hope to Australian Super Rugby supporters.

    The playing resources of the establishment outsiders, the Rebels and the Brumbies, have been significantly strengthened. The decision of Dave Wessels and the great majority of his Force players to stay in Australian rugby, rather than move abroad, will prove to be both a short and long-term positive.

    In 2018, the balance of playing power could move further south than it ever has done before, with the Rebels and Brumbies emerging as genuine contenders in the Super Rugby tournament.

    The political implications of their success, if it happens in 2018, could have some interesting repercussions on the structure of Australian rugby as a whole.

    Paradoxically, the gospel of the union game may spread more quickly in domestic terms with four teams than it ever did with five, especially if the new ‘outsider’ in Victoria can achieve sustained success with so many of the playing and coaching pieces in place.

    Nicholas Bishop
    Nicholas Bishop

    Nick Bishop has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2003), Mike Ruddock (2004-2005) and most recently Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for or won national sports book awards. Nick?s latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union, entitled ?The Iron Curtain?. He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches.

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    The Crowd Says (422)

    • Roar Guru

      December 20th 2017 @ 4:50am
      Harry Jones said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:50am | ! Report

      Great article.

      I like the look of that Rebels roster. In fact, the ‘spine’ of the starting XV (I know, I know, Super Rugby is a squad comp and no team goes unscathed) for the Rebels looks the best in the Aussie conference. Uelesi-Coleman-Mafi-Genia-Jono/Hodge-DHP. That’s a useful core.

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2017 @ 5:09am
        Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:09am | ! Report

        No-one doubts that the whole process was handled badly Harry, but now it’s happened the positives are becoming much more evident.

        As you say, that spine is a strong one if Jordan Uelese can step up to the plate quickly. The front row is the only real possible area of weakness in the Rebels side right now.

        • Roar Guru

          December 20th 2017 @ 5:33am
          Harry Jones said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:33am | ! Report

          Jordan U did well in his crazy cameo for WBs.

          • Roar Guru

            December 20th 2017 @ 5:34am
            Harry Jones said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:34am | ! Report

            And he is from Wellington NZ.

            • December 20th 2017 @ 5:45am
              P2R2 said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:45am | ! Report

              he will meet his match against Asafo Aumua….Dan Coles will be looking over his shoulder…and JU will know all about AA..

            • Columnist

              December 20th 2017 @ 6:18am
              Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:18am | ! Report

              Steady Harry…!

              I guess they won’t want him to have to come in and learn in a struggling F/R if they can help it though….

              • Roar Guru

                December 20th 2017 @ 7:13am
                Harry Jones said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report


                When you have crap props:

                1. Don’t knock on
                2. If the other team knocks on, boot it big upfield

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 7:28am
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

                Ofc! [beats forehead] 😀

        • December 20th 2017 @ 10:03am
          andrewM said | December 20th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          Positives..yeah sure..

        • December 20th 2017 @ 12:16pm
          MitchO said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

          Hi Nick, Ainsley is a good prop and at 24/25 ish he’ll get better. You may recall that the Force preferred him over Faulkner and Faulkner is pretty good.

          Ben Daley is also in the Rebels squad. He’s been injured for years but if he stays injury free he will be very handy prop for 20 to 40 minutes per game. But yeah someone needs to pick up Cowan. He’s definately a good super level prop he just did not used to be quite up to test level. But I am sure he scrums better than Robertson so I reckon he’s a victim of playing out west.

          I think Hodge would make a better 13 than 12 and Meakes is a good nut to have in there at 12 but then I don’t know how good English is.

          Be great if Parling gives Coleman, Philip and Timani a lesson in lineout work.

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 4:47pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

            Yes I’d certainly feel more comfortable with Pek Cowan in there Mitch, and as you say they aren’t too shabby on the other side of the scrum.

            Geoff Parling could turn out to be a real IP gem for the Rebels. Along with Steve Borthwick, he may be one of the two best lineout analysts in England. He will add a huge amount to the set-piece play.

        • December 20th 2017 @ 7:49pm
          Markie362 said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:49pm | ! Report

          And what happens nick if we go 0 -27 against the kiwis in 2018

          • Roar Rookie

            December 20th 2017 @ 7:51pm
            piru said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

            Cut the Brumbies I suppose?

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 9:47pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:47pm | ! Report

            Odds of that happening are pretty slim I’d say Markie.

        • Roar Pro

          December 20th 2017 @ 9:50pm
          robel said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:50pm | ! Report

          There are no positives to the axing of the Force, in two years time there’ll be fewer players coming through (80%) of this years and there’ll need to be another team cut.

          I won’t be watching S15, I wish all the best to the ex-Force players but have no desire to support the Rebels.

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 10:02pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 10:02pm | ! Report

            I understand your grief robel (a team I supported in Wales got cut in similar circumstances – but worse).

            However there needs to be better quality players coming through than there have been, and that will occur with more competition for SR spots. Do you not agree that too many players were being paid for being mediocre or average at best with five teams?

            • December 20th 2017 @ 10:38pm
              AndyS said | December 20th 2017 @ 10:38pm | ! Report

              So how does that rationale run if it does not increase competition for SR spots? There is no professional or semi-professional competition below Super Rugby, so no pool of players being continuously developing and auditioning for a full contract. There are only entirely amateur suburban competitions in each capital city and there is simply no way anyone in those competitions is pressuring an incumbent SR player. All those players are pushing for is a gig as a development player, and two years later it is a few of those development players that might put pressure on the incumbents. Removing a team also removed one development program, so the ‘pressure’ equation is unchanged.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 11:35pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:35pm | ! Report

                What’s the NRC there for if not to become a similar rung on the ladder to the Mitre 10 in NZ Andy?

                If you look at the Rebels 2018 roster, ofc there is more competition for places. Someone like Matt Philip will improve more quickly because Geoff Parling is the third second row. That helps from a Wallaby viewpoint because it pushes players to a higher level.

                Where is the evidence that the five team format was ever going to produce sustainable winning cultures?

              • December 21st 2017 @ 12:29am
                AndyS said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:29am | ! Report

                But the Mitre 10 cup is professional and has been for more than a decade. Even those players that aren’t contracted to a SR team get advanced development, and can commit the time to it that allows them to step to SR with minimal shock.

                The NRC isn’t, and there seems to be no intent to make it so. No player that isn’t SR contracted gets any more development, other than the few weeks of the competition. Pick up a niggle or carry an injury from the amateur season, scratch another year out of your potential career.

                Someone like Matt Philip will benefit from being in the Rebels behind Parling. But had the Force not existed, there is a good chance he wouldn’t be there. He played two years of NRC and nothing, until joining the Force as injury cover. The cards fell his way and he grabbed the chance, but no Force, no injury to cover, no contract the next year. And no Force being eliminated, no profile as a SR player, no expanded squads and no extra spot or motivation for the Rebels to make him an offer.

                And the same is probably true for a number of the players being talked about. Maybe a Coleman would have been spotted, but who knows when and what starting opportunity he would have gotten. But out of your list, certainly no Godwin, Rona, Peni, Haylett-Petty, Rangi or Ruru, who knows whether the likes of Ainsley or Verity-Amm would ever have chanced their arm in Australia, and who knows where players like Lance, Daley or Meakes would have washed up except that it probably wouldn’t be Australia – the Force weren’t in any sort of competition for their signatures. Take those out and replace them with the next bests, then we might get a better feel for Australian rugby with four teams. Even then, it would be a bit generous…hard to say what delaying someone like Pocock’s development by three years would have meant, had he stayed in Q’ld stuck behind Croft until 2009 instead of being a Wallaby in 2008. But along with Philip and Coleman, not the only players on your lists to get development they otherwise wouldn’t have seen even if it was while in a losing side.

                So I guess we’ll have to see whether four teams develop winning cultures. More importantly, it will be even more interesting to see if they can sustain them once the windfall effect passes and they have to fall back on the same fundamental and unchanged development structure.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 1:39am
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 1:39am | ! Report

                Don’t the players receive nominal contracts for NRC? Isn’t the idea to develop NRC into a layer between club rugby and Super Rugby? That’s what I’ve been given to understand…

                At least two of the players you mention (Dane Haylett-Petty and Billy Meakes) also spent a lot of time developing their games overseas (France and England) in order to make themselves more marketable commodities back home.

                Can Australia hope to match the talent base of New Zealand and South Africa, and justify five teams, when their top athletes are spread across bigger sporting draws like AFL and League? It’s a reach isn’t it?

                The problem you have is that the players who are being developed aren’t being schooled in winning habits (esp the habits that succeed at international level) because they are not winning enough to know what they are.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 2:54am
                AndyS said | December 21st 2017 @ 2:54am | ! Report

                Very nominal contracts (c.a. $5k), and no-one is doing anything more than club rugby players the rest of the year. The idea may well have been to be an intermediate level between club and SR, and is a better standard in that it is about half-half club players and SR pros, but the ARU has given no indication that they intend to make it part of the player development pathway. All player development remains with SR, and it would seem the NRC is destined to remain nothing more than a SR ‘B’ comp – talent identification rather than development.

                DHP did go overseas, as did Meakes. But sans Force DHP almost certainly wouldn’t exist as a professional rugby player – without that team and the additional profile it created he wouldn’t have had academy training, likely wouldn’t have been noticed for schoolboys as a result, and almost certainly wouldn’t have had the three seasons of SR that attracted the attention of Biarritz and made the move possible. Meakes on the other hand would still have made his way to Europe, being unwanted in Aus. But he is only wanted now because the Force had a spot for him…no Force and he quite likely would still be playing for Gloucester.

                So while I agree with you about the talent base, that is not addressed when along with reducing opportunities for players like Meakes they proportionately reduce the player development opportunities for players like Haylett-Petty. That is the fundamental difference between what they’ve done here compared to Wales or NZ – they’ve eliminated a team, and in doing so proportionately reduced the system that finds out which club players will cut it as SR players. Had development stayed the same (or even grown) to feed less teams, maybe there would have been a point. But that is not what they’ve done, so past this next couple of years the same X% of club players identified will by necessity progress to SR…there will just be less both input and output. And as a result I doubt the quality will change, nor their chances of winning or picking up any new habits.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 4:11am
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 4:11am | ! Report

                Reading between the lines, I think the real problem is becoming clearer – the lack of a meaningful layer between the clubs and SR (which NRC is supposed to address). Professional rugby is not there to develop players, it is more an outcome of development that should already have occurred. This explains for me why the quality of teams like the Force and Rebels has been so uneven, and their results so inconsistent.

                FYI in Wales a regional team was closed down a couple of years after regional rugby began – they were called the Celtic Warriors. Like Australia, five teams became four.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 9:56am
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

                Nick and the Valleys Rugby hasn’t recovered from that and the fans haven’t moved to the other regions where their clubs realigned too.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 10:27am
                AndyS said | December 21st 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

                Yes Nick, but that is the way it is and looks to remain in Australia…as you say, probably the real reason we continue (and will continue) to fall behind the other teams. So if you are drawing an analogue with Wales, it would have been if in order to eliminate the Celtic Warriors, they had also completely shut down Pontypridd and Bridgend along with the nearest three Championship teams. I’m not too well up on the Welsh structure, but might that have had an effect on the outcome or assessment?

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 6:15pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

                But that is exactly what happened in Wales Andy. Bridgend and Ponty were forced to play purely at club level in an underfunded championship, other likely feeder clubs were distributed among the remaining four regions. The Warriors had a strong identity as the Valleys representative and the most vigorous support base of any of the Welsh regions, but they were the first to go when the axe fell. After that, and with all the other four regions tending to focus on the major city in their catchment area (Llanelli, Swansea, Cardiff and Newport) a large portion of the clubs and supporters north of the M4 corridor felt disenfranchised.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 7:32pm
                AndyS said | December 21st 2017 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

                But to be analogous, I’m not talking demoted, I’m saying cease to exist. There is no player development system at all once the SR team is eliminated, so the equivalent in Wales would be those five underlying teams mentioned being completely disbanded and the associated areas having no level of rugby higher than their existing WRU League feeder teams.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 7:56pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 7:56pm | ! Report

                Andy, let’s not split hairs…

                All I can say is that the loss of the Celtic Warriors was every bit as traumatic and complete to the supporters of the region as that of the Force to their supporters in Australia. Maybe you would need to have experienced that to know it.

                In many ways the Warriors were the healthiest region at the time they were cut, enjoying the best support base and the most success in European competition of any of the Welsh franchises – so the blow was especially cruel.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 9:04pm
                AndyS said | December 21st 2017 @ 9:04pm | ! Report

                Oh, I have no doubt that is true. My point was more that you are drawing a comparison, but due to the structural stupidities in Australia the level of damage done to player development is significantly more far reaching and destructive relative to the benefits than in your exemplar. The local players in Wales still had Pontypridd, its structures and a comp in which to play. The players in Perth now don’t have the Force, don’t have any professional development structure, and have no competition to play in. They can play for their suburb though.

                You never mentioned the supporters in your article, I didn’t realise they were a topic of discussion. I was looking purely from the perspective of benefit v harm to teams, culture and national code. Hurt to supporters was unavoidable in either case, but sadly doesn’t come into the equation.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 9:15pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

                The club championship in Wales is worse than the NRC as a development vehicle – prob a lot worse, because the regional players don’t play in it as they do in NRC. So a player in Wales who couldn’t find a place in another region would be condemned to amateur/semi-pro status. Guys like Ben McCalman are still listed as contracted to the “Perth Spirit”, whereas for out-of-contract Celtic Warriors it was a black and white choice between finding another pro club or an alternative career path.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 11:47pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 11:47pm | ! Report

                To give you an idea of the scale of the disaster of the Warriors’ demise back in 2004 Andy, I’d point out that seven internationals from the Warriors’ squad (Chris Horsman, Mefin Davies, Richard Parks, Gareth Thomas, Dafydd James from Wales, plus Sililo Martens and Maama Molitika who were Tongan internationals permanently domiciled in the country) moved to play abroad for the remainder of their playing careers (or most of it). An eighth – Neil Jenkins – retired from the game completely.

                They were lost to the regional game in Wales as a result of the Warriors’ closure.

              • December 22nd 2017 @ 2:24am
                AndyS said | December 22nd 2017 @ 2:24am | ! Report

                Now that would make for an interesting philosophical question…is it better for a player’s development to be training and playing week in and out for 26 weeks as a semi-pro but only against other players in the same position, or to play the season as a twice a week amateur before being asked to step up for eight weeks as the weak link with and against full professionals…

                But you’ve certainly captured Ben McCalman’s position precisely though. He is still listed as a Spirit player, probably in the same way that Alun Wyn Jones might still be aligned as a Swansea player. If Ben feels like sitting around until next August, he’ll be able to play a handful of games for something between nothing and £200/wk, or he can leave Perth and possibly Australia. TBH, I’m a little surprised he hasn’t already been linked to the Sunwolves.

                As for the players lost, it does sound like RA managed to salvage more players. Internationals have certainly been lost from the Force, but perhaps not as current or as important to the national team. But again, it seems a change of direction in the discussion…my reading of your article was that it was about how it is going to set Australia up for success in the future, not how badly it went for Wales. Sounds to me you are now arguing that it went badly in the short term, and more than ten years later the scars are still raw…

              • Columnist

                December 22nd 2017 @ 7:01am
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 22nd 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

                But again, it seems a change of direction in the discussion…my reading of your article was that it was about how it is going to set Australia up for success in the future, not how badly it went for Wales. Sounds to me you are now arguing that it went badly in the short term, and more than ten years later the scars are still raw…

                Wales is an obvious point of comparison for someone (like me) who witnessed the fallout of reduction from five to four regions. You seemed to be implying that it was far more traumatic for the Force than it was for the Warriors – it wasn’t. The Warriors were successful in their short lifetime on the playing field, although they seem to have a number of similarities with the Force outside that…

                Wales like Australia could not afford five regions long term, it could hardly afford two or three. Like Australia, the Welsh structure has been top-heavy and it has starved the grass-roots of growth – the club game is a very pale shadow of what it used to be.

                Ofc it would have been far better for both countries never to have established a fifth region, rather than set it up only ti dismantle it. That has caused chaos.

                In Wales the situation is slowly improving from that unpromising beginning, in Australia it has a chance to progress quicker because you’ve managed to hang on to more of your players after the liquidation. Let’s see.

              • December 22nd 2017 @ 10:55am
                AndyS said | December 22nd 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

                I never mentioned the fans, as they were peripheral to your original point. What I am saying is that because of the much more concentrated development structure in Australia, getting rid of the Force is actually the equivalent of eliminating not just the Warriors but also 20% of the nearest underlying feeder teams. It leaves players in Perth in the position of being expected to make the jump directly from local suburban rugby into professional rugby, but then only if they can first shine against professional SR players in a short end of season comp that has otherwise provided them no training or development.

                I think it is about as likely as it was prior to the Force existing. But you’ve now had the benefit of several years post the carnage in Wales, so I’d be interested to know how that played out and whether there have been any identified effects on player numbers and development in the affected areas? The obviously got realigned rather than eliminated, but do players just leave anyway, did the region get any assistance, etc…?

              • Columnist

                December 22nd 2017 @ 6:50pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 22nd 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

                Good opportunity to plug one of my books Andy! Here…. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Good-Bad-Ugly-Rise-Pontypool/dp/1780576374/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1513928071&sr=1-10&keywords=the+good+the+bad+and+the+ugly

                In the middle chapters I did an analysis of what happened to Welsh rugby after regionalisation. The club game died to all intents and purposes. Even Graham Henry thought privately that Wales couldn’t support more than two fully professional regions, but political demands meant five.

                The impoverishment of the club game (no youth teams or second or third XVs) has also meant young players have had to enter academy ‘hothouses’ at the regions because the clubs do not exist as development pathways in the way that they used to. As a result Wales have produced a few generations of players now who are well-equipped physically, but mediocre at skills and deficient in game awareness – areas in which they always excelled.

                So basically the shrinkage of development pathways is probably deeper and more widespread than it is in Australia!

              • December 22nd 2017 @ 7:04pm
                AndyS said | December 22nd 2017 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

                Nicely done ?. Will have to look that out.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 11:42am
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

                ‘Where is the evidence that the five team format was ever going to produce sustainable winning cultures?’

                That’s got to come from within. Teams like the Brumbies and the Storm had it down pat from day one. Both teams made the Final in their second season.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 6:07pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

                Partly true Bakkies – but talent concentration is also a factor, and even the Brumbies have not been able to counter the effects of the five-team spread over the past few seasons… NZ have maintained their concentration because they stuck with five teams and forced people to compete for spots within that format.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 7:07pm
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 7:07pm | ! Report

                Nick the Brumbies were told by the likes of Louis Luyt you have two years to perform or get out. Made the victory over Transvaal in the first match sweeter.

                There was resentment over not having more ACT representation in the first squad but Macqueen had no choice to bring in McKenzie, Coker and Knox.

                As for Bridgend they realigned with the Ospreys.

            • Roar Pro

              December 20th 2017 @ 10:59pm
              robel said | December 20th 2017 @ 10:59pm | ! Report

              Your assumption is there will be the same number of potential players coming up the grades.
              I don’t think this will be the case as all the gains made in WA have been abandoned by the ARU. They won’t allow the IPRC to happen and so young athletes in WA won’t be choosing rugby. The WA participation levels will drop and we know from the past 6 years that the slack won’t be taken up by the Vics.
              All round fewer players means same amount of competition for fewer spots, same ratio.
              I don’t see this increase in quality lasting longer than a season or two, then we’re back to where we were last year, but have disenfranchised a whole state in the process.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 11:42pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:42pm | ! Report

                The professional game is all about high-end quality and generating winning cultures.

                If you cannot generate those cultures and that quality within a five-team structure, what option do you choose instead?

                As an outsider, I can see little evidence that Australia were going to succeed with that model. The Rebels and Force were effectively development regions who were not expected to win competitions – and that’s a hard model to sustain in a professional business which is poorly-funded, as it is in Australia. The salary caps of the five Australian regions were less than half than the playing budget of a typical English Premiership or French Top 14 club. That means you won’t keep your better players because at some point in their career they’ll either want to win a trophy or earn more money, which they’ll find elsewhere.

              • Roar Pro

                December 21st 2017 @ 12:03am
                robel said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:03am | ! Report

                I don’t see the current situation stopping a bunch of young players going OS any more than when the Force was here.
                In fact the current situation will exacerbate the exodus of players OS as there are fewer opportunities here in Aust.
                When I was a younger player in the 80’s, my mates who had a chance went to europe, not to the east coast to play. When the Force was here, they stayed here to try and get into a Aust team. Now there is no team here, they’ll head to europe again.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 11:53am
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

                ‘As an outsider, I can see little evidence that Australia were going to succeed with that model. The Rebels and Force were effectively development regions who were not expected to win competitions – and that’s a hard model to sustain in a professional business which is poorly-funded, as it is in Australia.’

                It is not poorly funded in Australia. The Rebels had private ownership and still got more funding from the RA than the other states. From the financials this is what the RA have thrown at the Rebels and it is not up to date as we don’t have the recent financials supplied yet.

                – Page 98, grant funding to the Rebels of $9,021,000 includes the write off of loans provided during the reporting period of $4,268,000. Fully provided loans totalling $8,750,000 from prior reporting periods were forgiven and cleared from the balance sheet
                – Page 138 features $2.6 million to the Rebels as part of the external sale agreement
                – Page 262 a $5.5 million loan to the Rebels in 2013
                – Page 322 in December 2014 in the Rebels report 15.9 million was paid to suppliers and employees.
                – Page 336 note 17 is about the services to related parties, loan payable of $8.75 million along with $5.5 million from 2013 and the ARU.

                When the Force started they had little support from the then ARU and were told to stand on their own two feet. They had over 20,000 members and full corporate boxes which the Rebels never had. The Force went for a community based ownership model which would have made them the wealthiest team in Australia but was hamstrung by the RA’s behaviour and hatchet job so fans quiet rightly didn’t follow through on their expressions of interest.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 6:05pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

                Thanks for the additional info B.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 11:15pm
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 11:15pm | ! Report

                No worries Nick it’s only the start with the loans, etc. There are other figures where it is quiet clear that the Rebels received far more than the other sides.

            • Roar Pro

              December 20th 2017 @ 11:58pm
              GusTee said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:58pm | ! Report

            • Roar Pro

              December 21st 2017 @ 12:02am
              GusTee said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:02am | ! Report

              How could it be worse Nicholas?

              Wales is a small territory and all you as a fan may have had to do is drive a few extra miles to find an new team to support.

              Perth is the most isolated capital city in the World.

              Thanks to the overblown egos of Clyne and Pulver, we in the West now have absolutely nothing.

              Your article is good, just this element of the subject hurts.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 12:36am
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:36am | ! Report

                I fully understand that Gus – and if it’s any consolation I felt the Force deserved to avoid the axe. They had heart. And therein lies the issue – you don’t want to lose the teams that actually have a beating heart, like the Force in Oz and the Celtic Warriors here in Wales…

              • December 21st 2017 @ 11:19pm
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 11:19pm | ! Report

                Nick you also have the Caledonian Reds who were merged in to Glasgow and supply players to that squad. They haven’t hosted a competition match even when Glasgow had to move from Scotstoun a few years back they played at Kilmarnock rather than Perth or Aberdeen.

              • December 22nd 2017 @ 8:39am
                Fionn said | December 22nd 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

                That’s the issue, Nick. Since 2014 the Brumbies and the Force can be the only teams that can be said to have played with any degree of heart consistently.

            • December 21st 2017 @ 12:10am
              Fin said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:10am | ! Report

              Haven’t you heard The Force are going to be in Twiggy Forrests Indo-Pacific competition.
              Along with all the other teams fielding Australian players that had previously left these shores for opportunities in Europe.
              Long may the Force continue and be part of a new competition that brings back our overseas players.

            • December 21st 2017 @ 12:30am
              Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:30am | ! Report

              ‘However there needs to be better quality players coming through than there have been, and that will occur with more competition for SR spots. Do you not agree that too many players were being paid for being mediocre or average at best with five teams?’

              Nick the Rebels should never have been brought in at the time the ARU were cutting grassroots, finances, academies and centralising on a market stuck in the 80s (Sydney and Brisbane). The reality is that they should have sold the team to the right business rather than an insolvent businessman in NZ who has a lot of unit trusts (they have less responsibilities than a UK limited company that you can start for £100) and the NZRU shouldn’t have brought the bs from O’Neill who sold it is a benefit to the market over SA. People bang on about the RA not using their right to veto to block bringing in Japanese and Argentinian sides, the NZRU should have used theirs to block the Rebels.

              The NZRU who didn’t trust him anyway should have told him get your grass roots in order, sort out your finances, don’t rely on club Rugby as your source of players and if SARU bring in their extra side let them sort out their own mess if it doesn’t work.

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 1:14am
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 1:14am | ! Report

                That sounds about right Bakkies. The Celtic Warriors were purchased by a businessman who sold the franchise back to the WRU knowing that they had only one aim – to close it down. So you have to be doubly careful that private ownership is in for the long haul…

              • December 21st 2017 @ 12:34pm
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

                Samuels was like the shyster who purchased the Rebels in 2015. He didn’t have the money and nous to run a professional Rugby team.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 5:32pm
                Brian said | December 21st 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

                The mistake was letting the Force in before the Rebels – that should never have happened!!

              • December 21st 2017 @ 6:01pm
                AndyS said | December 21st 2017 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

                To hear Clyne and Pulver tell it, the mistake almost immediately realised was letting Melbourne in at all. The Rugby equivalent of waking up in Vegas next to a stranger with a new ring on her finger…

              • Columnist

                December 21st 2017 @ 6:02pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

                That was probably the original mistake Andy.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 7:08pm
                RahRah said | December 21st 2017 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

                Really, maybe Victoria should have put up a better bid in the first place, rather than rely on uncle Clyne and Santa Pullver to dole out cash willy nilly second time around.

            • December 22nd 2017 @ 3:24pm
              andrewM said | December 22nd 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

              Hi Nick
              Can you summarise what happened in Wales for me?

              • Columnist

                December 22nd 2017 @ 6:53pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 22nd 2017 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

                See my reply to “AndyS” Andrew…

                Wales went regional in 2003-2004 (before that clubs as in England) but liquidated one of the five franchises within two years – curiously the one that had prob the strongest identity and the strongest support base.

                The remaining four struggled on, with the Ospreys the best side around 2008 when they could afford the best of Welsh and overseas imports. After that it has been a story of steady decline, up until the introduction of national contracts in the last couple of seasons, which is slowly bringing Welsh players back to Wales.

                The club game has died on its feet with the best talent siphoned off to regional academies, and few clubs able to raise more than a couple of sides every weekend. The best-managed region (Ospreys) command about one third of the attendance that Swansea FC get in soccer’s Premiership, at the same stadium.

      • Roar Guru

        December 20th 2017 @ 1:42pm
        El Gamba said | December 20th 2017 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the article Nicholas, Harry/Nicholas,, although a handy core as you say, I don’t really think this to be enough. The good teams, and I think we can see this with the 5 NZ sides and especially the All Blacks, is the team structures and combinations that have been built over time and the ability to introduce players into existing systems slowly, in a sustainable way so that when they come under pressure every player on the side, bench and wider playing group know where exactly they need to be and what their role is. I like the look of the Rebel’s however can two teams, with different structures (and potentially a new structure for the existing Rebel players) forge into a cohesive unit, regardless of player quality, in one off season? How long does it take to build a culture? Will existing Rebels players, especially now those relegated because of the ‘Force imports’ feel disenfranchised. An example, and I don’t know if he is still on the Rebel’s list, is Nick Stirzaker – last year’s captain is a big change and very different for those potentially loyal to him.


        • Columnist

          December 20th 2017 @ 4:51pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

          I think Wessels will be the key EG. He showed at the Force that he can persuade players to want to play for him – the Force were the most stubborn, cussed team in Australia – the hardest to beat of the lot.

          If he can bring that quality to Melbourne, the Rebels will gel pretty quickly and they’ll be good at the basics of the game. They will be a threat.

          Hard to see Stirzaker being there for much longer unless he has the will to fight his way up the depth chart.

          • Roar Rookie

            December 20th 2017 @ 7:52pm
            piru said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

            Still that’s a good point, if you’re an existing Rebs player and suddenly all these blokes turn up with their coach – displacing some of your mates…..

            • December 20th 2017 @ 8:07pm
              RahRah said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

              Piru that happens in my workplace every three years that the EBA comes up for negotiation. It IR management 101.

          • December 20th 2017 @ 9:33pm
            frisky said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:33pm | ! Report

            Really? Stirzaker was seen as a future WB not so long ago.

            • December 27th 2017 @ 2:01am
              double agent said | December 27th 2017 @ 2:01am | ! Report

              Yes, Until he had a terrible 2017.

      • December 21st 2017 @ 4:18pm
        Noodles said | December 21st 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

        My impression too. In which case this could be terrific for Australian rugby. A winning Melbourne team would bring all sorts of benefits, as would a new burst of life in Canberra. It’s been clear for a while that the culture of leadership in Queensland and NSW needs challenging and an ideal way for that to happen is with Victorians taking the piss. All up,this is the best outcome from a very unhappy decision.

    • December 20th 2017 @ 5:10am
      riddler said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:10am | ! Report

      heart says reds.. head says brumbies or tahs to sneak the conference..

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2017 @ 5:15am
        Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:15am | ! Report

        Do you not see the Rebels improving enough with all that new manpower and the best young coaching mind in the conference Riddler?

        • December 20th 2017 @ 7:18am
          riddler said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

          i would love for the rebels to go well and come equal second in the conference with the brumbies, behind the reds..

          but i just can’t see it.. hope i am wrong..

        • December 20th 2017 @ 9:20am
          Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          Nick the Rebels still don’t have a winning culture which teams like the Brumbies have. Yes last season was poor but the Brumbies rarely lose more games than they win.

          • December 20th 2017 @ 12:28pm
            MitchO said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            Bakkies and Riddler the Rebels have a good solid backline with some real balance, defense and attack in that backline but most importantly and the reason they will win a lot of games is a near test match class forward pack of tough guys. Those guys will play hard to win each game and fight the ball and pressure the opposition.

            The Force forward pack last year was very effective against all teams including the much vaunted kiwis and saffer teams. The Rebels forward pack is better since they have picked up the Force guys.

            The Rebels have a lot of players from Melbourne and Perth with plenty to prove and they will see that after getting beaten for years they have a chance to make finals and go well.

            Look at the team balance. Both Genia and Ruru have all the requisite skills of a half back and both have good maturity. Jono Lance can kick, goal kick, tackle and pass pretty well and has good experience. Meakes is a very solid defender and defensive organiser at 12. Not test class (at least not yet) but very solid at super level. A much tougher man than KB. Hodge is a test class player with a good boot, good defensive and a real knack of scoring tries. The wingers are fast and top finishers and both have good D. The main weakness being that neither has a big boot. DHP is good super level full back with okay defense (needs to improve), good attack and a very good boot.

            • December 20th 2017 @ 1:57pm
              Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

              ‘Bakkies and Riddler the Rebels have a good solid backline with some real balance, defense and attack in that backline but most importantly and the reason they will win a lot of games is a near test match class forward pack of tough guys. ‘

              You still have to build combinations particularly in the halves and in the midfield. Backrow won’t be an all Force combination.

            • Roar Pro

              December 21st 2017 @ 12:36am
              GusTee said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:36am | ! Report

              Victorian Rugby, having gobbled up and wasted millions on the failed Rebels, could only survive by chicanery.

              Okay, so next year the Rebels will be stronger and no doubt the Force players will bust their guts for their new club.

              Wessels will undoubtedly improve your game and lift you – maybe even to the SR title in time to come.

              But that title will never really be yours – because it will have been tainted by deceit.

              In a few years Wessels will search for greener grass and many of the Force players will move on or simply hang up their boots.

              What then Victoria?

              Remember, he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

              Your legacy to the players throughout your State will be to have tainted them forever as the usurpers of the Western Force and thereby making Victoria the great pretenders of Australian Rugby.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 12:35pm
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

                Gus will still don’t know what the Vic Government ploughed in to the loss making venture, they sold discounted memberships and don’t have a major sponsor.

            • December 27th 2017 @ 11:59pm
              Ex force fan said | December 27th 2017 @ 11:59pm | ! Report

              Expect the Rebels to look better in second half of the competition after they established good combinations in attack and defense – the ingredient that would be missing in the first half of the season. Let’s face it, the Rebels is a new team that will start again from the bottom, first tighten up defenses and maybe in 2019 work on attack with the aim to make finals in 2019 and maybe win it in 2020 at the earliest. The expectations for the Rebels to win the conference or make the finals are unrealistic! Rugby is a sport that is about combinations, synergy and playing for each other. The team to watch is the Reds – they are building a team under Thorpe with no prima donnas, while the Rebels bought parts of other teams and would need to mould into a team in 2018 under Wessels.

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 4:52pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

            This season they will have quality in depth and they will be well-coached in the fundamentals of the game Bakkies – both key to winning cultures. So good grounds for optimism there.

          • December 20th 2017 @ 5:49pm
            andrewM said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

            But Bakkies..There’s hardly any Rebels 2017 culture left

            • December 20th 2017 @ 8:11pm
              Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

              Andrew it is still the Rebels. The boys clubs and Cattermole who were responsible for the previous mismanagement are re-elected to the board. No future business plan.

      • December 20th 2017 @ 6:55am
        Fionn said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

        riddler, unless Gibson has a huge improvement then I cannot see the Waratah doing well. In 2016 and 17 they had relatively much stronger teams than they will next year, and went from very poor to diabolical over these seasons.

        It’s seemed like the longer Gibson coaches the poorer the team does (has he lost the change room?) and next year the team just doesn’t look great on paper.

        • Columnist

          December 20th 2017 @ 7:02am
          Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

          Usually a coaches impact will be more noticeable at the beginning of their tenure Fionn, so often the signs of how things will ultimately present in those ‘seeds’. The Tahs will have a new midfield and Rob Simmons will be an asset to their set-play, but will it be enough to reverse the downward momentum?

          • December 20th 2017 @ 7:21am
            riddler said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:21am | ! Report

            fionn i am not on the inside with anything in oz rugby.. so can’t say whether gibson has lost the shed..

            i think the tahs, from previous experience, like it when everyone writes them off..

            simmons is a very good player at super level… they will have a solid scrum and not a bad backline i think..

            am much more worried about the reds than the tahs to be honest..

            i don’t think ballymore is a healthy place at the moment.. would love for a massive cleanout there but can’t see it happening..

            • Columnist

              December 20th 2017 @ 7:25am
              Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

              Would BT have accepted the job without some assurance that he would be given license to do things his way? He doesn’t look like a ‘yes man’ from the outside!

            • December 20th 2017 @ 7:29am
              Fionn said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

              The Reds will certain need instant results or else there will be a lot of anger, in my opinion.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 7:36am
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

                Do you think Fionn? I feel Thorn will be given some slack to rebuild out of respect for his achievements as a player…

              • December 20th 2017 @ 7:56am
                Fionn said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

                Nah, I don’t think so. Maybe if he hadn’t cut Quade, but Quade is very popular up there in Queensland, and I think there will be a lot of anger if the team struggles from direction at 10 after firing him.

                If the results flow, then he will be forgiven.

              • Roar Guru

                December 20th 2017 @ 7:59am
                PeterK said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

                exactly re QC.

                QC has served the reds very well and the feeling was he was treated unfairly.

                Now if he was included in the training squad and been seen to be given a fair go there would have been a lot less angst.

                Thorn might not be a yes man but he expects his players to be yes men is the signal he is sending.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 9:55am
                Dave_S said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

                Agree – as a Reds/Broncos fan I have plenty of respect for Thorn, but chopping Cooper and to a lesser extent Frisby (in particular the way he did it) troubles me. He has plenty to prove and not a lot of time to show he can do it.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 9:41am
                Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

                ‘Do you think Fionn? I feel Thorn will be given some slack to rebuild out of respect for his achievements as a player…’

                Due to the Reds finances being so poor he doesn’t have a lot of time Nick. Years of bad management and pay outs has seen the fans leave in droves and it is finally coming to roost.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 12:57pm
                hello said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

                I agree Fionn
                The QC thing will work against Thorne and Stewart.
                If Stewart does not perform there will be a lot of rumblings about both he and thorn

              • December 20th 2017 @ 6:07pm
                Drongo said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

                QC is very popular up here with hard core Reds supporters. Have you noticed, he can draw 10,000 a match. Thorn made a silly error the way he handled Quade, lost a lot of support as a result and we are now standing back with our arms folded waiting to see what he achieves. No one is smiling any more. Really looks suspiciously like his All Black loyalty coming to the surface, as he was in the team during the McCaw-gate saga, as pathetic as it was. For us, the Kiwi obsession with putting Quade down leaves a very sour taste.
                Nothing but instant success on the field will suffice. He has discarded one of our favourite sons. We are ready to discard him. But success on the field will cut him some slack. Nothing less will suffice. He has made his bed, now he must lie in it.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 6:50pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

                I hope it is not as bad as your last para suggests D.

                However as you say his handling of QC highlights the very steep learning curve for him as a head coach. Learning how to handle expectation will be an important part of that…

              • December 20th 2017 @ 9:37pm
                Fin said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:37pm | ! Report

                Hi Nick,
                For some time BT has had concerns about the attitudes of some of the Senior players at the Reds. Earlier this year he told his under 20’s Reds players to avoid some of the senior veterans. It was known for some time that BT would be replacing Stiles.
                BT told Slipper he had to bulk up if he wanted to stay, he has moved Cooper & Frisby on and Moore has pulled the pin.
                He wasn’t happy with some of the senior group!

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 9:52pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

                Yeah that’s pretty clear Fin – and whatever the right and wrongs of the situation, BT has to have that right to start with the personnel/coaching scenario he wants. It’s he after all who’s carrying the can – no-one else.

              • Roar Guru

                December 21st 2017 @ 6:34am
                taylorman said | December 21st 2017 @ 6:34am | ! Report

                Yet more rubbish from the Quade brigade.
                Answer me this then oh wise one.

                What is it about Quade that he doesnt seem to gel with coaches?

                He called the Deans environment toxic. Yet no other player sided with that. Explain how that is possible, assuming an ‘environment’ includes more than one person.

                Cheika refused to even play him this year despite general consensus suggesting he at least matched Foleys play and as we know, Foley has had some cr,?p play. Even to the most anti Quade fan its obvious hes at least the second best 10 in oz.

                And now Thorn, who only weeks ago heard somewhere on these boards that Quade was in the mix, though I havent the specifics.

                Now hes outed at the eleventh hour.

                Three completely different coaches, non of whom can work with Quade.

                So get of the fence, stop supporting both Quade and Cheika while blaming kiwis and tell the sise of the story we dont know.

                Whats Quades problem with coaches?

                Until you can answer that it smacks proma dona material to me.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 6:24pm
                Lostintokyo said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

                Although I am a Tah’s fan, it is important for Aussie rugby that the Reds to do well in 2018. In fact all Aussie franchises can only improve on 2017, surely! Bring it on.

                As for the Force; May the force be with you. Super ain’t the bee all of Aussie rugby any more. The ARU (Rugby Australia) saw to that.

                2018 is an important year. Can’t afford for the ship to leak any more. It is up to the gunnels.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 8:15pm
                Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

                Nick don’t know about that but the money situation is dire and a lot of people who have put in their guaranteed money towards season tickets, etc are looking for refunds or an answer to state why you have moved these two capped internationals down to the reserves which is club Rugby. I have seen how bad that attitude from incoming managers has affected football clubs.

              • December 23rd 2017 @ 9:30am
                Ruckin Oaf said | December 23rd 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

                IF Thorn starts on a winning note I think there will be a lot of respect – even if it’s grudging respect – going his way.

                Fans thinking along the lines of “I didn’t agree with dropping Cooper BUT you can’t argue with the results”

                IF on the other hand the Reds start with a couple of losses then I think that the blame game will start in earnest and it will be directed at the blow in Kiwi coach who dared to drop one of Qld’s favourite sons.

                And the Reds start with the Rebels away and the Brumbies at home.

              • Columnist

                December 23rd 2017 @ 8:49pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 23rd 2017 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

                Fair summary RO 🙂

          • Roar Guru

            December 20th 2017 @ 8:04am
            PeterK said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

            Gibson has been terrible in terms of recruitment and talent identification.

            His development of players is non existent and game day tactics predictable and poor.

            His s*c of players is below par.

            In fact there is nothing in the core skills of coaching to point at and say he is very good (or even good) at.

            • December 20th 2017 @ 8:24am
              taylorman said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

              hmmm, bit like Cheika then 🙂

              • Roar Guru

                December 20th 2017 @ 8:24am
                PeterK said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

                more hot wind from auckland

              • December 20th 2017 @ 11:11am
                taylorman said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

                Sounds like if theres any hot wind its in Oz Pete…the weathers hot too.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 2:01pm
                Cliff (Bishkek) said | December 20th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

                PK, I think the Tman is on the money there – not Hot Wind at all!! Cheika definitely cannot Coach at International level and it looks like – well been known for a couple of years – Gibson cannot coach at SR level!!

              • Roar Guru

                December 20th 2017 @ 4:04pm
                PeterK said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

                cliff – no not on the money at all.

                Gibson has zero areas of the core skills of a coach,

                Cheika is very good at motivation.
                Cheika is very good at attracting talent, look how many he has got back from europe, at the people he got to join tahs for them to win, Byrnes and ledesma as assistants.
                Cheika is very good at getting things done, getting necessary changes (ones he sees) done, he got the giteau law in i.e changed eligibility.
                Cheika is very good at S&C

                Sure he has a lot of faults and those are shared with Gibson.

                Gibson has no redeeming qualities as a head coach.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 5:31pm
                Cole said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

                This is a really great comment. All too often do we criticise Cheika’s flaws in selection and tactics without acknowledging his good attributes in motivation and recruitment back from Europe etc. Would still like to see a selection panel to override Cheika’s sometimes bizarre selections and a bit more balance
                with our game plans but he does deserve a lot better for credit for his achievements over the past few years.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 12:42am
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:42am | ! Report

                Recruitment back from Europe? What expense did that cost the RA. They wouldn’t cough up on the full pay out on the two seasons of Douglas’ Leinster contract, the others may or may not have had pay outs but I doubt they were brought back to Australia on less money they were on previously in Australia.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 7:24am
                taylorman said | December 21st 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

                So what was Cheikas development plan for Mumm, Hannigan, and Foley? Keep playing them endlessly until they dropped themselves?

                In fact I’ve not seen one player develop into a consistent player at test level since he started.

                All those factors you mention are 1, unmeasurable and two, if they were true, you’d be discussing a successful team.

                You’ve stated nothing that cant be said of Gibson without evidence, its pure Peterk speak, spin. You cant talk of two coaches with a chalk and cheese description where both are failing in most areas to win. Its…illogical.

            • December 20th 2017 @ 4:11pm
              mz.ilikazi said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

              “but Quade is very popular up there in Queensland,

              Not so sure on that one Fionn. A lot of us up here tear our hair out at Quade’s horror moments. I personally think he has been badly treated in recent weeks, but I have a feeling that Qld will win games they would not have in 2018 because Quade is not in the team…they will be better placed to weather pressure in the last quarter especially. This is a period in the game where, IMO, Quade can really “stuff up”…..and has done so in the past.

              “and I think there will be a lot of anger ” I know I am leaving out the rest of your sentence, but I have given my opinion on Quade already…so will steal your opening, and say I think this could well be the case.

              I agree with Nic re Brad Thorn being given slack to rebuild. He is a highly respected man both sides of the Tasman, and is pretty much a Brisbane man too, in that he has lived in the city so long, and been a Maroons and Bronco’s stalwart.

              However the QRU board will, I would suspect, be the target of a lot of anger if the Reds do not perform well in 2018. I would think it will be a tough season, given the inexperience in so many areas, and the bench players don’t look very strong either.

              I would really fear the Rebels in 2018…or perhaps I should say I would have high hopes for the Rebels in 2018. Brumbies should also be a handful.

              I always enjoy watching good teams, well coached, play to their full potential. And if that is not the team I support, that is life ! Good luck to them.

        • Roar Guru

          December 20th 2017 @ 11:52am
          jeznez said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

          Fionn – I think the Tahs squad is marginally better this coming season than 2017. The majority of the same issues will plague them though with an average scrum, little breakdown presence and below par ball carrying in tight.

          The biggest thing they could do right now is sign up Macalman. He would give them a bit of a lift in two of those areas.

          Thanks for the article NB – I like that Tah backline. Would like it even more if Gordon can further usurp Phipps. The competition at 9 is good for both players.

          In the forwards I’m hoping Ryan can overtake Robertson for LH (I had the same hope last year and it didn’t happen).

          I’m thinking that Shambeckler-Vui will be ahead of Sandell for the bench TH.

          He’s only 20 but got capped 6 times for the Force last year. Was named TH of the tournament at the U20’s world cup and is 118kg (6kg heavier than the 22 yr old Sandell while being 8cm shorter at 179cm)

          The major issue remains in that back 5 though with not enough ruck monkeys amongst Dempsey, Hanigan, Hooper, Simmons, Holloway and whoever nails down the other lock position.

          • December 20th 2017 @ 12:32pm
            MitchO said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

            Yes Jez that is pretty much what I was going to point out to Riddler. The Tahs are too soft in the middle and whilst Simmons is a good pick up and a good player he does’t fix their problem of softness around the ground.
            Robertson will be one year better than he was but his scrummaging was noticably shite on the Europe tour – and last season.

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 4:57pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

            I’d agree that signing McCalman for 8 (not least to mentor Holloway in the tighter aspects of 8 play) and starting Gordon at 9 would give the Tahs a big boost. The Tahs need a ‘glue’ forward in that back five to bind the athletic talents of guys like Hooper and Dempsey together.

            Didn’t know anything about Vui so toss-up between him and Sandell! – thanks for the extra info!

            • Roar Guru

              December 20th 2017 @ 5:27pm
              jeznez said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:27pm | ! Report


              I think Vui’s shorter stature could help Robertson and Latu.

              Tom R is 1.80 and 107kg (23 yrs old)
              Tolu Latu is 1.78 and 110kg (24 yrs old)
              Vui is 1.79 and 118kg (20 yrs old)
              Roach is 1.78 and 105kg (25 yrs old)

              I think the closeness in height over that group can help them at scrum time.

              Kepu, Ryan and Sandell are all a bit taller at 1.88, 1.89 and 1.87 respectively.

              I think the front row is coming along but we need a power lock and as you call it a ‘glue’ forward.

              Fingers crossed on Ben MacCalman, who was in the Tahs extended squad before heading west.

          • December 20th 2017 @ 7:37pm
            Fionn said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

            Jez, I agree that the 2018 squad is actually a fair bit stronger than it was this year with the addition of Simmons and Beale (and to a lesser extent Rona).

            As you say, McCalman needs to be a priority. With him their back-row goes from looking pretty weak to being pretty strong.

            The problem is that the squads of the other teams are stronger also, particularly the Brumbies and of course the Rebels.

      • December 20th 2017 @ 10:19am
        taylorman said | December 20th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Me too, make it Brumbies again for me. They seem to be the last team standing when the sh*(*t hits the fan in Oz rugby.

        Teams like the Reds and Tahs need ‘Special’ years where everything comes together to click, where the Brumbies are more workmanlike and go through the season with little fuss, but are effective enough. No highs and lows the other two seem to have.

        • Roar Guru

          December 20th 2017 @ 1:35pm
          jeznez said | December 20th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          t-man I can’t speak for the Reds but the issue at the Tahs is coaching and development and talent identification.

          I don’t think the Tahs have had a truly great coach since Macqueen. The way they’ve developed players hasn’t always been the best and the number of quality players they’ve allowed to slip through their grasp is crushing as a fan.

          Watching Adam Coleman, Mike Alaalatoa and Lopeti Timani just to look at recent guys let go while Will Skelton, Angus Ta’avao and Dean Mumm were retained is just the tip of the iceberg.

          George Smith released for Phil Waugh, letting Owen Finegan go and developing Stu Pinkerton, cutting Chris Latham, Nemani Nadolo, Dan Palmer and the list goes on.

          Some spectacular own goals there.

          • December 20th 2017 @ 2:01pm
            Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

            Magro, Holbeck, later on Mortlock and Joel Wilson at the Brumbies were big own goals in the centres.

            • Roar Guru

              December 20th 2017 @ 4:33pm
              jeznez said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

              There are too many to mention – Mark Gerrard, Andrew Walker are a couple more.

              Adam Ashley-Cooper eventually joined the Tahs but was another that was initially missed. It was all good though – we got Tom Carter!

              One of the best they let go but I’d give them a pass on was Steve Devine. With Gregan, Whitaker and Cordingley entrenched he saw an opportunity in Auckland and went for it.

            • December 20th 2017 @ 8:19pm
              Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

              From memory Devine was offered a gig at the Brumbies. Brumbies had Cordingley and Travis Hall in the system.

              Need to go back to the days when Gregan was threatened by Merrick and Sam Payne. Gregan was dropped for Merrick against the ABs. Merrick didn’t want to move to Sydney from Singleton so that was the end of his fledgling career.

          • December 20th 2017 @ 4:19pm
            mz.ilikazi said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

            “George Smith released for Phil Waugh” I felt that in his last year or so George Smith was a shadow of the great player he was once .

            But he is a really smart player, and has returned older and wiser, and is certainly now a great asset up here in Qld. Have a lot of respect for him. But how long has he left in Super Rugby ? At 37 now maybe two years ?

            • Roar Guru

              December 20th 2017 @ 4:35pm
              jeznez said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

              He’s a freak isn’t he – sadly I think this back injury may do him in. BUT like you I thought he was done before – he may yet surprise.

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 4:59pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

            That’s not a good history of decision-making is it Jez?

            • Roar Guru

              December 20th 2017 @ 5:29pm
              jeznez said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

              makes me want to cry Nick! If they had kept their guys that were on the edge of the squad and developed them better. We could be looking at:

              1. Robertson
              2. Latu
              3. Kepu
              4. Simmons
              5. Coleman
              6. Timani
              7. Hooper
              8. McCalman

              16. Ryan
              17. Roach
              18. Mike Alaalatoa
              19. Hanigan/Holloway
              20. Dempsey

              Of course it is sliding doors – if they had hung on to Coleman then they might not have pursued Simmons but gee the pack above looks awfully good bar the looseheads.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 5:42pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:42pm | ! Report

                Yes it does Jez, yes it does 🙂

        • Columnist

          December 20th 2017 @ 4:59pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

          That’s fair enough Tman – and I think Wessels will build a team in Melbourne much more in the Brumbies ‘outsider’ image down in Victoria. The Force were the toughest group in Australia last year, just didn’t have the quality to make it count against better opponents. Now he’ll have better material to work with!

          • December 20th 2017 @ 7:46pm
            Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

            Nick the Rebels tried that from day dot. They have had some top Rugby people from the Brumbies to help them it goes to show you can’t transfer it to one city to the next.

            The Rebels have had so many dollar sales, money and opportunities to get it right.

          • December 21st 2017 @ 10:40am
            taylorman said | December 21st 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

            Realising the potential of a side based on who’s in it isn’t as easy as it sounds and in Super rugby names dont necessarily equate to results. The Reds and Blues have been good examples of that.

            Team culture is important in Super rugby and the Crusaders and Lions are the two sides that clearly have that in spades, the Saders particularly having some magic backbone that’s kept them competitive for over two decades- couldnt believe it when I found that maximum of three losses in a row in their entire history.

            Very AB like in that respect.

            Agree with your comment about the structure needing to change. Probably applies to sides as well. The Tahs for instance, unlikely to progress using the same old. For the Reds the ball is certainly in Thorns square.

            The Rebels look to be renewing with the influx of players and the Brumbies I think will meander on as they do, and if the changes dont kick in in the other franchises, theyll top the pool again.

            Brumbies seem to be the go to team for Oz which considering the state sizes has always been odd for me. Id always pictured Oz rugby being NSW, Qland and ‘the rest’. Yet the Brumbies have by far the best record.

            • Columnist

              December 21st 2017 @ 6:25pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | December 21st 2017 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

              NZ kept it simple and clearly didn’t see the need to expand beyond five teams, although I’m sure the temptation was there… Probably helped having that strong intermediate layer in the form of the NPC below it to keep existing identities intact (Southland, Otago underneath the Highlanders for example)…

              The problem with not winning often enough is that players want to win something during their careers, so if they cannot do it in the team they’re with, if they have any ambition they’ll move on to find somewhere they can. So losing teams can be self-perpetuating, because they tend to haemorrhage their best talent.

    • December 20th 2017 @ 5:46am
      P2R2 said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:46am | ! Report

      What will be interesting is whether the Aussie SR teams can erase the 26-0 against NZers…’new manpower and or best young coaching mind…”

      • December 20th 2017 @ 9:45am
        ClarkeG said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Well they can’t erase it but they can turn it around.

        For the sake of the competition it needs to be turned around.

        • Columnist

          December 20th 2017 @ 5:00pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

          Exactly Clarke – the comp needs to have more substance and more real contests, and that is in the interests on NZ rugby too 🙂

      • December 20th 2017 @ 12:11pm
        Ed said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

        You would hope so.
        Each Australian side plays four of the NZ teams, so 16 trans-Tasman matches in 2018.
        The last time Australian sides won half of these games was in 2014, 11 of 22, while we won 12 of 22 (54.5%) in 2013. The last two seasons have accrued three wins in 52 matches.

        Earliest match for an Australian SR side against a kiwi opponent is the Rebels at home to the Canes, while the Tahs first match is in early May. Hopefully this allows our sides to gain combinations and patterns of play. Maybe I am wishing for too much.

    • December 20th 2017 @ 5:52am
      Bob Wire said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:52am | ! Report

      Thanks Nick, I suppose a stronger, well coached Rebels outfit is a positive amongst the carnage of the Force debacle, you make a good case for their prospects in 2018 (As does MitchO in a well researched post on another article). Wessels will be able to keep them grounded, and hopefully some victories against Kiwi sides will eventuate. Not one win against a NZ team this year was terrible.
      Thanks for your articles this year, well researched, well summarised, and always thought provoking.

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2017 @ 6:19am
        Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:19am | ! Report

        Thanks Bob.

        It would not be a surprise if the Rebels finish above 50% this year and win the Australian conference. They have some depth as well as starting quality, especially in the back five forwards…

        • December 20th 2017 @ 8:46am
          Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          The Brumbies still have a better pack with three Wallabies locks and a future Wallaby in Richie Arnold. Darcy Swain has huge potential too.

          Richie Arnold and Chance Peni are the only Force players to have signed on for more than one season. Naisiarani will be only eligible for the Wallabies in 2019 which makes his next contract negotiation more complicated.

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 5:02pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

            Yes the Brumbies recruited shrewdly too Bakkies, and their backs look like a big step up from last season’s group…

            • December 20th 2017 @ 8:21pm
              Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:21pm | ! Report

              My concern is at flyhalf. Leiliifano is missing touch from his kicks from hand and is showing that he is a better 12 than 10.

        • Roar Rookie

          December 20th 2017 @ 3:02pm
          Die hard said | December 20th 2017 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

          If they do it will continue my disappointment with Australian rugby as I will always see them as a construct rather than a rugby region.

          Far better to see the reds bounce back.

        • December 20th 2017 @ 9:46pm
          Fin said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:46pm | ! Report

          Hi Nick,
          The Rebels don’t rank very highly on Ben Darwin’s cohesion index for 2018 – new coaching group, new playing group. It takes time to settle.

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 9:57pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:57pm | ! Report

            Maybe, but things have been known to change very quickly if the right coaching and personnel pieces are in place… If they gel early, the Rebs will be a handful for anyone…

      • December 20th 2017 @ 1:37pm
        MitchO said | December 20th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

        Cheers Bob. I am just a Force fan and a believer that good forwards and tough minds make all the difference.

    • December 20th 2017 @ 6:14am
      mz.ilikazi said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      Excellent article, Nic.

      As a Queenslander, I am not “holding my breath”. Brad Thorn as coach is for me a huge positive, if a bit of a leap in the dark, but ” with the Reds, in particular, having spent big before the beginning of the 2017 season on new contracts for Quade Cooper, Scott Higginbotham, Stephen Moore and George Smith.”……I think only Smith is a real value player of thes.

      The axing of Cooper just beggars all belief, after signing him for the season, along with Frisby….classic Qld shambles……one remembers the demise of Richard Graham after three games ? of the new season.

      Personally would like to have seen the money spent on Dave Wessels, with Brad his assistant and bring in at least Hardwick, Colman, McCalman…would have him any day over Higgenbotham…and Uelese from the Rebels ia another I would look for if I were Qld’s coach.

      No, I see the Reds as having missed out bigtime at this “cattle sale”

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2017 @ 6:21am
        Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:21am | ! Report

        I suspect Brad Thorn will do the business MZ, but it may take a while with so many young players learning together in the tight five and in midfield.

        Have the Reds definitely released Nick Frisby then?

        • December 20th 2017 @ 6:31am
          mz.ilikazi said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:31am | ! Report

          I think so, but I am not in contact with anyone close to the Reds…just what I have read online, and in the press. So could be wrong.

        • Roar Guru

          December 20th 2017 @ 7:50am
          PeterK said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

          no both Cooper and Frisby have been excluded from the reds training squad but remain under contract.

          So not only take up substantial salary cap but also squad spots.

          They would love Frisby to go so they could sign Louwrens however the reds / thorn totally stuffed up this aspect and should have infromed cooper and frisby earlier so they had time to find other clubs. They left it so late they well may play club rugby and draw big money.

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 7:59am
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

            Do you know whether Frisby or Cooper are in negotiation with any other clubs Peter?

            • Roar Guru

              December 20th 2017 @ 8:06am
              PeterK said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

              I am sure their management is looking but their value has been decreased significantly due to the way Thorn handled it.

              Also laws of supply and demand, super rugby clubs had completed their recruiting, has had european so only leaving the japanese and even this is late in the piece.

              An article was written suggesting QC would be placed in the sevens team by RA since they are forced to continue paying him.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 8:08am
                Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

                Frisby is a hard one to understand – playing at Wallaby level in 2016 without getting much of a look-in, so the talent is there, just needs a bit of rebuilding. Surely he could benefit one of the SR franchises?

              • Roar Rookie

                December 20th 2017 @ 10:20am
                Don said | December 20th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

                Frisby went a bit loose off field this year and was considered a bad trainer and negative.

                He’s a bit old school is NF. Doesn’t treat his Rugby like it’s the most important thing in his life and whilst he is a committed and talented player, he can come across as not taking things seriously.

                Ready was in a similar position at the start of the year but applied himself very hard at training and got Thorn on his side. Ready and Moore had a run in early and Stiles sided with Moore.

                Far and away the worst recruit for the Reds was Stephen Moore both with his mediocre play in matches and too much influence over training and selection off field. Stiles gave him far too much say.

                The Reds will field a side different to Nick’s lineup.

                CFS will start at centre and Duncan Paia’aua will likely be at 10.
                Higgers will be at 6 with Caleb Timu at 8.
                I doubt George Smith will play and Michael Gunn will start at 7.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 2:20pm
                Dave_S said | December 20th 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

                Don, sounds like you have inside mail? CFS at 12 or 13?

              • Roar Rookie

                December 20th 2017 @ 3:29pm
                Don said | December 20th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

                I reckon we’ll see DP playing 10, Kerevi at 12 and CFS 13.

                I also think that these are the positions Cheika would like to see them playing and have a sneaking suspicion that we are going to see a bit more cooperation between state sides and our national coach in this regard.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 11:10am
                Dave_S said | December 21st 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

                Don, agree that 10, 12, 13 lineup is the likely starter.

                Even if DP mostly just shovels it out, I’ve always thought Kerevi looks better getting the ball early. DP looping around in support of him could be quite fruitful.

              • Roar Guru

                December 20th 2017 @ 8:14am
                PeterK said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

                by the time it was announced squads were full and salary caps reached so no Frisby couldn’t join another oz super rugby team, the other countries super rugby teams would probably offer a lot less than his current contract.

                This is why IMO thorn handled it so poorly.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2017 @ 9:07am
                Geoff Parkes said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

                That’s not quite the case Peter. Ruru was only signed to the Rebels in the last few days. They could have chosen Frisby instead.
                For what it’s worth I think they made the right choice.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 12:10pm
                rebel said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

                Maybe Thorn told the Rebels not to sign Frisby and the Tahs to sign Rona instead of Cooper since we are speculating.

              • Roar Guru

                December 20th 2017 @ 9:14am
                PeterK said | December 20th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

                rebels had been in discussions with ruru before frisby thing was announced.

                Obviously wessels went for the man he knew (and yes better choice)

              • Roar Guru

                December 21st 2017 @ 1:53pm
                Fox Saker said | December 21st 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

                I trust Thorn’s judgement Nick – we have no idea what has been going on at training or on a personal level at all so bloggers bagging Thorn because of personal love affairs with players like Cooper has nothing to to with some of details of what may be really going on – if a coach cannot work with a player – and god knows Cooper has a long track record of this – then sorry but he has to go.

                Greg Martin who is a Cooper fan, ( though perhaps not as much he once was) and very much in the know with the Reds, has said on more than one occasion that Cooper is difficult to work with as he doesn’t want to be told or listen at times and he was not surprised Thorn dropped him.

                Should he have told those players earlier? Probably yes – but how do we know that he actually wanted to but was held back by the club for some reason?

                Details are important – we may never know them – but Thorn may be taking a hit for the club itself for all we know and just paying him out as if he is the only one that has any blame here without these very important details is a little unfair to say the least.

                Thorn didn’t sign Cooper or Frisby – the club did – so if they are not the players he wants, he should not be held to ransom by the clubs decision to give them long contracts. He has every right to say – they are not in my plans – your contract – you sort it out bro!

                Here is an extract from a great piece by Wayne Smith at the Australian which I think sums it up very well…Australian Dec 4 2017.

                “Increasingly, ( at the Reds before Thorn and prior to going to France) it seemed that Cooper was doing it “his way”. And who could blame him at times, -because for several seasons it didn’t look like the Reds has a game plan worthy of the name. Still, there were times when Reds coaches felt that their tactics had completely been hijacked by Cooper. They had to grin and bear it, of course, because who else could they select in his place?

                As Cooper’s brilliance in attack began to wane, however, more and more questions came to be asked of his flimsy defence. It always seemed the Reds were headed for a situation where the Cooper misery would come to outweigh the magic, but it still came as a shock when Thorn decided he wasn’t going to play that game at all.

                He wanted a five-eighth who would run the game the way he, Thorn, wanted. In short, he wanted someone he could rely upon. What’s more, he wanted a general prepared to fight with the troops in the front line and didn’t need to be hidden away in defence.

                The more he thought about it, the more he realised he could not afford to waste an entire pre–season working with Cooper — and for that matter, Nick Frisby — and then still getting the old mix of good and bad.

                Thorn has pretty much nailed his colours to the mast. He intends coaching as once he played. His teams won’t be flashy or innovative, but they will play for each other and, by God, they will defend as if their lives depend on it. So, within three days of naming them both in his squad, he has cut Cooper and Frisby adrift. They will remain Reds players — at least until some other club takes them off their hands — but Thorn doesn’t want them anywhere near “his” team.

                Significantly, this is a judgement made by a man who once played against Cooper, which would have given him insights not even Cooper’s team-mates would have seen. That makes this message all the more powerful and confronting.”

                I think this pretty much sums up the issues with Cooper and also Thorns issues Nick .

              • December 22nd 2017 @ 4:08pm
                Ruckin Oaf said | December 22nd 2017 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

                Wow Fox reading that it sounds as though Thorn is a very insecure coach. Hope you’re wrong on that front.

      • December 20th 2017 @ 2:09pm
        Cliff (Bishkek) said | December 20th 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

        MZ, I understood that Smith was more or less out with the season with his back injury. Not certain but I understood he was back in Brisbane getting it checked out and there was serious concern on his future, this year and possible retirement. I have not heard any update on this.

        • December 20th 2017 @ 4:34pm
          mz.ilikazi said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

          That is not good news, Cliff..I had not picked that up. Hope it is not bad enough to end George’s career.

    • December 20th 2017 @ 6:29am
      mz.ilikazi said | December 20th 2017 @ 6:29am | ! Report

      And would grab Louwrens and Cowan as well for the Reds.

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2017 @ 7:03am
        Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 7:03am | ! Report

        I think Louwrens would displace Tuttle at 9 for sure MZ…

        • December 20th 2017 @ 4:32pm
          mz.ilikazi said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

          Yes, agree on that one.

      • December 20th 2017 @ 8:49am
        Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

        Louwrens has gone back to SA as far as I know.

        • December 20th 2017 @ 11:29am
          ethan said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          This article from 9/12 suggests he’s still over in Perth, along with Cowan, Brache, Tessman, Grant, and Hodgson. https://thewest.com.au/sport/western-force/western-force-try-to-rebuild-for-a-brighter-future-ng-b88685575z

          • Roar Guru

            December 20th 2017 @ 2:54pm
            pformagg said | December 20th 2017 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

            Perth is SA 😉

          • Columnist

            December 20th 2017 @ 5:04pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

            Yes glad you mentioned those others Ethan – Grant and Brache would prob also be worthy of an SR contract somewhere…

            • December 20th 2017 @ 5:38pm
              MitchO said | December 20th 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

              Brache is a good man for a squad but unfortunately he is just not that next level. He came to the Force young after playing fullback for the Boks under 21 team but like many youngsters he just did not have much improvement left.

              Peter Grant is still worth a contract but I don’t think he wanted one. Pretty sure he’s Wallabies eligible next year. He doesn’t do anything really in attack but he has a wonderful boot, good experience and he just loves playing rugby and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. A big boost for WA rugby.

              • December 20th 2017 @ 11:38pm
                ethan said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:38pm | ! Report

                Brache would make a good like-for-like back up to Rona at the Tahs. Covers the same positions in centre, wing and fullback. Grant would make a good mentor for any young 10.

              • December 21st 2017 @ 2:28pm
                Markus said | December 21st 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

                Grant could definitely still be a reasonable squad flyhalf given his experience and the complete lack of in other players across the board.

                I thought he was Springboks capped already though so would never be Wallabies eligible?

              • December 21st 2017 @ 11:25pm
                Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 11:25pm | ! Report

                He has been capped by the Boks.

              • December 27th 2017 @ 4:56pm
                double agent said | December 27th 2017 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

                Watching Brache drop the ball constantly can be exasperating.

            • December 20th 2017 @ 8:23pm
              Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

              Brache is also a capped US test player. Grant may be in Japan unfortunately Ultimate Rugby has put their Top League match squads past a pay wall. I will pay up for that eventually.

            • December 20th 2017 @ 11:37pm
              ethan said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:37pm | ! Report

              Yes some good names there, all SR quality. I don’t expect Hodgson or Tessman to play elsewhere with their age and Force pride, but the others have plenty to offer.

      • December 20th 2017 @ 12:18pm
        Boomeranga said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

        I really like Angus Cottrell as well. His body lets him down but as a former Queenslander he might be worth a run. I havent been able to find any update on him as to new contract or failure to recover from his knee reconstruction.

        • December 20th 2017 @ 12:23pm
          Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

          Training with the Rebels with Koteka.

        • December 20th 2017 @ 1:22pm
          MitchO said | December 20th 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

          Boomeranga. Gus had a trial with Toulon but apparently did not satisfy them on the medical front so he came back and was/is going to to do the Twiggy competition. Dunno how that is going to go for him and I don’t know the state of his health.

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