Australian rugby in 2017: The annual Wallabies roller coaster

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Our Australian rugby Year in Review series concludes with the side that tested both the friendship of supporters who wanted to believe and The Roar’s servers when that belief was most tested: the Wallabies.

    The 2017 international season began while we reminded ourselves that despite everything that went down in 2016, it was still little over a year since Australia made a Rugby World Cup final, and that still had to count for something, surely.

    The Super Rugby season wasn’t going so well, but the mood within the camp was still positive before the first Test of the year.

    Or, at least, we thought it was positive…

    The June internationals
    Despite all but two rounds of the Super Rugby season having been played, the start of the Wallabies’ 2017 season highlighted the eternal disconnect between the national and state set-ups: Michael Cheika remarked that the Wallabies “weren’t fit enough” when they came into camp, even though all five Australian sides had played 13 games to that point.

    Cheika then sprung another surprise, naming Karmichael Hunt at inside centre for his Test debut despite Hunt having played almost exclusively at fullback for Queensland and even training most of the week of the Fiji Test at the back.

    But Hunt rewarded the coach with an excellent display in both attack and defence, as the Aussies scored a 37-14 win in Melbourne.

    Danger side Scotland awaited in Sydney, and the first cycle of the ‘up one week, down the next’ existence of the Wallabies in 2017 was complete.

    The slick attack in Melbourne was now ponderous, and the defence appeared all over the shop, with Scottish flyhalf Finn Russell playing himself into a late Lions tour call-up with a masterful display. Israel Folau’s exceptional aerial skills on repeat proved the only highlight in the 24-19 loss.

    The third of the June ‘arvo Tests’ saw a 40-27 win over Italy in Brisbane, but it was far from convincing. Two late tries saved Australian embarrassment – in this particular instance – where the Azzurri trailed by just one point into the last five minutes.

    The benefit of no Australian sides troubling the scorers during the final weeks of the Super Rugby finals, or so we hoped, was that at least the Wallabies now had time to get themselves to the required level of fitness. Surely they would be better by the time the Bledisloe and Rugby Championship rolled around, we told ourselves.

    Karmichael Hunt Australia Rugby Union Wallabies 2017 tall

    AAP Image/Dave Hunt

    Bledisloe Cup and The Rugby Championship
    They weren’t.

    It’s still hard to work out what was worse about that first half display in Sydney, where the Wallabies trailed the All Blacks 40-6, having already missed 37 tackles, that they were so disorganised in defence or in attack.

    The Wallabies never looked like scoring a try in that first 40, and it didn’t look any better ten minutes after half-time, with New Zealand leading 54-6.

    At that point it wasn’t just a cricket score Australia were looking at but the danger of being asked to follow on was very real.

    Changes were made, the injection of Tevita Kuridrani shored up the porous midfield, and somehow the Wallabies found confidence to not just play with, but score tries from. And score some good tries at that. The defensive issues dominated the headlines of the 54-34 loss the next day and would remain front of mind for the rest of the season, but the way the home side finished in Sydney gave another glimpse of what was to come.

    And what followed was cruel: arguably the Wallabies’ best performance since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, only marred by a late defensive lapse that saw Beauden Barrett score a converted try in the last three minutes in Dunedin, to win by six.

    Kurtley Beale had put the Wallabies ahead minutes beforehand, and Australian fans again feasted on fingernails; we’d been here too often before.

    The pain of the loss made the extent of the turnaround all the more remarkable. Beale and Bernard Foley defended in the front line and defended well. The defence had significantly fewer moving parts and looked much better as a result. Foley’s kicking became a concern, missing four of his six conversion attempts, though the criticism was harsh at the time given three of those misses cannoned into the posts. The critics would be justified soon enough, however.

    The roller coaster chugged on. The Dunedin loss would have to remain the highlight for the time being, with a lacklustre 23-all draw with South Africa in Perth following, and a 45-20 win over Argentina in Canberra coming after that. Neither game reached any great heights, and indeed Australia should’ve been made to pay for their glacial start against the Pumas. Only five tries in the last half an hour avoided further embarrassment.

    Another draw with the Springboks in Bloemfontein followed, with Beale again the standout in a game played at a hectic and ultimately futile pace. Elton Jantjies levelled the scores at 27-all with a penalty with just over ten minutes to play but then hooked what would’ve been a 79th-minute winner.

    The Wallabies went to Argentina from there and dominated the Pumas to win 37-20 in Mendoza. Reece Hodge’s display and Foley’s kicking – again – were the major talking points in the win that remarkably made a winning season still possible.

    Back in Brisbane, and with the Bledisloe again out of the reckoning, the Wallabies ran out in the first Indigenous playing strip for a national side and played their game of the year, beating New Zealand 23-18. A 77th-minute Hodge penalty from miles away sealed the win after All Blacks fullback Damien McKenzie missed a conversion four minutes earlier.

    Late-game nerves were prominent yet again, but the Wallabies showed plenty of grit in hanging on to claim the win.

    “The side that played the first four Tests of 2017 bears resemblance only in the colour of the jersey and the names on the team sheet to what won in Brisbane,” I wrote after the win.

    Fans were riding high again, and the light at the end of the tunnel was only getting brighter.

    Kurtley Beale throws a pass

    AAP Image/Dave Hunt

    The Spring tour
    The Wallabies landed in Japan en route to the United Kingdom full of confidence, with the Brave Blossoms hosting Australia for the first time on home turf.

    Foley was rested, and with no specialist flyhalf picked for the tour – still a bizarre move, months later – utility back Hodge was given the number ten jersey. And he made a good fist of it, providing decent direction in a pretty simple gameplan, and kicking nine conversions from as many attempts in the comfortable 63-30 win in Tokyo.

    To Cardiff, and though the recent record is very much in Australia’s favour, the Wales match was highly entertaining. Three first-half tries put Australia well ahead at the break, but the second period was largely dominated by the Welsh, particularly with skipper Michael Hooper in the sin bin. But the Wallabies new-found confidence to hold out games again came through, the 29-21 win Australia’s 13th straight over Wales.

    A similarly one-sided record with England loomed next, but not in a good way for the tourists. And just as Wallabies fans were thinking the worst of 2017 was in the rear-view mirror, it was there right in front of us again.

    After conceding a lopsided penalty count against Wales, it was more of the same ill-disciplined nonsense and poor reactions all-round – on the field, in the coaches’ box, and throughout the post-mortems. Hooper became the most yellow-carded player in international rugby, and Cheika once again endeared himself to the cameras.

    Michael Hooper

    Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

    Once the ref-blaming over disallowed tries died down, we were left with a disappointingly lacklustre performance from the Wallabies littered with poor decision-making and a complete dearth of urgency. The senior players let the side down badly and the younger players had no idea what how to get in the game. All the improvement we thought we seen over the previous month vanished in 80 minutes at Twickenham.

    And that would’ve been a bad enough note to finish on, but Scotland had other ideas about that. The Scots confirmed their rising chances for next year’s Six Nations with a commanding 53-24 win at Murrayfield.

    Leading 17-12 at half-time, the home side took full advantage of the red card handed out to Sekope Kepu, running riot in the second half to score six tries to two. If the scoreboard in Sydney didn’t really reflect Scotland’s dominance back in June, it certainly did the second time around.

    The loss sunk the Wallabies to a 7-5-2 win-loss-draw record for 2017, but that mirrors very little of how they finished the season. It would’ve been disappointing if we hadn’t been in this position before. Cheika used a lot of players in 2017, another dozen or so debutants among them, but it still feels like we’re as far away as ever from knowing what the best side looks like.

    The Wallabies lost their direction, lost their attacking shape and by the end of the season just had no answers at all. Everything learnt previously had been forgotten, and that stung.

    And if that paragraph sounds familiar, it’s a straight cut-and-paste from the 2016 season review. There were promising signs along the way in 2017, but we’ll be starting 2018 in essentially the same place.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (120)

    • Roar Guru

      December 28th 2017 @ 7:39am
      Machooka said | December 28th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      Thanks Brett… isn’t it amazing what you can do with ‘cut-and-paste’. Sadly.

      Happy NY to all!

      • Columnist

        December 28th 2017 @ 11:12am
        Brett McKay said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        Next year, I’m worried I’ll be able to cut-and-paste, find-and-replace…

        • Roar Guru

          December 28th 2017 @ 12:00pm
          jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

          Brett – thanks for all your articles this year – I appreciate what you put in.

          I’m hopeful that a few players will step up to force Cheika’s hand and give us a new narrative next year. I don’t expect the finished article but solid improvement from our current position.

          I’m hoping the rise of Taniela Tupou continues which brings Alan Alaalatoa back into contention for loosehead and relegates Tom Robertson from the matchday 23.

          Tolu Latu to get over his off-field issues and along with Jordan Uelese have commanding years to push for TPN’s back up position.

          That Tui, Arnold and Rodda can stay fit to lock out with Coleman and Simmons.

          That Pocock returns without missing a beat and that the form of some other backrowers (see next paragraph) sees Hooper either take his game to the next level or move to an Ardi Savea like bench role. I recognise that means a change of captain but we need to pick the right players before we name the team leader.

          I’m hoping that Caleb Timu, Isi Naisarani and Rob Valetini rise into contention, that Jack Dempsey returns to fitness and that we can play with some bigger bodies in the back row. If Hanigan’s game improves, great, if not I’m enthused about the backrowers above.

          That Christian Lealiifano and Jono Lance have strong years on the paddock to give us options beyond Foley.

          That Sefania Naivalu, Taqele Naiyaravoro and Tom Banks come into contention in the back three.

          Couple all those players above with Sio, Kepu, Simmons, Kerevi, Kuridrani, Koroibete, Hodge, Beale, Hunt, Genia, Gordon, Powel and Phipps.

          Then we have to be more consistent than we have been – if most of those players can stay fit and find form then we’ll take some major strides.

          Then we just need Cheika to pick them and Grey to simplify his defensive structure!

          • December 28th 2017 @ 12:33pm
            Fionn said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

            Very good summary, Jez.

            • Roar Guru

              December 28th 2017 @ 1:11pm
              jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

              The other guy I omitted is Slipper. Hopefully he can put his injuries behind him and push to be a contender as well.

              • December 28th 2017 @ 1:22pm
                Harry said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

                Great posting but IMO should stay at tighthead where we are under strength. I would like to see Tupou at loosehead actually as I still don;t see him turning in dominant performances – the opposite actually – at NRC level, let alone SR or test level, in the 3 jersey at the scrum, despite his excellent and dynamic work around the park – though he needs to work on his tackling technique, he goes too high and will be giving away cards at the top level.
                I am sure Jeznez you will appreciate my lament that potentially a decade long tighthead in Lomax was lost to Australian rugby. Lomax leaving a far bigger blow than any back. Think the kiwi’s have already stuck him in the Maori team to get him tied to NZ.

              • Roar Guru

                December 28th 2017 @ 1:36pm
                jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

                I never got a good look at Lomax but hearing quite a bit of talk about him. Regardless any depth we give away in that position upsets me.

                Still grinding my teeth over Mike Alaalatoa.

              • December 28th 2017 @ 3:29pm
                Harry said | December 28th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

                Yes fully agree Mike Alaalatoa as well. I’m sorry for picking on an individual, but how can so much be given to Robertson over both MAA and Lomax?

            • Roar Guru

              December 28th 2017 @ 1:28pm
              jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

              I just ran through the exercise of putting those candidates into what a 31 man world cup squad would look like and it is telling where the depth options are:

              3 Hookers:
              Polota-Nau, Uelese, Latu – not much behind these three

              5 Props (two TH, two LH and a two sided player):
              Kepu, Tupou, Sio, Slipper, Alaalatoa – again not much behind these five

              3 locks:
              Coleman, Arnold, Tui – back ups in Rodda, Simmons, Enever, Philip

              2 Opensides:
              Pocock, Hooper – back up from Hardwick, other options like McMahon/Gill are o/s

              4 6/8’s:
              Naisarani, Valetini, Dempsey, Timu – inexperienced group but Hanigan is unproven and Timani has been out of form

              3 halves:
              Genia, Phipps, Gordon – back up from Powell, questions open on Ruru, Louwrens etc

              2 5/8’s:
              Foley, Lance – Cooper out of favour, further cover from those named below

              2 IC’s:
              Beale, Lealiifano – back up Hunt

              2 OC’s:
              Kuridrani, Kerevi

              2 wingers:
              Koriebete, Naivalu – back up Speight, Naiyaravoro

              2 Hybrid wing/F/B/utilities:
              Hodge, Banks

              1 FB:

              • Roar Guru

                December 28th 2017 @ 2:29pm
                PeterK said | December 28th 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

                Good work.

                I wouldn’t have Enever as an option , he didn’t impress. Younger twin Arnold could be a back up option by then.

                McMahon will be available by RWC 2019.

                I would have Holloway as a possible option by 2019.

                Sad that Stizaker has dropped right out when he has the best pass of the listed scrumhalves.

                Surely DHP would push TN out as a backup since he is a f/b option as well.

              • Roar Guru

                December 28th 2017 @ 3:14pm
                jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

                Good pick up on DHP. Would have to see him in the Hybrid group with Hodge and Banks.

              • December 28th 2017 @ 9:06pm
                Dave_S said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:06pm | ! Report

                Great posts, jeznez.

          • Roar Guru

            December 28th 2017 @ 2:23pm
            PeterK said | December 28th 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

            ECHO THAT, VERY GOOD POST jeznez.

            One very big spanner in the works.

            I too hoped Hooper would be benched for Pocock with the emergence of a genuine no 8 in Naisarani.

            However due to his visa running out end of 2015 and getting a new one in March 2016 he is NOT eligible for the wallabies until March 2019.


            I believe RA is asking for a review and hope they win. It is not as if he played rugby in that 3 months away.

            IMO both Hooper and Pocock will start if Naisarani is not available.

            • Roar Guru

              December 28th 2017 @ 3:22pm
              jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

              That is frustrating. Hope the appeal works out – otherwise we’ll just need to be patient.

              Is there a risk that he gets swept up in the new five year rule?

              • Roar Guru

                December 28th 2017 @ 4:48pm
                PeterK said | December 28th 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

                no since the rule starts on jan 1st 2018 in effect

              • Columnist

                December 28th 2017 @ 7:26pm
                Brett McKay said | December 28th 2017 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

                The same sort of thing delayed Speight from memory – he went back to NZ for a month or two, didn’t play any rugby, but the ruling was that it pushed his residency period back…

              • Roar Guru

                December 28th 2017 @ 10:39pm
                PeterK said | December 28th 2017 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

                Brett – My recollection was speight played in the NPC and that is why it was pushed back.

                However a three month stint with Waikato in New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship at the end of the 2011 Super Rugby season has delayed his eligibility by almost a year.


              • December 28th 2017 @ 11:20pm
                Bakkies said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:20pm | ! Report

                ‘no since the rule starts on jan 1st 2018 in effect’

                Jan 1 2021.

              • Roar Guru

                December 29th 2017 @ 8:06am
                PeterK said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

                bakkies – think about it, there was a reason I said 2018 in effect.

                The 3 year rule was grandfathered so 31/12/2020 is the last day a 3 year qualification can apply.

                2020 – 3 years (old rule) is 2017 so the last day players can join a country to qualify using the 3 year rule is 31/12/2017. From 1/1/2018 3 years takes them past 2020 so in effect from 2018 players need 5 years to qualify.

              • December 29th 2017 @ 9:07am
                Bakkies said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

                Peter from what I read from Irish commentators about the new eligibility laws it doesn’t affect contracts signed before the end of 2020.

            • January 2nd 2018 @ 3:44pm
              Mmmmm..k said | January 2nd 2018 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

              I doubt they’ll bench the captain.

              Hooper is an excellent player, one of the world’s best.
              Most…no, ALL teams would want him in their squad.

              It’s the unfortunate truth that other teams in world rugby have better players than Australia and SA. Fans can’t accept that and look for somebody to blame.
              For example, how many Wallabies would make the Irish or English packs, 3-4 of 13 imo.
              OK but surely Australia has better backs, right?
              Better than Sexton, Murray, Farrell, Youngs?
              No and those guys make a massive difference.
              Kerevi, Serfontein, Kuridrani and Kriel vs Ringrose, Aki, Joseph, Tuilagi, Henshaw and others is debatable and both England and Ireland have better wing options than SA at least.

              It’s also my opinion that, with the exception of France, that all of the 6 nations teams have better coaching staff than SA and Australia.

          • December 28th 2017 @ 3:46pm
            Cliff (Bishkek) said | December 28th 2017 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

            Jeznez, just a quick question – why do you retain Simmons and Phipps? Simmons is a maybe but Phipps must be a definite no!

            • Roar Guru

              December 28th 2017 @ 5:05pm
              jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

              He had a couple of good games this year. I don’t think the young guys have necessarily overtaken him yet but to his credit he responded well to being dropped in favour of Gordon at the Tahs.

              Wasn’t able to maintain the better standards beyond a couple of matches. He tends to be fine as an impact player – his pass is generally ok until he begins to tire.

              Therefore, I’m hugely in favour of giving the young guys a crack ahead of him. They do need to prove themselves though

              Cheika really needs to be giving the young guys a chance to prove themselves or not.

            • December 28th 2017 @ 11:21pm
              Bakkies said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:21pm | ! Report

              Phipps shouldn’t be in the Wallabies if he doesn’t start for the Tahs.

          • Columnist

            December 28th 2017 @ 7:25pm
            Brett McKay said | December 28th 2017 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

            Cheers Jez, I’m with you, I think there’s some pretty handy talent on that list of yours, and hopefully they can all have really strong Super Rugby seasons heading into June. It’d be fantastic if it’s a genuinely hard call to narrow the first squad of the year down…

          • December 28th 2017 @ 8:38pm
            Canetragic said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

            All yes except Phipps. No Phipps please…..

          • January 1st 2018 @ 6:34am
            P2R2 said | January 1st 2018 @ 6:34am | ! Report

            OMG with all of those names one would think it is a Pacific Island Team….

    • December 28th 2017 @ 7:40am
      bluffboy said | December 28th 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Good Morning Brett, yes unfortunately a fair assessment of 2017.
      I really want to stop beating the Cheika drum, but how can you not.
      Yes he has brought in plenty of new blood, but I and along with most question the criteria most were selected in the first place. For me it’s the attitude that’s is unforgivable. Not just his, but what is filtering down through the team. How can you play with such inconsistency week to week other than preparation, game plan and mind games.
      I’m happy he is addressing fitness and skills, but its desire that breads champions.
      One thing that has always stuck with me over the years, it was an interview with Grizz Wylie, when he took charge for the AB’s. A reporter asked him, “what are you going to teach the squad”. He replied “Teach them, I am not going to teach them anything, they can already play, that’s why they are All Blacks, no, no, no, I’m going to motivate them, that’s my job”.
      100% there is the talent here in Australia. Unfortunately until the inform players are selected and motivated the roller coaster will continue.

      • Columnist

        December 28th 2017 @ 11:15am
        Brett McKay said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        Bluff, what’s interesting in that Grizz Wylie quote is that we know Cheika is a good motivator – he’s arguably a better motivator than coach, and you only have to look at the Waratahs before and after his time with them for evidence.

        But you’re right, I certainly fear the roller coaster will continue for a little while yet…

        • December 28th 2017 @ 12:54pm
          RahRah said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

          Therein lies the problem Brett. If we look at Cheika’s history, he has always had success taking over fragmented and disparate teams with talent but no spirit, building them into cohesive units and motivating them to a short term success. The blocks were already there, he just had to bring them together, and bring them together well he did.
          However, beyond that short term success, we can see that Cheika has no real rugby brain, his strategy is singular and one dimensional, and his selection policies erratic and inconsistent. Unfortunately like Captain Ahab he persists belligerently and almost as a recalcitrant with a flawed plan and strategy that we see unfold in front of us as the season progresses. Unfortunately every year, the WB’s consistently pull one great game out of their fundamental orifi (my guess at the plural), and most think that we have turned the corner and the Messiah has risen once again.
          We will not reach a higher level under the current regime, from board level to the kit manager.

        • December 28th 2017 @ 1:14pm
          bluffboy said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

          I don’t think there is much of an argument, motivator vs coach.
          To call him a good motivator, that maybe fair, but since when has “good’ been the qualification to get the top job.
          This is the problem for me, when motivation turns to mind games. If this is all you bring to the table, its unavoidable.
          This is when inconsistent performances (roller coaster) becomes the norm. Until professional rugby grows up and reaches its potential that it could be, we will all have to settle for “good”.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 7:45am
      Jamie said | December 28th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Hi Brett

      Once again it is great to read one of your articles, I have spent the last couple of months OS and it was just what the doctor ordered (No rugby talk). I am now refreshed and ready for 2018.

      My wish list for next year:

      Consistent solid performance vs Kiwi sides in SR (ideally Tahs)

      Winning the Ireland series

      Please please please Wallabies turn up for the Sydney bledisloe test, we all know what’s coming so switch on NOW. If you need a warm up game please arrange one

      Rams to make the finals of the NRC

      Look forward to a better 2018

      • December 28th 2017 @ 8:46am
        Kane said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        The Irish test series is going to be a huge indicator of how the season will go.

        Maybe some tougher matches in June will ready the squad for the Bledisloe opener?

        • December 28th 2017 @ 9:15am
          Jamie said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          I sincerely hope so. I also think the key will be selecting players in the right positions.

        • December 28th 2017 @ 11:30pm
          Bakkies said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:30pm | ! Report

          ‘Maybe some tougher matches in June will ready the squad for the Bledisloe opener?’

          That hasn’t worked just look at the 3-0 series loss to England.

      • Columnist

        December 28th 2017 @ 11:16am
        Brett McKay said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        Think I covered most of those off in my own Christmas wishlist, Jamie, so hopefully weight of wish number can only help!

      • January 1st 2018 @ 6:36am
        P2R2 said | January 1st 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

        Switch ON NOW…c’mon mate….they are all at the beach having barbies and checking out the talent….they wont be back until after the summer has gone…

    • December 28th 2017 @ 8:09am
      Redsfan1 said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      Samu Kerevi personifies the current Wallabies spirit: full of confidence pre game, lazy in defence, and consistently rewarded for poor performances.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 8:49am
        bluffboy said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

        He is not the only one in last year’s boat.

        Stephen Moore
        Sekope Kepu (good at times though)
        Tom Robertson
        Scott Sio (also good at times)
        Ned Hanigan (could be ok, worth a bit more time and the right games)
        Michael Hooper (good when he can be covered for openside)
        Lopeti Timani
        Nick Phipps
        Bernard Foley
        Kurtley Beale (every New Zealanders favourite Wallaby inconsistency is his consistency)
        Tevita Kuridrani (also good at times)
        Curtis Rona (has the best PR team, what has he done again)

        • December 28th 2017 @ 11:07am
          Rebellion said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          I agree with all of the names listed above but would add Rob Simmons and Rory Arnold.
          Arnold has serious ability and about 1in 6 games absolutely plays the house down but then slips back into 2nd gear. I don’t think we need another Rob Simmons, so he should be given a last crack and told he won’t be considered for the rest of the season if he drops his intensity
          Strongly agree with comments on Curtis Rona – a myth invented by disgruntled Force fans

          • December 28th 2017 @ 11:23am
            Fionn said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

            Other than his brain fart on the Spring Tour I think Kepu was one of the best Wallabies. Sio is easily our best LHP also.

            Cannot agree with Arnold. I think people hold him to too high of a standard. His lows are nowhere near as bad as people like to make out, in my opinion.

            Kuridrani is Kuridrani. He does his job in defence and is running the ball decently. I just wish he had better distribution skills.

            • December 28th 2017 @ 12:35pm
              bluffboy said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

              Hi Fionn
              Yes I here what you are saying re Kepu and Sio, but while the bar is them and no one is seriously pushing them they are and can be, in that boat of non consistency. Which is the real problem.

              • Roar Guru

                December 28th 2017 @ 12:45pm
                jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

                Tupou is the key there. If he can become a strong international TH candidate it puts pressure on Kepu and opens Alan Alaalatoa up to pressure Sio on the LH side.

              • Roar Guru

                December 28th 2017 @ 2:34pm
                PeterK said | December 28th 2017 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

                Kepu and Alaalatoa for THP and then have Slipper and Sio for LHP’s.

                I don’t want Tupou in the team until he can scrum at least as well as one of the above.

              • December 28th 2017 @ 3:56pm
                Cliff (Bishkek) said | December 28th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

                Jaznez and OK – the “for and against” for Tupou are there to be seen far and wide. Tupou is a future prospect but at the moment he is too raw and too weak in the scrum. He needs more time and is not ready for international level and I seriously doubt his likely success at SR. He is big, fast, can break lines but he does not do well what he is meant to do on the field – scrum!

                I think he is big but too weak (not strong enough) in the gut and back muscles to impact a scrum. He needs growth and the correct strength program – for him to improve.

                2018 is not his year!! Stay with the 4 mentioned by PK and hope that 4 are able to improve and handle the positions.

              • Roar Guru

                December 28th 2017 @ 5:07pm
                jeznez said | December 28th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

                I don’t disagree – everything I’ve said about Tupou is a wish/if statement.

                Apologies if the post on a potential world cup squad wasn’t clear on that. Everywhere else I’ve clearly called that out.

          • December 28th 2017 @ 1:00pm
            RahRah said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            Rona played out of position in a totally confusing and inept defensive strategy which ALL of the backline failed in. He is a quality player.

        • December 28th 2017 @ 6:05pm
          Redsfan1 said | December 28th 2017 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

          Yes you’re right Bluff Boy!

      • December 28th 2017 @ 11:21am
        Fionn said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

        ‘Consistently rewarded for poor performances’.

        He was dropped after his Bledisloe 1 performance, and then mostly performed well in the rest of his performances, and was one of our better players on the Spring Tour.

        • December 28th 2017 @ 3:57pm
          Cliff (Bishkek) said | December 28th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

          Cheika again!!

        • December 28th 2017 @ 6:08pm
          Redsfan1 said | December 28th 2017 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

          I saw no improvement in defence. I just articles raving about his performance against Japan… A team ranked lower then us by some margin and yet put 30 points on!

          Not to mention record losses to England and Scotland.

          Yes to be fair Kerevi continued his shocking lack of defensive effort.

          • December 28th 2017 @ 9:53pm
            Fionn said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

            No, I don’t think he did. I think he made most is his tackles at 12.

            He was also the only player threatening against England in attack.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 8:32am
      Kane said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Brett, enjoyed your article, really sums up the season.

      I think 2017 is a real flush the dunny and move on type of year. Bring on 2018.

      If 2018 is a repeat of 2017 is Cheika still taking the team o Japan?

      Happy New Year!

      • Columnist

        December 28th 2017 @ 11:18am
        Brett McKay said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        Thanks Kane – ‘flush the dunny and move on’ is the perfect summary of 2017. You could’ve saved me 1500 words!!

    • December 28th 2017 @ 9:17am
      Galatzo said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      First rate summation, Brett. 2018 looks slightly brighter with the return of our best forward and our best back although there are a few spots that need amping up if we’re to compete in a very tough schedule. Perhaps too tough.

      Versus Ireland –

      Saturday June 9, Suncorp Stadium

      Saturday June 16, AAMI Park

      Saturday June 23, Allianz Stadium

      8 Aug TBC All Blacks ANZ Stadium, Sydney

      25 Aug 7:35 PM All Blacks Eden Park, Auckland

      8 Sep TBC Boks Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

      15 Sep TBC Pumas Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
      29 Sep TBC Boks Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

      6 Oct TBC Pumas TBC

      • Columnist

        December 28th 2017 @ 11:19am
        Brett McKay said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

        The Ireland series can provide so much, Galatzo. Should be the perfect way to tune up for the Bledisloe and TRC…

        • Roar Guru

          December 28th 2017 @ 2:35pm
          PeterK said | December 28th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

          I can see Ireland winning 3-0 because Cheika will not change tactics or selections.

          • December 28th 2017 @ 3:59pm
            Cliff (Bishkek) said | December 28th 2017 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

            PK I cannot find the words to describe a more meaningful statement. It is futuristic and I believe you will get a Pulitzer Price for being able to sum up a Rugby Series before it begins.

            Aside from that – I think you are 100% correct. Cause = Cheika! AND – I hope to be corrected!!

          • December 29th 2017 @ 6:40am
            Kane said | December 29th 2017 @ 6:40am | ! Report

            If South Africa found a way to win their series against the Irish then I believe the Wallabies will. Man for man I believe the Wallabies are better, heck they may even have a more intelligent coach…

            • December 29th 2017 @ 2:45pm
              Adsa said | December 29th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

              Big call Kane.

      • January 1st 2018 @ 6:41am
        P2R2 said | January 1st 2018 @ 6:41am | ! Report

        ABs to win in Sydney and then The Garden of Eden awaits – another humiliation??? what will be interesting is how the WBs come away from the Irish tests….3-0 will not be a good look….4-0 against England and heading the same way with Ireland…

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