For the first time in eight years, I’m not involved in Super Rugby. Here’s what I’m watching out for

Dave McDuling Columnist

By Dave McDuling, Dave McDuling is a Roar Expert New author!


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    New Melbourne Rebels head coach Dave Wessels. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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    It’s Friday. The sun is shining, Sydney’s CBD is filled with busy people with things to do, meetings to attend and deadlines to meet before the weekend.

    I’m one of them, but my mind has drifted from the spreadsheet in front of me and the report I’m meant to be finishing, because this Friday is a little bit different.

    It is 220 days since my last game of Super Rugby. Tonight marks the start of the first Super Rugby campaign that I haven’t been involved in almost eight years.

    For professional rugby players in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the culmination of months of hard work through the gruelling summer heat.

    The first game of the season is always an exciting time of year, training intensity lifts another gear during the week, the pressure builds and the time for less talk and more action has arrived.

    There will be a range of emotions being felt among players this week. For some, it’s sheer relief that another pre-season is over. For others, pure excitement that it’s finally time to get back on the big stage again.

    Whether you have just been selected for your first or 80th Super Rugby game, it is a massive achievement and honour to play the game at that level.

    Those involved should never forget how lucky they are, how much hard work and discipline got them to this point because no doubt family, friends and teammates haven’t.

    Spare a thought for those squad players that weren’t selected. It in no way diminishes the effort put in over pre-season.

    From the bloke who was a starter last year that is now on the bench to the 20-year-old that has just been told he is not going on tour, keeping the whole squad engaged, focused and committed is critical to a successful campaign.

    The well-managed teams with a strong culture will be on top of this. They tend to be the teams in the mix come the business end of the season.

    It is critical that Australian rugby has a successful year on the field this year. Making a competitive start to Super Rugby is vital to changing perceptions about the health of the code in this country.

    As a player not even a year out of the professional game, I’m not prepared to completely put my neck on the line with any bold predictions. But it will be fascinating to see how some of the following themes play out.

    • Will we see any new innovative variations for the post-Jake-Bernie Brumbies or will it be business as usual for the most successful side of recent years?
    • What impact will the return of Kurtley Beale and the introduction of highly regarded up and coming assistant coach Simon Cron have on the underachieving ‘Tahs?
    • How will Dave Wessels’ manage the team dynamics of his large composite squad at the Melbourne Rebel Force?
    • Will Brad Thorn’s bold selection calls and school of hard knocks methods pay off at the Reds?
    • Will our new ‘local’ rivals, the Sunwolves be competitive or offer an opportunity for easy log points for the Aussie Conference? (I can hear the cries from the Saffas and Kiwis already!)

    I’ll enjoy getting answers to these questions over the coming months from the comfort of the grandstand or the living room. But for now, I better get back to that spreadsheet.

    Dave McDuling
    Dave McDuling

    Dave McDuling is a former professional Rugby player who had stints at the Reds, Sharks, Canterbury and Waratahs. He is now pursuing a business career in the corporate sector and an MBA from the University of Sydney.

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • Roar Guru

      February 23rd 2018 @ 2:44pm
      pformagg said | February 23rd 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

      Welcome Dave, even if I had to google your name 🙂

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 3:07pm
      Plug said | February 23rd 2018 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

      Kurtley is too deadly not to have an impact Dave.

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 3:34pm
        Jerome said | February 23rd 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

        Some might say that you are too deadly mr plug

        • February 23rd 2018 @ 9:56pm
          Realist said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:56pm | ! Report


          Deadly to a coach (Whatsapp), deadly in the pub, deadly at Hungry Jacks at 4am, deadly to his captain (Gareth Delve)

          Not very deadly under the high ball, nor beating a man one-on-one (since 2010) or when trying to make a tackle

          Though deadly in 2010 and very good in 2015 & 2017 – in general he is massively overrated by Tah fans

          • February 23rd 2018 @ 10:48pm
            qwas said | February 23rd 2018 @ 10:48pm | ! Report

            Better to be rated highly by your own teams fans than anyone else. They are the ones that see the most of you. Plus, you say deadly in 2010 and very good in 2015 & 2017. You can add 2014 when he won the waratahs the comp and 2016-17 when he got Wasps to the final. So that’s 2014-2017, safe to say he’s just very good then.

          • February 24th 2018 @ 2:33am
            Max said | February 24th 2018 @ 2:33am | ! Report

            Kurtley is the last of the “Brat pack” once he is disposed of, Australian rugby will flourish!

      • Columnist

        February 24th 2018 @ 8:39am
        Dave McDuling said | February 24th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        Time will tell Plug. If the Tahs pack can do their job they have some talent to be unleashed in the back line

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 3:14pm
      Knightcrawler said | February 23rd 2018 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

      Go back to russia

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 4:14pm
      mzilikazi said | February 23rd 2018 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

      Nice article, Dave. Good to see a new writer coming along.

      “Will Brad Thorn’s bold selection calls and school of hard knocks methods pay off at the Reds?” Not long to wait for the start of that answer….just changed my pick to Rebels win….be happy to be wrong, as a Queenslander !

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 4:57pm
      Akari said | February 23rd 2018 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

      Nice one and thank you, Dave.

      You are one of those hard working players that rarely get the accolades when teams win as it’s hard to be seen or heard when all the attention of commentators and the media is nearly always focused on the Hoopers, Bealseys and Folaus in our game. It’s good to see that you have transitioned and seemingly successfully (even if reluctantly as father time so demands) into a new career.

      Thank you for joining Roar and I look forward to your observations in the coming rugby season and beyond.

      • Columnist

        February 24th 2018 @ 8:44am
        Dave McDuling said | February 24th 2018 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        Thanks Akari. Might still be a few good years left in these legs but paying the bills a different way at the moment. Look forward to offering some different perspectives as the season progresses

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 5:04pm
      Cole said | February 23rd 2018 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

      Thanks Dave. Not sure if this is your first article? But welcome to the Roar all the same. Look forward to more commentary from you throughout the season.