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How did a season of such good form slip quietly by?

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27th June, 2019
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If you are one of Australia’s four primary starting flyhalves and you racked up this set of stats (compared to the other three), then surely your name would be bandied around as a contender for a Wallabies jersey come the Rugby Championship.

Most tries scored, highest goal kicking percentage, most total points, equal first in total scoring events (tries and try assists), most line breaks, most kick metres, longest metres per kick, most run metres, highest run metres per game, second highest tackle efficiency percentage, fewest handling errors, fewest turnovers, fewest penalties conceded, fewest kicking errors.

Not a bad set of stats to hand over to your manager if you are looking for a money move, but they are made all the more impressive if you can achieve these in the weakest of the Australian Super Rugby teams – a side that finished second bottom in the competition overall.

They really are quite astonishing, but even as the Bernard Foley and Quade Cooper camps have retreated to their respective corners, the consensus for Wallaby starting ten has defaulted to the very worthy Christian Lealiifano.

But Bryce Hegarty, the owner of the above accomplishments, seems to have been largely ignored in discussions.

There is a caveat in his numbers of course. Of the 15 games played he played, ten were at flyhalf and five were at fullback, which would have aided his run metres numbers.

But most will remember in the early season, when he played three games at fullback, he was firmly stationed in the first receiver slot. Interestingly, his total season possession stats compare favourably to the other flyhalves despite his occasional exile out the back.

It’s also worth noting that, of the six games won by the Reds this year, four came with Hegarty at no.10. One was while he was at fullback, and the other was against the Sunwolves when he didn’t play.

Not a bad ratio for when he was running the cutter, especially picking up some South African scalps and knocking over the eventual Australian conference winners.

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Last year, when Hegarty was moved to fullback at the Waratahs, I wrote that he brought a far greater balance to side, both through his positioning and skill execution, and he has proved again this year that he’s an excellent reader of the game with a set of skills that should at least be tried out at a higher level.

What is required at the next level up?

Low error rates
So often ignored in recent Wallaby selections, but nothing is going to kill you quicker at Test level than errors and turnovers, the biggest of ticks here, Hegarty is the standout in terms of effectiveness.

Offensive threat
The ability to accumulate points on behalf of your team is critical. Goal-kicking, distributing efficiently for those around you and a running game that both stops defenders sliding off you onto the next man while being able to personally take opportunities presented should all be prerequisites for Test selection.

Given the season that Samu Kerevi has had, one can assume Hegarty’s distribution game works just fine, couldn’t hurt to keep this partnership going at Test level either.

Defending
A ten that can defend in his own channel and stop any musical chairs happening behind him is an invaluable asset. Only Lealiifano can beat his tackle efficiency numbers and then only by a whisker.

It would appear highly unlikely that Bryce Hegarty is going to get the tap on the shoulder from the Wallaby coaching team this year, which if selecting on form looks a little short-sighted, but we should acknowledge he has had one hell of a football season.