The Roar
The Roar

Sinclair Whitbourne

Roar Rookie

Joined May 2017

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He started with a horror of a kick across field straight into the arms of an Otago player, from memory. The thing I liked about him in that game was that he appeared not to get flustered by things like that and he built back into the game. His temperament is one of the things that really appeals to me. Harrison is also managing pretty well so far at NSW in that department.

I had not really seen Deegan before and thought he also did a good job against Natal last weekend.

Can Noah Lolesio be Australia’s triple threat at No.10?

I have wondered if Toomua has suffered in the estimation of many because of his difficult start to test rugby against NZ at 10 in 2013? Pat Howard in 1993 had a similar problem? Beware the curse of the years ending in 3?

Can Noah Lolesio be Australia’s triple threat at No.10?

Agree AH. I think McKay’s influence is being seen in the way the backline is moving and operating, so there is some hope there. I am pretty ambivalent about how Thorn went about things in his first season, or two, but for the sake of my beloved Qld and for Oz rugby, I want to see the project succeed. It does seem to me that some credit (how much I don’t know) for JOC’s successful return has to be given to the set up at the Reds.

My one reservation about the Brumbies in the early days (and it still lingers, as it did with the Force in WA) was that Qld, with a pretty small player base, lost a lot of players to these set ups. So did NSW but they had/have a larger base, I understand. However, without the Brumbies it is hard to feel other than that Oz would have been much the poorer since 1996. They have consistently been the leading Oz province and players almost always improve there; they don’t always do as well once they move on.

The real highlights for the Brumbies

No prob’s – thanks for taking time to apologise. There’s a great Louden Wainwright song on the difficulties of having a strange name ‘TSMNWA’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIcnaVXRA3k

Slipper is another great redemption story isn’t he?

The real highlights for the Brumbies

And it would also be an excellent midfield, although my suspicion is that unless Cruden decides to reverse his commitment to Japan next year he has little prospect of being selected. His age and other options may also tell against him. He is a favourite of mine but NZ have Josh Ioanae, the chap who’s keeping him at 12 at Otago right now and some might even push a case for at least one of the three 10’s at the Orcs.

I rate Laumape and ALB very highly indeed but fitting all the outstanding candidates into limited positions is problematic. I like using existing combinations but it is not essential. I suspect that there will be temptation to consider Ennor for a wing spot (not a great idea for mine but…) and a lot will depend on who NZ are playing and the gameplan/s they want to put into effect. Laumape appeals against teams like England, for example.

Super Rugby: Five talking points from Round 4

Robinson was great value – another of those guys that generates a lot more than you might expect. Miller, though smaller, put me in mind of this on the weekend. Some of these guys provide huge returns.

The spiritual third-coming of James O’Connor

Something in that ‘team’ element isn’t there? I was/am a big fan of der Link and that side but perhaps their strength was their individuality and maybe it was a bit looser than this lot. The running lines, the support play and the smooth movement onto the ball look very much like McKay. For both better and worse, I will say that this side has no QC. He was the closest I have seen to Ella on attack and his work organising in defence (especially recent years) was often underestimated, but he did have very well covered flaws. Link got the best out of him and I don’t think he was well managed after that. I think he’d have been excellent with someone like Rennie. But he’s gone and that’s that.

The spiritual third-coming of James O’Connor

Wells stood out against Natal, didn’t he, against a really tough opponent?

The backrow thing has been like a microcosm of the issues with Oz rugby over the last 15, or so, years. For great backrowers at 6 and 8, you really feel that no-one has managed to surpass Toutai (son of Roger, if one wants to do a Gordon Bray) and Finnegan, although there have been some promising candidates who just haven’t quite come up to snuff for various reasons – selection, injuries, gameplan and so on.

Last year Fionn made a similar comment about centres (Mortlock being the last great one) and at first I was surprised but then when I thought about it… there’s been plenty of good ones but no-one who really dominated in the way that Herbert, Little, Horan and Mortlock tended to.

The Wrap: Lazy thinking reinforces rugby’s negative narrative

I am pleased to see the change (and surprised). Agree that 12 still looks his best spot but now he’s at 10 I hope they stick with him and don’t chop the first time he has a below par game – the 10 spot has been something of a revolving door under Thorn (poisoned chalice even). Looks like Jim McKay is making his mark, too, with the backs running good lines and supporting each other – shades of 2010-13?

The spiritual third-coming of James O’Connor

He definitely has something, doesn’t he? Some similarities to Owen Finnegan, another big, backrow pest at the ruck and heavy hitter, with an eye for an opportunity and a good link with his backs.

The real highlights for the Brumbies

They have so many great options in the midfield. Like you, I think Canterbury will keep building. they often drop an early game. I like an all Canterbury midfield of Mounga, Goodhue and Ennor. Good combinations. Tough on guys like ALB and the Wellington tank at 12 but that’s life.

Super Rugby: Five talking points from Round 4

Slipper did a fine job of work against Moli on the weekend didn’t he? He was giving up about 13 kgs but he is shorter and pretty good at the wrestling aspects of prop play. I like Sio off the bench, when the game has broken up a bit. He can overextend a bit at scrum but he showed real quality when the Brumbies were down a forward in the scrum in H2.

Kata struck me as being a rarity in a guy who has just come over from League – he seems to have good rugby instincts.

Super Rugby: Five talking points from Round 4

The problem for Havilli last season was that he didn’t really fit the pattern the AB’s were trying to play to break the rush defence of the top sides and to cover the relative decline in their forward pack’s ability to grind it out with the best. Once the Leering Jester was injured it forced a change with BB moving to the back and Mounga getting a go at 10. There was an excellent article on Rugby Pass ( I think) showing this.

Personally, I agree with you and Havilli can cover more positions if he is on the bench, which could even allow a 6/2 split. NZ still look to be struggling to find truly dominant replacements at lock, 6 and 8. There are some prospects on the rise and some familiar faces showing something and Bulky Barrett is a pretty fine player but they are not quite where the likes of Kaino, Read et al were in their prime. Of course even for NZ they were something like once in a generation players….

Super Rugby: Five talking points from Round 4

Cheers! I am still enjoying the afterglow of the weekend. Love it while it lasts!

The real highlights for the Brumbies

Agree the box kick has a place if used judiciously, kicked accurately and well chased. Sadly that is a lot of add ons for Oz yet, as you say, other countries manage it. Another example of skill deficits and poor awareness/coaching here?

The Brumbies and the Reds should provide most of Rennie's Wallabies

He also offers the height you want in at least one backrower for the lineout, enabling one to do like the Brumbies on Saturday and pick two quite short guys in Samu and, especially, Miller. I thought Valetini had one of his best yet on the weekend. The Waikato BR is a very mobile, powerful unit and they rarely managed to get real dominance for any sustained period. Miller played out of his skin and Samu has impressed me this season, especially when the chips are really down. looked like he might have taken a pretty hard knock in the rib area, so hoping nothing too serious. I think he is the key part in that Brumbies backrow. Agree re McCaffrey’s smarts btw.

The Brumbies and the Reds should provide most of Rennie's Wallabies

All true, but a big part of me not only wants to live in the past but wants to regress. Regress to a hairier, meatier, Black Oak Arkansas time, when baldness, stents and Spotify playlists were far, far away. And so were emojis and ‘awesome’.

The Wrap: Lazy thinking reinforces rugby’s negative narrative

It is an interesting doco and I liked the social analysis aspects. This game, BBQ red meat, red wine and music (got to be eclectic but with a real strain of 70’s boogie) are the real stuff of life. The rest is just the crap we have to get through 5 days a week.

The Wrap: Lazy thinking reinforces rugby’s negative narrative

Stillmissit, I think we are not far apart. In the period c.2005-2013 I felt we lacked some quality in the players, especially in the front row, but since then I have generally felt the raw material was basically there but fitness, smarts, skills were a bit off the pace and then in the period c. 2016 it was also increasingly odd selections and coaching. The loss of a lot of experience and quality this year is a serious issue but then in 1982 a team made up of a lot of untried players pushed the All Blacks hard in a 3 test series in NZ. The game has moved on since then, but sometimes if the chemistry is right, the coaching and selecting on song and other things fall into place…

I am also very conscious that we are still in the very early days of the new season; there are some landmark games against teams like Canterbury, Wellington, Waikato, Natal, W. Province to come. This weekend just gone was a tonic, but it could come crashing back in the next few weeks.

Then we have a new coaching set up (albeit very promising), that really hasn’t had meaningful time with the players and will be crashing straight into a pretty daunting Test season. There are serious cultural issues to come to grips with, both in the team and beyond (see Geoff’s article), injuries and form, refs and law interpretations/changes etc.

I just feel I have seen a lot of flase dawns and we need to give things time. At the Brumbies (there I used a ‘franchise name’ to satisfy the usual suspects who complain that I refer to the power province in the ‘franchise’), McKellar’s first season was pretty awful, but his selections matched his vision as publicly outlined and so did the game plan, even though it mostly wasn’t coming together. So, though the wins weren’t there, I felt a quiet sense of hope. That’s how I feel about Rennie and the coming season.

BTW, I think we a re comparatively spoilt for choice in most forward positions, but getting the selections to match the plan will be the thing. For example, I think Rennie will pick Hooper but I think the structure he plays in and the way he plays will be very different. I don’t think we will see our loosies being isolated out wide as much, getting blown off the ball and smashed. I remain a little anxious about locks, as I am not totally happy about the balance of the options available. Individually we have some locks doing really well, but I like a leaper and a lumper and I think we have mostly lumpers – good ones though.

The Wrap: Lazy thinking reinforces rugby’s negative narrative

Don’t always agree with Spiro and he has his pet hates and loves, but he is a really enjoyable stylist (i.e. ’emperor penguin’ half backs) and he makes a lot of astute observations – whether you see them the same way he does, or not. The balance of this article is about right in terms of enjoying a great pair of results, but also keeping one foot somewhere near the ground.

I would not yet quite write off NSW and Vic, or their players, but today, on form, the overwhelming majority of a squad would be coming from the ACT and Qld.

The Brumbies and the Reds should provide most of Rennie's Wallabies

Thanks for this. I agree that whilst there are plenty of things to worry about and plenty that doesn’t work well, or that irritates, there is still so much to like. I think the way the game is played is a pretty good balance of entertainment with respect for the more complex and unique parts of the game (set piece, continuous contest). I have never stopped loving Super rugby, even in years when Oz sides have been poor. The game here can turn a corner fairly quickly, I think. After the low point in about 1973/74 within 5-6 years the Bledisloe Cup was in Oz hands and we were competitive and more with the very best. I really just hope there is a majority who will see the rebuild as needing 3-4 years before expecting consistent excellence. This season could be anything and there will almost certainly be some failed experiments and poor choices along the way.

The Wrap: Lazy thinking reinforces rugby’s negative narrative

Thanks for the article, Rhys. JOC is certainly playing an important part in getting a hard running backline to function far better than it has for many years now. He is making a much better fist of the position than I thought he would. I wasn’t keen on him coming back at all, so it is good to be proven wrong and great to see him looking happier than he did in 2015 and much more settled than before. Of course he was a very young bloke before his recent return, but some people don’t seem to change and that he does is a huge credit to him. It may also reflect well on the culture at Qld?

My biggest concern remains his kicking from hand. A poor clearing kick late in the game v the Jags led pretty directly to a try and I haven’t seen much to indicate that he can direct the game with the boot. However, that may come with time in the position and he has always been a prodigious talent, so a serviceable kicking game should be achievable. Here’s hoping.

James O’Connor is the best player in Australia, but he needs to put his kicking boots on

Aah. Then you will note that I did not mention leaving out dirks. No handshaking, only one to emerge. I am with the Calvinist. Predestination is silly but if I were a believer I would be a Calvinist. I like my rugby on the Calvinist side. Aaahh… This reinforces the need for them to drink their problems to a happy conclusion. I like Sibelius, Nightwish and Turisas but some ambivalence about Mannerheim (all the Finn supporters will pile on against me here and my respectful apologies to them). However, Calvinism, for all its gloomy appeal shares a similar silly position on Predestination (as if the trinity wasn’t troublesome enough, why introduce a further dubious concept?) to Lutheranism. Could this be the bridge for them both? That volume of Church History becomes so much more important…

Harry do you think Predestination or the theoretical legitimacy of the maul offers more controversy?

Team Finn vs Team Toony

We do, we do. I have always thought that one of the few things that can rival scrums and rucks for philosophical discourse are things like predestination, the nature of the Trinity (you think the issue of the maul and obstruction is tricky?) etc. If you are ever down Canberra way, let me know and we can catch up over an ale to discuss.

Team Finn vs Team Toony

The player roster is decent enough in the context of the times, the coach has some quality to his CV, so it is still too early to definitively write them off. What has really disturbed me is the lack of rugby nous and the periods of the game where they seem to switch off. They could still stage a revival of the kind we have seen a few teams do over the years after poor starts, although I have to say I would be surprised.

I really do think that this is a club/franchise/gaggle that needs a coach with deep roots in the local politics and the ability to mix up being the drunken uncle and the ferocious father. Cheika, Dwyer and McKenzie managed it for brief periods and all had background in Sydney (although McKenzie also had a lot of ‘out of town’ as well). I genuinely feel for NSW supporters because this club really has a history in the professional era (and at least the decade before) of struggling to play to its potential. It isn’t inherently something in the genes or the water, because in other sports they can be a hard nosed powerhouse. Maybe they need to be based out of town (Newcastle/Orange/Albury/Wagga Wagga/Timaru) for a decent chunk of the season, even if they play in the Emerald City?

Too soon for doom and gloom at Waratahs?