The Roar
The Roar

Sinclair Whitbourne

Roar Rookie

Joined May 2017









Even the mention of Buck sends a shiver through this particular spine. I still think it is not too late to bring back Buck! He remains a really good commentator on the game and on loose forward play. He identified that Feral Mullet (Squire) ran lines more like an 8 and it was a spot on observation (later confirmed by FM himself).

Read’s defensive lineout work (and challenges at kick off/restart) were outstanding and his judgement in this area will be really hard to replace. I think all the young 8’s still have some polishing to do and I still think there are balance issues at 6 and 8 that are difficult but the 8 situation looks more hopeful now.

Beale exits Waratahs

Sadly, I am pretty confident that he should leave Qld to achieve it. He might struggle for regular game time but I suspect that he would have a lot of work done on his game awareness (not being too critical of that as he is young but…), his kicking and his tackling. Mckay has the Qld backs running some good lines but the skills side and the overall IQ in that side are not too flash and I have reached the point of despair with the head coach, which is hard as I think Thorn does have a lot to contribute but I think the extremely rapid promotion was at least one jump too far, too soon. Let’s hope I have misread this particular chess game/mystery.

Will Dave Rennie remember Australia’s forgotten man?

Beale was a mercurial player and his behaviour often really rankled with me but I admired his fierce competitive spirit, the joy that he often played with, his ability to pull off some unexpected moves and his role in some truly wonderful moments. He played a big part in the good things at NSW in 2014 and 2015 and for Oz in 2015. I struggle to forgive him for his part in the demise of two coaches who did a lot for his career but this is not the time to go to deep into those things. I do believe that some of his on field failures, especially in recent seasons came about because he felt pressure to do too much to lift struggling teams. In terms of his negatives, we have also yet to really hear from him on those things.

For now, let’s remember his brilliance as an 18-19 year old for NSW in the mid-2000’s when there sure as hell wasn’t much to be cheerful about in Oz rugby, his fine performances when NSW contested the final with Canterbury (his kick for Turner to score the first try of the final), his late long distance penalty kick for a rare test win in SA in 2010 and many, many other moments. Let’s also pay tribute to his ability to overcome some real adversity in his life and for putting a pretty light frame through the rugby mill for many, many seasons. Thanks for the great memories and all the best for your next season/s.

Beale exits Waratahs

Of the three really promising young 8’s in the NZ Super sides this season, Sotutu stands out as making the least mistakes, appearing to have the best positional game and to have an old head on young shoulders.

Beale exits Waratahs

On the defensive lapses in the clips, I am struck by the apparent resignation Hodge shows as the huge English overlap is efficiently worked. I wonder if he was one of the players referred to by Michael O’Connor as despairing of Cheika’s plans and demoralised by same?

Will Dave Rennie remember Australia’s forgotten man?

Hodge puts me in mind somewhat of Roger Gould, another tall and relatively powerful back with a huge boot (BTW, did Andre Joubert lead a successful M&A to take over his thighs when Gould retired?). Smarter coaches would have used Hodge’s long range kicking more effectively and more consistently.

I look at his physique and attributes and see a full back as the most simple point to use his key attributes – long boot, long place kick, intelligence and height. He could make a useful centre but to be at 12 (as some have said) I think he’d need to do a lot of work on his right to left passing and bulk up a bit more – his weight is deceptive because he is also tall and would be up against a lot of much chunkier, shorter guys at 12. Your thoughts?

I suspect that Rennie has him pegged as an outside back, which is why Hodge is working hard on his speed.

Will Dave Rennie remember Australia’s forgotten man?

Jock Campbell has many points of similarity with Chris Latham in his first season for NSW in S12. Speed, raw potential, but also a lot of rough edges. I hate to say it but at the moment it is hard not to feel that he should do a Banks and head south to Brumby land, where his game is most likely to be well developed. The head coach does have a Qld connection, which is some balm to my wounded Red soul.

Will Dave Rennie remember Australia’s forgotten man?

Enjoyed this article and the example of Canterbury is a good one. Technical games like rugby require that there be a premium on ‘game smarts’. I suspect that for many elite players the ‘smarts’ are instinctive but they are there. When to go for the ruck pilfer, when to roll the shoulder in the front row at scrum time, when to run the inside line, or run at all, how to enter the tackle and what place to make (short, or long), where your supports are and how good they will be at support if you take ball to ground etc. In Oz this was Qld through the 1970’s and into the 1990’s and the Brumbies from there. In SA it used to be Natal.

Also strongly support the comment about the League outside backs. When will this game learn? I would far rather we spent that money getting an elite technical coach for our tight forwards, or an elite player in the front row who might be a good mentor, for example, who is known for being a clever operator to help our players develop the rat cunning that defines most superior sides with long term records of success. The good news, I think, is that we have a pool of player talent that is very strong and the decade plus weakness in scrummaging has been given a pretty decent make-over, but McCaffrey is spot on when he says smarts is still a deficit. Gibson at NSW identified same (whatever one thinks of his coaching) and its lack is truly apparent at Qld and Vic as well. Welcome to the new frontier, Mr Rennie.

Why Australian rugby needs to bring back the footy player

I don’t know if an outside back was the difference, really, though I always felt Sailor struggled to make the transition to rugby. I thought at the time that Oz were lucky that Watson didn’t penalise them heavily at scrum (although the laws and interp’s then didn’t give the advantage to the dominant scrum that they do today), which would have given the game to England by a wider margin and our forwards, whilst performing extremely well did really struggle to gain parity with what may be one of the best forward packs I think I have ecver seen. Please don’t misread as a criticism of the Oz forwards – I thought they were magnificent but that was one hell of an England pack. Finally, I think the fairly robotic play and predictable patterns had been showing that Oz was at risk of falling off the pace for a while; they had been struggling to beat England since the 1999 RWC (including being comfortably beaten earlier in the 2003 season) and 2003 tests had seen the Bled head back across the ditch. The side lifted emotionally and in terms of performance for the home RWC and were fantastic in getting as far and as close as they did, but I think it papered over some pretty serious cracks.

Super Rugby retrospectives: Chris Latham

Thanks for this. A great example of how a change of environment, a lot of personal dedication and good coaching can take a somewhat callow player with raw potential and turn them into a great. It was interesting to read of the mentoring from Campo and Friend when he was in NSW, as my take on him in his NSW years was that he had speed and good feet, but was feeble defence, somewhat lacking in hardness and risked being just another fringe provincial player. Perhaps a lot of the improvement I ascribed to the set up at Qld was a product of the work/base put in during his NSW period, combined with him maturing as a player. He was a genuine joy to watch and he comes across as a great bloke in this article.

Super Rugby retrospectives: Chris Latham

One of my favourite players to watch – his joy was infectious. He was a very good attacking wing and his positional defence became better and better over time; he was excellent at cover and also in getting in between the ball carrier and support when he was defending. Tackling wasn’t the strongest suite but he was a winger. He was a wonderful team man as well. he ran the water at Gungahlin Eagles when he was recovering from his knee injury and that was, in some ways a real testament to the man. A fine career and one to be proud of.

Little though I think of Thorn’s man management, I am not convinced this is much about Thorn – more about a player on his last leg (the other one being a bit busted) at Super level taking a good opportunity. His time in Oz was always likely to be limited once he finished at the Berrrumbies last year, given his stage of career and he was on a short term contract with Qld. I do hope that money is not going to be wasted on League outside backs – Qld have issues inside and, probably, with direction higher up.

Reds release Speight to France

Thanks for the enjoyable start to my day. I am always cautious about fiddling with the laws of the game, as it tends to result in exactly what the proponents of the change don’t want. I guess the argument with these changes are that it will bed down in a few weeks when coaches and players adjust.

My own view is that if offside is ruled with an iron hand that would create more space – it should be relatively simple to do and requires no significant changes. Once that is bedded down, looking at the Augean stable that is the ruck could be attempted for those with a masochistic bent.

Keeping players off their feet clear of the ball at the ruck would be the thing I would focus on, if I had said tendency. There will always be issues around the ruck – it is the nature of the beast – and there will always be a tension between endless phases off the ruck and the ruck turning into bedlam and encouraging attacking sides to kick possession. It reflects individual preferences, as the two refs on the weekend showed. I think both are very good refs.

What Super Rugby Aotearoa's law changes mean in the battle for global rugby supremacy

Agree re those points, though I suspect that Sutherland’s influence may have been on the wane in his later years, as the hard heads gained numbers and influence. The pay deal had been pretty uncontentious from 1999 through several iterations and it was only when Roberts and Peever got the job of dealing with things that it turned toxic.

To the extent that being told things like your job is to win contributed to the sandpaper culture Sutherland seems to have been a part of that. However, I also see bad behaviour of this type as being pretty endemic in Oz cricket (aluminium bats, kicking opposing batsmen in the bum, under-arm bowling, betting against your own side in a test match, vile verbal abuse and so on), just as I see match fixing and ball tampering being pretty well ingrained in Pakistan and, probably, Indian cricket. In fact ball tampering seems to be pretty endemic everywhere.

The playing schedule and priorities have become very crowded and jumbled and I think you are right that Sutherland has to wear a fair part of that. As an article on the ABC website notes, important parts of the Argus report seem to have been neglected, or actions taken contrary to the recommendations.

I am still itching to see the contest against India when it arrives. Love the game but it sometimes seems great despite the efforts of the administrators.

Cricket Australia reportedly set to sack Kevin Roberts

Roberts and Peevey (ex-Rio Tinto) led CA’s attack on the players in the last pay dispute, a dispute they basically created so they could try to bust the players’ union and turn players into serfs. They have represented a management mentality that sees workers as drudges who are to be seen but not heard and they see wages as being a cost unrelated to productivity. They don’t take the same view of their own salaries and benefits, however. If Roberts is punted, good riddance.

Players generate the revenue, not administrators. Investment in the things that drive player excellence (and from that revenue), such as coaching and Sheffield Shield (by whatever name one wants to call it) are not ‘costs’ to be cut, but investments to be deployed with care and a sense of stewardship. The same goes for women’s cricket in its various forms. These form the base from which funds are grown. For all his drawbacks, Sutherland managed to balance an accountant’s computer approach to finances with a shrewd understanding of what makes the sport tick and he understood human relationships. Here’s hoping we get some people who understand what really drives the game and who don’t hate paying their workers. Anyone from a corporate background that is based on kicking workers please do not apply.

Cricket Australia reportedly set to sack Kevin Roberts

At a very narrow level, I think QLD might feel they contributed a lot of talent to WA (and to the ACT) and one less drain has helped (although it isn’t yet evident in terms of results!), but at a broader level I agree and I think it is true that the health of the game depends a lot on there being national success combined with a support for club and province. Rugby appears to me to have a lot of the same broad structural markers that cricket does.

Simple problems, complex solutions and other priorities

Enjoyed this article – many thanks. “However many organisations experience cyclical success and there will be challenges ahead for the Reds ” How true, sadly. Also for NSW 2014-15.

Also a good point about the ‘benefits’ of KPMG etc. who tend to have a very limited ideological perspective and a fairly predictable cookie cutter approach – as I think NZ are starting to see with their McKinsey plan. Very right about Rugby being a business but also being an unusual business operating in an unusual environment. I am not completely sold on people necessarily needing to be rugby people but they do need to have the mental flexibility to identify what is unusual about the business and administrative environment in which rugby operates.

I am genuinely pessimistic about finding a solution at the national level and suspect that all that can really be done is to try to develop as much playing and coaching intelligence as possible so that our clubs, provinces/franchises and national sides get where they need to be, almost by default. Since 1996 the most successful Oz province/franchise has been the Brumbies and they have got their by focusing on the basics of the game – credible set piece to secure possession, hard work at the breakdown to win possession/disrupt the opponent, respect for territory and the ability to relieve pressure (through a potent kicking game) and a hard nosed attitude to studying the rules and ref interpretations to secure/pressure the margins. These things also give you the ability to score points in a variety of ways (i.e. not just kicking penalties, or mindlessly running the ball), giving more paths to victory. Qld, Brothers, Randwick, Gordon and Eastwood all used to do this too. A fair part of the early Brumbies sides came from these sides. Most NZ sides have had this mind set. From first hand experience, I can assure you that there is nothing magical in the rugby water, or soil in the ACT, but at Brumby level there is a very clear eyed grasp of the fundamentals of the game. That can be returned to NSW, QLD etc.

On the above point, what I found most upsetting about the cutting of WA (the Force, if you will) was that it was my perception that a very promising culture was being developed/had developed there and that they were closing in on putting together the components, so that we might have had a second province creating consistently smart players and coaches. WA were developing some pretty significant home grown/developed talent. I am not trying to unwind what has happened and I understand the argument that after a decade plus WA had been given enough time and failed to produce results in terms of trophies and I am not unsympathetic to the arguments that a cut in sides was needed and that commercial dictates made WA the near inevitable target.

Simple problems, complex solutions and other priorities

The Orcs are looking a much better proposition this season. For mine they have addressed a long standing issue of a tight 5 that have struggled to match the class they have usually had in the loose forwards and backs. A lack of depth of quality locks has been an especially notable issue to me, for many years. On top of that, they have often struggled for direction at 10 and a symptom of that has been a generally sub-standard kicking game. The great Auckland sides could always dazzle, but they could also grind out wins; the high point for me was probably their win in 1993 over the British and Irish Lions but another example would be their win in 1997 over the ACT Brumbies in the final of that year’s Super 12.

Retaining the best and most needed players has also been an issue and there have been articles in the NZH about all sorts of NSW like cultural issues. Assuming this to be so, then addressing this will be important to maintaining the rage, otherwise it may turn out to be a fleeting thing, as with NSW in 2014-15, Qld in 2010-13.

I do think it is also worth keeping in mind that Auckland’s problems have really had the spotlight shone on them by being in the NZ conference, once that system came into place. If you look at their record against non-NZ sides they don’t look so bad.

Many thanks for the enjoyable article and enjoy the Canterbury side rumbling into action next week.

The rebirth of the Blues as a New Zealand rugby powerhouse

Many thanks for this. It is one of my strong early memories of that wonderful first season of Super 12, watching Murdoch swerve at high speed to round his opposite and run it in. I must have been on something good, because to remember something by NSW is just wrong, wrong, wrong!

I think Murdoch would have been a good club man and he always came across as a player who could deliver what the game plan asked for. If sports scientists could have combined Murdoch’s chest with Andre Joubert’s thighs and Christian Cullen’s speed a rugby outside back dream could have been developed.

Chris Hawkins might have been the NSW coach that year and he had the team working well but he was fired at the end of the season (from memory) and that struck me as being symptomatic of issues in the NSW set up at the time. NSW also suffered from a chronic lack of ruthlessness and a tendency to be over elaborate at times, both leading to missed chances, games that got away and so forth. These things all predated Hawkins and continued after. However, on their night they could produce some dazzling stuff. QLD later (about 2001) adopted this model and seem to have struggled to move on, which doth sadden me mightily.

Super Rugby retrospectives: Alistair Murdoch

The biggest challenges facing Rennie will be off the field. Finances loom large. Connected to that will be how/when to use overseas based players. He is also the choice of a past CEO and may find that his position becomes a proxy for political struggles – not this year but maybe in his third year, or so.

He may also have cultural differences to adapt to – my experience has been that NZ and SA players generally have a much more dedicated approach to making themselves the best they can be. Australians also often have a different cultural approach to leadership, which can trip up talented non-Oz coaches (in cricket this was one factor in the demise of Mickey Arthur, of SA when he coached Oz).

A combination of the above matters may also impact on Rennie’s ability to set the standards he wants to set and enforce them. Some selection issues may become proxies for political factions, there are also likely to be selection issues heavily influenced by sponsorships and the extremely weak financial position of RA and there will be the perennial issue of balancing states when selecting. These won’t be unique to Rennie (for example MacQueen faced a backlash initially on taking over the Wallabies when there were complaints from NSW and QLD that he was favouring the Brumbies and there was the horrendous 1982 season when a stand-off developed between Bob Dwyer and QLD, not to mention the NSW element in McKenzie’s downfall), but he won’t have any political roots in Oz to draw on for support.

I think he is a very fine coach and I wish him success. I really enjoyed your article and think you have nailed the on field issues. I also don’t think the off field factors mean he will necessarily fail – there is a hunger for success and it is possible there is enough fear of the future unless there is on field success to mute a lot of the more cancerous elements in Oz rugby. It is also true that many of the off field matters I have referred to apply to varying degrees in any rugby community and Rennie has been something of an outsider in all his major coaching roles, so he may be a much more adept political operator than I am giving him credit for.

I actually think Australian rugby has generally done best under coaches who have used a highly structured game, such as the Wallabies under Dwyer in his second incarnation, Macqueen and Jones between 1998-2002. The ACT Brumbies have also mostly played a highly structured game and the same can be said of Qld in their best period, from the mid 1970’s to the end of the Knuckles era. I think that is partly why Jake White was so successful at der Brumbies. I don’t think Australian players generally have the skill levels, nor the experience making structures out of the unstructured for Rennie to transpose the style you identify. There has been some movement to adapt playing style but Rennie will risk a Laurie Mains or Wayne Smith situation if he tries to really develop his past style here. I see Mains and Smith as genuine visionaries who took NZ’s traditional strengths and then set out to build onto them the wonderful potentials inherent in their playing base – but it was a painful process even there. Mains (apart from being an abrasive Southerner) was pretty unpopular after 3 seasons of very mixed results 1992-1994 and Smith’s time was also mixed by NZ standards. Those who came after reaped many of the benefits of their work. My observation is that there is simply not the same deep grasp of the fundamentals of the game at a broad level in Oz.

Anyway, many thanks for a really enjoyable start to my Saturday – also same re the interesting posts from readers. We are so lucky to have this wonderful, rich and deep game.

The biggest challenge facing Dave Rennie

Only if there was a plan that involved using his kicking game.

Great article, as always – many thanks.

From a distance, I felt that Mogg may have lacked the self-belief to prosper at the Test level, or perhaps more accurately to make a smooth transition. He may have been a player who would have needed more time than others in and around the squad. I think he may well have been worth the investment, although I also wonder if he had the physique for survivability in the modern game at the highest levels? Jake White did so much good for the ACT and the national side in 2 and a bit years.

Aussie abroad: Jesse Mogg

Never sure whether I envy people who make wine or not. I came to lose a lot of my joy of rugby when I was coaching. On the other hand I was never so happy as when I taught History, which was another passion.

This Thursday it is aged Cabernet night – although it is more an attempt to work out what people see in Penfolds Bin 707. 1996 of that wine and 1995 Ducru Beaucaillou, 1995 Moss Wood, 1996 Leeuwin, 1998 Wendouree Cab-Malbec, 1998 Wynns John Riddoch. My heart is going with the left bank, but on the night…

Have you managed to dodge the smoke taint and the worst of all the other evils of this vintage?

Enjoy the aquatic murderball.

The Wrap: Giteau’s Law must survive, but with a twist

It is a sad truth that neither QLD or NSW have, in general and in my view, been as consistent in playing to their potential, or improving players, as I would have hoped (especially as I am a QLD supporter). They have had their moments and they have nurtured and improved some players. There is no inherent reason they should not/could not become more consistent. NZ had serial underperforming provinces in Super Rugby (at least by their standards) but over time changed that.

Despite the temptation to take the p out of people who support other Oz provinces I prefer to focus on the positives (the ACT) rather than denigrate the disappointers.

I have to say that I am finding the whole rugby situation very dispiriting at present. I don’t think I have seen so much concentrated selfishness, short sightedness and misdirected energy combined with human tragedy. Of course it is only sport one might say but to me there is sport and then are rugby and cricket and wine. Buggerise around with them and there isn’t much left!

The Wrap: Giteau’s Law must survive, but with a twist

Like you, I am alarmed by the prospect of the demise of Super Rugby and the possibility that the replacement will not be much of a substitute. Michael Brial (a genuine competitor) in 1997 showed me that even against a bashed up, jet lagged NZ, club rugby was no longer any preparation for international rugby.

I think we will struggle to retain the 40 or so best players given the economic realities that are increasingly taking hold. We are told that free trade, competition, freedom of contract etc. are the best way and, given that and the grip of that kind of thinking I simply see it as inevitable that we will see a weak Oz acting as a feeder to the stronger economies. Given our currency v the UK pound and other key trade currencies and our willingness to be an economic colony in every other sphere I just can’t see how rugby in Oz can successfully resist, so we may as well try to find the least harmful solution.

I think that if players understand that selecting them (as opposed to them being eligible for selection) will be a major issue if they are playing O/S the ones who value the jersey above the cash-ola will tend to stay. I also think we can be smart about it and , for example, work to set up pathways to overseas clubs that we think can benefit our players and have some fit in terms of culture, playing style and standards etc. I also see inevitable problems with a ‘law’ that says if you play 70 tests (for example) you can dash off O?S and still be eligible but if you play 68 or 69?

I thought RA offering some players the option of a sanctioned O/S stint to make up for particularly heavy loss of wages was intelligent and is another way to try to manage the inevitable, as I see it.

I am convinced that unless the O/S market collapses for a long time Giteau’s Law will collapse.

The establishment of a more sane playing season schedule might also enable a situation more akin to cricket, where players may play O/S for parts of the year and domestically for parts. I am not optimistic that this will happen, because capitalism generally looks to commodify everything to drive down production cost and increase surplus value extraction and profit. It doesn’t have to be that way but it does tend to be.

The Wrap: Giteau’s Law must survive, but with a twist

Geoff, broadly, I find myself in the surprising (and pleasing) position of being in agreement with you about these three players and their manager. In normal circumstances I support players right to look for the best outcome they can find, but these aren’t normal times. RUPA did the right thing by their members and after examining the situation they came to an agreement with RA over pay that reflected the bitter realities of the present. There is a need for a community of interest approach at this time. These three have left a bitter taste in my mouth.

When I was an employee I used to look at my conditions of work, my wage and what my job was offering in terms of how I wanted to progress my career. Similar for a rugby player. I would want to play for the Brumbies if I was an Oz player, because of the expectation that my game would improve and that the club provides a fine pathway beyond the Brumbies and because (for the most part) it seems to be a great club environment/place to work. Provided the money wasn’t too out of whack I’d take a relative dip in what I might earn at another club. I can understand players might want to leave Qld if they are not getting on with the coach, they think it is going to be a longish term issue and they can improve their overall prospects elsewhere but playing in Japan at this point in their careers probably won’t do much and for Rodda and Hockings, Europe (which might well add to their tight games) may be a tough nut to crack given the financial realities there now.

I have been too busy to follow this story too closely but I thought I read somewhere that Rodda (at least) had fallen out with Thorn, so there might be more than just money at work here? I think I also read he was disappointed at not getting the Qld captaincy gig – if that was so it would be a poor thing for someone at his stage of career to have so strong a sense of right.

On Giteau Rule, I think a player should be available for selection regardless of where they domicile but depending on the comp they play in etc. they may simply not be a great fit with the local based players and the way the local coach wants to play. Coaching was the big issue at the last RWC but assuming that the equilibrium resumes and the drain of players continues, players like Rodda, Kerevi, the Arnolds could be hard to replace, either because of lack of depth and experience in a specific position, or because of the overall impact of losing so many quality tight forwards (for example).

As always, enjoy your articles and the way you express yourself.

The Wrap: Giteau’s Law must survive, but with a twist

Thanks for this very enjoyable read. He was a fine player. I think players like this often make good coaching material because they were good enough to command respect from players they coach but because they did have to work hard at their game, they may develop a better ability to break things down and communicate with their players. They may also have a better grasp of the psychology of players who aren’t superstars.

Super Rugby retrospectives: Peter Hewat