The Waugh is finally over. Despite Robbie’s encouraging words his time at the top looks like coming to an end.
At best he’s rated 3rd or 4th openside flanker behind Dave Pocock, Matt Hodgson, perhaps Richard Brown and probably George Smith if he hadn’t retired.
This is a shame because at his peak Waughy was tough as teak – a combative, focussed and single minded leader of men.
That’s not to say that he hasn’t had a good Super 14 season because he has, especially in the latter half of the competition; however, the caravan moves on and it’s about increasing depth that will see us through years to come with the likes of Schatz, Hooper, Faingaa and Alcock, not to forget the return of Julian Salvi.
Phil Waugh is one of those hard bastards that you can’t help but admire and wish there were more of them around in our game.
He spent all of his career in competition with the great George Smith for the test openside position.
At various times he nudged ahead of George, especially in the Eddie Jones era, only to be overtaken again as they brought out the best in each other.
They also spent time together in a tandem role which peaked at the 2003 RWC in the upset defeat of NZ in the semi-final.
Australia has been well served with opensides over the past 15 years or so with Waugh and Smith taking over from David Wilson, David Croft providing backup and now a young Bam Pocock leading the charge for some time to come.
Of his 79 tests, Waugh spent 35 of them on the bench. Not quite of Chris Whittaker proportions but suggesting that in the end he probably played a secondary role to Smith.
His first Wallaby test was on the Spring Tour of 2000 against England. He came off the bench in the 76th min as a substitute for George, joining fellow loosies Jim Williams and Toutai Kefu.
Unfortunately that test was lost 22 – 19 at Twickenham in the 87th min (yes, 87 min had elapsed) by a dodgy Dan Luger try.
His first run-on cap was later the following year when he started against France in the 14-13 loss in Marseille.
His last test was ten years later against the All Blacks in Auckland in July of last year. He wasn’t selected on the Spring Tour with Smith, Pocock and Hodgson (who subsequently missed out through injury) the opensides.
As a changing of the guard, Bam Pocock took over the premier openside role on that tour from George and is currently No 1 in our game.
Waugh seems to have a tendency to polarise some people and others regard his supposed ‘conservative’ influence on the Waratahs as a negative.
Whatever the situation is, he’s been a standout warrior in his 12 seasons with the Tahs and it’ll be interesting to see what he does next year, stay or go?
Dean Mumm is the obvious captaincy replacement when he departs the scene.
The nature of the game has changed during his time at the top and he now seems to be a bit dated – he’s neither an out-and-out fetcher nor bulky enough to be classed as a ball runner.
However, he’s a bloody good man to have on your side and there wouldn’t be too many provincial or club sides around the world with a more ferocious competitor than him.
Phil Waugh was schooled at Shore in Sydney and captained Australia Schools in 1997 before going on to represent his country at Under 19 and Under 21 level, captaining the latter in 1999.
He also skippered Australia A against the British and Irish Lions in 2001 as well as leading the Wallabies on occasions and as vice-captain to George Gregan.
Despite not achieving higher honours in this round, don’t think for one moment that this guy won’t be single-mindedly doing his level best to get back on top.