Just when you thought it was safe to go back online…….
Welcome to the first of my Friday Rugby News offerings for GAGR. My apologies for the delay as some finer IT points were sorted. Thank you to Sully and the GAGR team for the opportunity and for confirming appropriate legal / indemnity cover is in place for all. I’ve fed on the efforts of others for so long I thought it only apt I put my shoulder to the wheel for a change, so let’s hook in.
After a couple of big weeks for Rugby Oz – secret loans to RA, private equity discussions, coach resignations, sacked coaches, the team from 1985 making their first finals, ‘Sideshow Bob’s’ (Valentini) contract renewal, McMahons gold overtures ignored, a proposed July test window of 3 tests v Les Bleus over 11 days and much more, but there’s one show in town that matters most this week & that’s ‘The Showdown for the Oz Crown – Part II’
‘Dan the Angry Man’
Even the most cursory glance, from a casual Rugby watcher at the Brumbies coach box will arrive at one conclusion, Coach McKellar is an angry man. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but come on coach – smile. You lead the most consistently strong and accomplished Oz outfit, you are the anointed heir as coach of gold after Moses and your team, bye and bye, are the real deal. But, something has got under the Ponies skin this year, something Red and annoying – this from SMH’s Sam Phillips during the week.
“We’re quite happy: Brumbies, backs to the wall, big crowd at Suncorp, just ourselves and our family to bounce off,” McKellar said.
“We’ll go out there and prove a few people wrong and continue our reign as Australia’s leading team over a number of years. That’s the goal.”
“They’re at home, in front of a big crowd in Queensland and the expectation within their own group is that they win,” he said. “Individuals have been talking about it. Harry [Wilson] and James [O’Connor] have spoken about it a number of times; that it’s their turn and their time to take over the lead as Australia’s leading side.”
Nic ‘the Lip’ White chirped in with a few shots from the cheap seats as well
Now, I don’t mind the fact the Reds have consistently expressed their desire to be #1 this year. They have always been respectful, humble and driven to reach their sated goals.
Every corporate training / conference I go to says goals should be ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound), but apart for the dull a dog-shit ‘psychological hand grenades’ that always precede big games, I reckon the Reds have genuinely got under the Ponies skin this year ad to be frank, the Ponies haven’t put out a complete showing as yet, can they when it matters, will they when it counts or will a seething underbelly see them play on emotion instead of smarts – time will tell.
Finals Fearless Prediction
Let’s start at the end – Reds by 5.
For mine, at Fortress Suncorp, in front of over 40,000 (already confirmed) rabid, toothless, closely-related, Red’s fans and with a largely settled team (bar the Squatters injury and absence) I think they are deserved favourites.
The Reds of 2021 are a young side that’s learned to win, learned to close out close games, to win the ‘moments that matter’. They trust in each other, have a remarkable maturity (courtesy of one JOC2.0), but have the vigour, excitement and ‘can-do’ attitude that a combination of youth, common goal & clarity of role can provide.
With speed, size and skill across the field, lead superbly by JOC2.0 (who surely must be under serious consideration for Captaincy of the Wallabies) they are, in my opinion, the most complete Australian side for some time. Plus I get the feeling they have a few attacking tricks up their sleeve for this week’s finale that will bare scoreboard fruit.
The Brumbies are not without their dangers or threats and must be respected. You don’t become Australia’s premier Rugby Provence overnight. It’s a reputation and title built on consistency, resolution, hard work and results. They are well coached, well drilled and ruthless. BUT and it’s a big ‘BUT’, for mine they haven’t shone this year. They seem ‘clunky’ and just off the pace verse seasons of old. Granted they could have / should have beaten the Reds 2 & 0 for 2021, but that’s my point. The Ponies circa 2021 don’t let teams off the deck from leads of 17-0 & 12-0, they just don’t do it. They strangle you with a combination of field position and set piece dominance – a dominance they simply cannot impose against the vaunted Reds pack.
It’s around their playmakers that I think a lot of the ‘clunk’ is generated. For all the talk of ‘Gen Next’ & ‘second season stutters’ from the crop of talent unearthed last season , I think most have grown in stature, except maybe for one who has stalled – I’ve been left feeling ‘meh’ with one Noah ‘Genesis’ Lolesio.
For mine the Ponies 10/12 combo just has lacked sizzle / cohesion and as such hasn’t yet fully unleashed the dangers that lurk out wide in the Ponies backline. There’s been the occasional moment, but not the dominance, understanding or delivery of a commanding game from Genesis or ‘The Sheila’ (Simone). I also note Nic ‘The Lip’ White has forgotten how to run the ball, and when he is a passing 9 only (is it just me has his passing also been a little inconsistent this year?) and doesn’t run, opposition D’s have time and space to drift and snuff out wider threats.
I don’t discount the loss of the Squatter to the Red’s team, but in the Scottish kid, Hamish Stewart at 12, they have a vastly underrated and calm midfield defender, kicking option and ball playing / attacking threat to both support JOC and feed his outside men.
If there’s one are that those from the Sex Capital clearly edge the Communist’s it’s at 13. Young Josh Flook is no doubt a talented kid, but at 19, a kid none-the-less and I reckon he can expect a lot of traffic his way and some ‘special attention’ from Ikitau & Valentini. If Lolesio and Simone are to redeem themselves, it’s their smarts here in both isolating Flook in D and belting him when he has the ball – legal or otherwise. Nothing sends a message better than a 120kg number 8 arriving a fraction late for a tackle and a good ol’ fashioned rib-tickler, just lets him now you care…..
To sum it up – It’s the fabled Rugby adage. The Red’s pack will win them the game, the fairies, led by JOC2.0, will decide by how much and I suspect the ‘finishers’ for the Reds to provide real impetus from 55 minutes on.
This should be a victory for the Reds, a victory 4 years in the making. Indeed it will be a victory for all Oz Rugby and a celebration of vision, commitment, dedication & values and for that, at full time I would invite The Padre, The Coaching and Support Teams & one Mr Sam Cordingley to take a much-deserved bow.
When two tribes go to war.
A few surprises, some ‘gambles’ or ‘strokes of genius’ – the most inspirational and clever of them all for mine is JOC with the ‘C’ next to his name. It’s go time:
Queensland Reds 1-15: Feao Fotuaika, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Ryan Smith, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor (c), Jock Campbell, Hamish Stewart, Josh Flook, Jordan Petaia, Bryce Hegarty.
Bench: Alex Mafi, Dane Zander, Zane Nonggorr, Seru Uru, Liam Wright, Kalani Thomas, Isaac Henry, Filipo Daugunu.
Brumbies 1-15: Scott Sio, Lachlan Lonergan, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Darcy Swain, Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost, Rory Scott, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Tom Wright, Irae Simone, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Banks.
Bench: Folau Fainga’a, Harry Lloyd, Tom Ross, Henry Stowers, Luke Reimer, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Mack Hansen.
Me thinks the Reds bench has a far better ‘zing’ to it as well.
Three in Eleven!
No, this isn’t the results of a survey of Queenslanders who could successfully spell ‘cat’, but a confirmed test window v the baby frogs for July this year
Tom Decent from the SMH reports:
‘Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos said World Rugby blocked a request to move the international window back a week and addressed concerns about player welfare as the Wallabies prepare to play three Tests in 11 days against France in July.
The Wallabies will carry a squad of approximately 38 players into the France series, which will see Test matches played on July 7 (Sydney), 13 (Melbourne) and 17 (Brisbane) in quick succession.
The Wallabies are set to play a match at the SCG for the first time in 35 years after Rugby Australia confirmed the three-Test series would be played in the space of 11 days.
As reported last week, Australia will take on the world No.5 French in three matches on July 7, 13 and 17, the first two of which fall on Wednesday and Tuesday evenings.
The opening Test will be held at the SCG, a venue the Wallabies last played at in 1986 against Argentina. Australia, captained by Simon Poidevin, won that match 26-0 in front of a crowd of 18,799′ (as a side note it also was the test Fitzy fell foul of flagrant French filth, aggression pent up from countless surrenders through the ages. However, it still remains Fitzy’s most memorable moment in Gold)
‘The second match will take place at AAMI Park in Melbourne, while Suncorp Stadium is locked in for a potential deciding Test.
Three-Test series are normally played over three consecutive Saturdays but RA and French officials have come to an agreement given there is a tighter window because the Top 14 season does not finish until June 26.
It means six- and four-day breaks will split the series. The Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) wanted a minimum of five days between Tests but both parties have agreed on three matches in 11 days.
Larger squads are likely to come into play due to player welfare issues.
French players will come out in two touring groups, while Australia’s players will congregate after Super Rugby Trans-Tasman finishes on June 19.’