Good morning, good evening and g’day to wherever life finds you on this holiest of rugby days, Friday, and welcome to to this week’s edition of Friday’s Rugby News.
Today let’s run an eye over a large human and all that he offers the Wallabies in ‘Free Willy’. Look at possible coach contract negotiations in ‘Show Me the Results!’. Get set for an ‘Afternoon Delight’ with our Golden Girls in NZ and put a large exclamation mark on the working week with Friday’s Goss with Hoss, currently in talks to produce the erotic thriller ’50 Shades of Lard’.
A lot of back-channel chatter this week among the G&GR craparazzi about Big Willy Skelton’s recall to the Wallaby squad. For sure there was much hurrumphing and gnashing of teeth, causing near apoplexy among the non-NSW members of the team, that coach Moses has seemingly guaranteed the big unit will start in the three tests he is available for (Skelton will miss the Scotland & Wales fixtures as they technically fall outside the agreed international test window).
And I say, ‘why the bloody hell not’!
We all know what the last few years have dished up for our team and us fans, so can starting Skelton, who has been a sensation up north, be any worse than what we’ve endured these last few barren years? Is it not a chance to rule in, or rule out a player who, to be fair, promised so much down south, but has delivered so much up north?
Yep, there was plenty of ‘he doesn’t jump in the lineout’! So what! At 140kg and an ability to command the attention of 2-3 defenders at a time and his ability to cause havoc on either side of the ball, I’d wager that Big Willy is entirely an investment worth looking at. Besides, Sideshow Bob jumps, Samu jumps, the other lock jumps, just how many lineout jumping options do we need?
Picture this: we have ‘John Holmes’ (Big Willy) standing off our lineout as a likely crash ball merchant. We then have the option of using him as a 140kg battering ram thus causing opposition D to change their plans, restructure their D by taking one of their big boppers from the lineout (making it easier to win our own ball), or commit more tacklers, or we use him as a decoy or even as a ball player instead, again disrupting opposition D, creating space out wide, providing quick recycle et al. Where’s the downside?
Sure, we have some reasonable locks, but not one of them offer the point of difference Mr Skelton does. Further I ask you this: when did we last have a lock who could turn the tide of a game? When did we last have a lock that the other team went ‘bugger, here he comes again’? When did we last have a lock of Skelton’s size, impact and silky hands that can at once dent (hell ‘smash’ through) a line for ‘front foot ball’ or equally pop a beautiful outside ball for the fairies to run free?
I have absolute belief that Skelton is an international player and a game changer at that. My only concern is that we have the coaching ‘smarts’ to best utilise his size and skill, instead of trying to make him something he isn’t, or by trying to squeeze him into our pre-determined ‘patterns of play’. Just what have those ‘patterns of play’ delivered us all again?
I reckon the selection and starting of Big Willy is entirely justifiable and a selection masterstroke, the sort that can make or break a World Cup campaign too, I might add.
Besides, to quote Mrs Hoss, a learned rugby aficionado, when I told her of my article, she replied: ‘Big Willy? I wish’. It seems The Ponderosa has an accord.
SHOW ME THE
Ok, so the capitalist in me completely ‘gets’ the position and reasoning of Coach Moses when he’s quoted in the SMH as essentially saying he’ll be the master of his own employment domain. “The challenge for all coaches around the world is you can’t sit on your hands and wait until November next year to decide what you’re going to do the following season,” Rennie said. “It’ll get to the stage where, very early next year, I’ll have to make a decision as to what I’m doing beyond .”
Perfectly reasonable proposition to have that view & position regarding one’s ability to put lobster and black market caviar on one’s table at night. Nothing to see here, move on. But, and it’s a pretty big but, it also involves a rather large corporate leap of faith to sign a coach, any coach, with well and truly a sub 40% win record at an international level.
I’ve read on here both sides of the argument and it’s an argument made murkier by the fact that there’s also universal agreement that DR is a tremendous human. That’s a point we all agree on, but unfortunately, DR’s outstanding humanity counts for exactly nought in a world were winning is the only currency that matters. I’ve read of ‘structural problems’, ‘injury’, ‘grassroots problems’, politics and everything in between that ails the code in Australia ad nauseam. But COVID aside, were not these the exact same issue that faced every coach that has come before DR since professionalism?
I think RA’s previous comments and position are likewise, perfectly reasonable. Backing in DR until the end of the ’23 Parisian Festival of the Gilbert gives all stakeholders certainty and clarity. However, as the code stands at the dawn of a golden age that could carry it financially for at least 20 years, drive participation rates and grassroots reform the like of which we have never seen before, does a coach with a 37.90% win rate deserve to be handed the reins for a period of potential, the like of which is unlikely to be repeated during my lifetime?
I challenge you thus Gaggers:
- Could DR turn it all around and get this team to where it should be and soon?
- Would you take a financial gamble equivalent to hundreds of millions of dollars on someone with a 37.90% win rate?
- Could you sleep at night as head of RA sound in the knowledge that DR is absolutely the right choice?
- Is three from five up north this October enough to fill you with confidence, when two of these five tests fall outside the gazetted ‘test window’ and therefore are likely to see perhaps two weakened opponents?
- Is DR the man to entrust the very future of the code in Oz too?
I’d wager that this northern tour is the last chance for both RA & DR to cement their respective positions post 2023. By that I mean, DR must have a winning tour and those wins must be dominant and ruthless in their delivery. I’m not talking about the scoreboard results, I’m talking about clinical and ruthless application of the game plan. I’m talking about clarity and cohesion of player and position, I’m talking about the Wallabies delivering consistent performances that show unity, understanding of the collective brief and unwavering belief and delivery, of both offensive and defensive systems, plays and structures required.
For mine, three from five still sees the sword of Hammerclese hanging over DR. Four from five and performances outlined as above is a conversation among the upper levels of RA with a slant to the retention of DR. But five from five and DR writes his own ticket to to 2027.
But can you see, really see this Wallaby lot, under these coaches putting consistency on the board now after a horrible 2022 suddenly delivering a 80% – 100% win rate up north now? I’d be thrilled if they did, but…..
And for the record, as I know you’re going to ask anyway, if the NH tour is more of the same of the 2022 dross dished out so far, I’d welcome home Eddie Jones as DOR and new Wallaby coach, one Scott Robinson with open arms.
The performances over the next five games up north by those in orange will, ultimately, help make the decision for all involved; only time will tell and here coach and RA will be singing from the same hymn book: ‘show me the results!’
How good is the NZ World Cup & several Saturday afternoon matches to choose from!
Last Saturday saw our Wallaroos stay the course against Scotland and really eke out a tough win against a gritty opponent desperate to not play 15 person rugby, an inconsistent ref and some self-inflicted wounds via red cards.
The performance of all the Wallaroos pack was as good as I’ve ever seen. From the charges and breaks from Raging Bull, Eva Karpani, to the workload, tackles and carries of hard working loosies, Emily Chancellor and Grace Hamilton. The dynamism and aggression of replacement hooker Ashley Marsters, well, until she saw a vino that is. The guile, calm, class and experience of Sharni Williams and skipper Shannon Parry and the raw ability and finishing of new sensation, Bienne Terity, on the wing, there was plenty to admire last week, but all that now is ancient history.
So, to this week and a match against the Welsh side. Well the equation’s easy. Win and the Wallaroos are in complete control and secure a top-two finish in pool A and see them face either the lowest-ranked group winner (Canada/England) or a fellow second-place finisher (France/USA/Italy), as well as earning an extra day off and a trip back to Auckland. But lose and you’re at the mercy of other results and praying to the rugby god and to be fair, when it comes to the rugby god, she quite clearly hates Australian Rugby sides and is possibly French as well.
If our girls can maintain their rhythm and form I see no reason they can’t beat the Welsh and grow in stature and belief ahead of the QFs. Go well golden girls, for sure as shite, winning is a habit and once you reach the knockout stages well, anything’s possible.
Mr Williamson from rugby.com.au has the team, times and more.
Wallaroos v Wales at Northland Events Centre, Whangarei.
Saturday 22 October, 12:15pm AEDT. Live & exclusive on STAN.
FRIDAY’S GOSS WITH HOSS.
Former Tah & Wallaby (naturally),
Jock Jack Dempsey has switched rugby nations and is now in line to make his test debut for Scotland against the Wallabies next week. Under new eligibility rules, it’s believed that Jock’s grandmothers, sisters, baby-sitter, neighbour’s dog walker, cousins, best friend once ate at a Scottish restaurant called ‘McDonalds’ so therefore he now qualifies.
Can’t blame Jock one iota and I look forward to him singing the Scottish anthem and getting spanked by real Australians in orange.
‘Sharing is caring’
Interesting read from the SMH from Eddie Jones and a group of fairly successful coaches from various sports and how they meet to thrash out challenges they face. I hate to admit it, but I really like Mr Jones, even more so if he returns as Director of Rugby in Oz, overseeing Razor Robinson as Wobs coach.
Bridge well-and-truly over troubled waters.
27yo 19 cap Nearly All Black George Bridge has called time for now on his international career, with stuff.co.nz reporting
‘Having already fallen behind Leicester Fainga’anuku as the Crusaders’ No 1 option on the left wing, his decision to depart was decided when it became apparent he was on the outside looking in at a time the All Blacks are flush with quality outside backs.‘
True Kiwi spirit, cut and run when the going gets tough.
Arise Sir Philip
About bloody time too. Touring rookie journo Nathan Williamson (I listen) reports on rugby.com.au that Phil Kearns has finally been inducted into the ‘NSW Hall of Champions‘. A quick check online shows that ‘Kearnsy’ will now be referred to as ‘Sir Phil’ and entitled to rights of free passage, a dowry and glorification in ‘lesser states and territories’, ie. anywhere that’s not NSW. Arise Sir Phil.
Nawaqanitawase – a wop bam boom
Even I admit a couple of years ago that Marky Mark, or ‘The Funky Bunch’, appeared a bit, well, flakey. But one year under DC, some time around the orange universe and this kid has the makings of a rugby superstar. Physically he has the size and the pace of a pure power athlete, good feet, pace, he has restrained the ‘pass at all costs’ attitude that plagued him early (before DC arrived) and he has genuine gas! That 20 minute cameo for Aussie A against the Nippon Radioactive XXIII really announced his arrival on the global stage. So for mine, it’s a bit like the argument for large William above. ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’
That’s all for me this Friday. Go you Wallaroos and remember, if you can’t be good, be good at it.
Hoss – out.