Well friends the end of the year is near. Expectation has met reality and by the end of the weekend we will be what your record says we are. I’m going to explore a couple of topics about our team and who we are.
Opinion – The Tape Sets Your Floor and Your Character Sets Your Ceiling
This quote from an NFL analyst Mike Tannenbaum Wiki Link here is applicable when looking at players in our team and coaches from around the world. The basis for that statement is that many have the ability but those with strength of mind perform at a high level consistently. Let’s isolate a couple of players from our current Wallabies squad and players past to illustrate my point.
Folau Fainga’a has come in for a lot of criticism on almost every forum. The commentary from Morgan Turinui gave me pause, “You lack the maturity and discipline of a test player.”, 37:20 into the first half on Stan commentary. Folau is clearly a very gifted player but seems to have character flaws that mean that when the moment gets big his reaction is small. He consistently gives away silly penalties and cannot execute his core role when the pressure’s on, ie. a complete inability to hit the side of a barn door on key lineouts. Compare him to Stephen Moore who played 176 Super Rugby Games and gave away one yellow card according to Wiki. Compare that to Folau’s performance just this year.
So with the last test of the year approaching I’m going to put most of the players into three categories: 1. Those who struggle when the moment is big either through poor execution or dumb penalties. 2. Those who execute when the moment is large. 3. Those who I haven’t made up my mind about.
Good Guys First
Allan Alaalatoa, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Angus Bell, Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway, Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost, Will Skelton, Fraser McReight Peter Samu, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Andrew Kellaway, Hunter Paisami, Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koribete, Lalakai Foketi, Len Ikitau, Noah Lolesio, James O’Connor.
Not Sure yet
Dave Porecki, Matt Gibbon, Tom Robinson, Tate McDermott, Jake Gordon, Jock Campbell, Ben Donaldson, Mark Nawaqanitawase (Looks the Business), Jordan Petaia.
Not up to it thank you for your service
Folau Fainga’a, Tolu Latu, Bernard Foley, Tom Wright, Lachie Swinton, Darcy Swain, Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale.
This list isn’t exhaustive but when you look at the list there’s a very good team in there and you can see why many of the European commentators think we are close.
Another of my favourite coaches is Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers who’s been the coach of the Steelers for nearly 20 years and has never had a losing season (he will this year). Mike says “The Standard is the Standard”. This poses the question what the internal standard for the Wallabies is.
Michael Hooper will miss the Wales test with concussion.
It comes just days after six players were ruled out of the series finale in Cardiff after picking up knocks during the three point defeat to Ireland. Hooper will return home to Australia on Thursday, with the Wallabies yet to confirm the line-up.
“We’re gutted for any guy we lose but Taniela in particular, he’s had a fair run of injuries this year and genuinely put in the hard yards to try and get himself best available and find that form which he’s known for,” backrower Jed Holloway told reporters regarding the injury crisis on Tuesday before the Hooper news dropped. “To see him go down the way he did was pretty gut-wrenching but we know our medical staff here and doing everything they can to get the boys ready.
“We’ve just had a rough trot but we need to lick our wounds and go again because we’ve got a big Test at Principality this weekend. What the injuries provide is a huge opportunity for guys coming in and those guys need to take it and we need to get a result.
“They’re hard to train for because they are outliers, you have to trust those guys know the gameplan we’re trying to play and go out there and execute and they know the game plan wherever they play. Jordy (Petaia) is a great example there, thrown in after three minutes and came on and killed it. We lost a lot of guys but I think those that came on killed it.”
Both Holloway and outside back Jordan Petaia stressed the importance of the side ‘switching off’ away from the field, conscious of the mental toll five back-to-back Tests can have on a side. “It’s just finding those moments when to switch off and not think about rugby so when you’re on the training paddock or in the meetings, you’re 100% on,” Holloway believes. “That’s important after a long season because if you’re constantly thinking about rugby, you’ll burn out. Taking those opportunities and really being in the moment is super important.”
“It’s definitely a longer stretch of games with the five games instead of three on tour (in 2021 and 2018) so it’s been a bigger toll on the body and mentally,” Petaia added. “If you’re on all the time, it can be draining so making sure you’re taking the time to switch off is good for the final legs of the tour.”
Owen Doyle: Referees must remember they are not the centre of attention
From the Irish Times
This is an excellent opinion piece from the Irish perspective on the weekend’s games. It points out that with the RWC approaching the referees are also vying for limited opportunities so are IMHO getting a little tight and blowing the game and finding too many minor infractions along the way. The precision engineers were out in force again over the weekend.
There used to be a phrase, not so very long ago, which was just common sense in its simplicity – “referees need to let the game breathe”. We saw precious little of that as the referees continued in their precise and meticulous way. They are not supposed to be the centre of attention, and maybe they don’t want to be, but that is now fast becoming the situation.
I’d be perfectly certain that not one person in the Aviva, Twickenham or Murrayfield shelled out even a minuscule portion of the ticket price to watch, or listen to, Ben O’Keeffe, Mathieu Raynal or Karl Dickson. These matches had too much referee involvement and a review about their modus operandi must be put high on the agenda – it is not all about the whistle and long-winded communication.
Very simply, it is about refereeing the clear and obvious accurately and ignoring calls that are 50/50. Fast ball from the breakdown is utterly essential, but the speed of whistle (or the advantage arm) need not be based on nano-second failure to release or to roll away. O’Keeffe’s appeal to the Irish and Australian players that he was trying to get things going also needed a hard look into his own mirror.
If this is the future of officiating then we can all fear for the Six Nations and the approaching RWC. Referees must go back to basics and not get involved with any player who wants to open a debate. Instead, we see referees who are more than happy to engage with anyone and everybody, instead of politely shutting them up.
There was plenty of foul play, too, for O’Keeffe to deal with and neck rolling seems to have become an Australian pastime. This needed tougher communication from the referee. Andrew Porter was also lucky not to sit out 10 minutes for an unnecessary shoulder into the back of an opponent which wasn’t picked up by O’Keeffe and his fellow officials.
When the autumn referee appointments were announced it was clear that Mathieu Raynal was being rested having been awarded just one match – Romania v Samoa. Instead, he’s become a sort of super sub, standing in for the injured Jaco Peyper and, at Twickenham, for Nic Berry who had to return home for family reasons. For whatever reason Raynal took the opportunity to give us an unwanted dissertation on the laws, managing to hand out a total of 30 sanctions in the England v New Zealand game.
Chocolate Wheel of Justice
Argentina back-rower Marcos Kremer has been banned following his red card during last Saturday’s defeat to Scotland. He was sent off with just 22 minutes of the Murrayfield game played and his team fell away afterwards to lose 52-29 to an opposition they had defeated 2-1 in last July’s Test series in the southern hemisphere.
With the Argentina tour now over, Kremer will miss the next four Stade Francais matches. An Autumn Nations Series statement read: “Argentina back row Marcos Kremer appeared before an independent judicial committee via video link having received a red card for an act of foul play contrary to law 9.11 in the international match against Scotland on November 19.
I don’t have an issue with the card but it’s remarkably similar to the yellow that a Scottish player got against Tate McDermott in the Scotland game which only got yellow and no suspension.
Did you know that no prop of hooker has been nominated for World Rugby Player of the year. This injustice should not stand.
List your GOATs in the FROW.