Wednesday’s Rugby News sees Higgers taking the reins, Macqueen concerned over rugby laws, more Beale goss, and some trouble brewing in the west.
NOTE: Sorry folks, but unfortunately we were unable to do the podcast for this week. However, we’ve got a GAGR favourite locked in for next week, so we’ll be back right as rain then to kick off the new year with a solid pod then.
Scotty Higginbotham is the new skipper for the Reds, and will lead the Sunshine State onto the field on Friday night against the his old club, the Rebels.
In what is a pretty inspired decision, Brad Thorn has handed the reins over to Higgers, and gave some pretty simple reasons for his decision.
“He’s a great man, a great Queensland and he has had success here in the past,” Thorn said to rugby.com.au.
“He’s a humble guy, he has a real good connection with both the young and the old in the team and he’s a very good footballer.
“It feels like the right fit.
“Samu and Slips have done good jobs before but I think Higgers is the right man for the job and I am excited to have him lead in that role.
“I liked what I saw when he was down at the Rebels – it brought the best out of him and the team seemed to gel around him when he captained.
“He’s got a really good way with the guys.”
Higgers also talked of his time at the Rebels when he was asked about his selection as captain. Plenty of comparisons have been made between the inexperienced Rebels that Higgers helped lead to some of their most successful seasons in their short history, and this similarly inexperienced Reds squad he’s in charge of now.
“I think a lot of people make the mistake of trying to do too much, trying to influence the team too much – especially on the field,” said Higginbotham.
“I think that’s what I learned at the Rebels.
“In my last year at the Rebels as captain I really tried to fix that and that’s what I want to bring here.
“A good captain doesn’t put himself forward, I think it’s about the other players and putting them forward rather than trying to do it all yourself.”
Tell ‘im he’s dreamin’
Rod Macqueen watched a rugby match a few weeks back. And he wasn’t happy.
Macqueen has become quite concerned that with new changes in the law book relating to breakdowns, the game could start to resemble an unlimited tackle version of rugby league.
There have been six changes in the last few months in relation to breakdown rules and rules in the scrum, which were introduced to make the game simpler for the referee and to play in general.
The new rules were introduced recently, and Australian rugby fans will see them in action when Super Rugby kicks off this weekend. However, Macqueen cited the Ireland-Wales test match as an example that there is no longer an emphasis of competition at the breakdown.
“One of the things we saw was 41 phases the other day,” Macqueen said to SBS News.
“It is scary to start seeing 41 phases.
“I wonder whether under the previous interpretation of the law whether that would have happened.”
There is one particular change that Macqueen seems to have focused on: that tacklers, in addition to getting up to play the ball, must return to their side of the tackle gate.
The tackler can (if they’re on their feet) pick up the ball at the ruck as long as this is immediate, but as soon as an opposition player arrives hands can no longer be used. This, according to Macqueen, is reducing the chance for a contest to take place.
“That is a concern because rugby is a contest for possession and a game for all shapes and sizes.
“You don’t want to take away the contest for possession too much.”
Macqueen is even concerned that there now may be TOO many laws governing the breakdown.
“At any one time either side can be breaking those laws,” Macqueen said.
“Unfortunately, it is the interpretation of the referee as to which one he actually picks on.
“They are now basically directing the referees which way to go.”
This should be an interesting topic of debate. What you reckon GAGRs? You with or against the new law changes?
Saving the Spark
Kurtley Beale is getting ready for what should be an exciting 2018, and is looking to bring his trademark flare back to Allianz Stadium.
However, he feels that the biggest thing he has learnt overseas was deciding when to use the big play, and when not to.
“As I’ve grown in my career I feel like (I’m) picking when to do the big play and when not to,” he said to rugby.com.au.
“I’ve certainly realised the impact of trying to do a big play on the team when if it doesn’t come off you can put pressure on the team and stuff like that.
“I feel like I’m a player now that can help manage the game, certainly with the halves inside me, and be that link man that can hopefully help release the guys outside me like Israel (Folau), Curtis Rona, Alex Newsome.
“We’ve got a lot of special talent out wide and if I can help manage the game and not always go for the big play and direct the team around with Bernard (Foley) or our other number 10s, I know I’m fulfilling my role and doing my role for the team and that’s all I need to worry about really.”
Beale looks set to make his debut this round, which will be his first match in the Sky Blue jersey in nearly two years.
“There’s a different dynamic here at the Waratahs this year,” he said.
“There’s a lot of new faces, but the familiar ones in Bernard and Izzy, it’s great to be able to come back and keep building on the combinations that we’ve built over the last few years.
“It’s obviously exciting times with those two, obviously world-class players themselves. I feel like there is a nice little balance brewing.
“I’m an optimist, I think all players here believe we can take it to the next level.
“We feel like we’ve put in the hard yards through our preseason and obviously (we’re) putting a big focus on our defence this year to try and make a big difference in the competition.”
Road Un-Safety Commission
The Western Force have continued to build and build throughout this year, with players signing with the club (including the most recent signature of Chris Alcock) and progress towards the IPRC.
However, a big bombshell has revealed that the clubs sponsor, the Road Safety Commission (which was organised through the Barnett WA Government) could be referred to the Corruption and Crime Commission.
A senate inquiry has ruled that the Barnett Government’s decision to award a $1.5 million naming rights sponsorship (currently the largest naming sponsorship deal in Aussie Rugby) deal to the Force has ruled that the decision was “hasty, questionable and potentially unlawful.”
Special inquirer John Langoulant said that the deal was apparently struck in a “highly charged political climate”, with the WA State Election campaign in full swing.
Mr Langoulant however did note that no “systemic corruption” was found, but viewed that the entire circumstances around the selection warranted further investigation by the CCC.
The issue was put forward in an article in WAToday, where it was highlighted that the Force submitted an application for sponsorship to the Road Safety Commission on January 5th last year. At the initial time, the RSC assessed the proposal and recommended against it.
Yet, documents sent to members of the RSC on January 9th and January 23rd recommended the opposite, and this seems to be what the senate inquiry report has zoned in on.
“There are no documents evidencing how or why the Road Safety Commission altered its view over the course of several days in January 2017 as to the appropriateness of the Western Force sponsorship,” the report said.
“The assessment by the RSC of values attributed to rights that the state was to receive from the arrangement was inadequate.
“There was seemingly no assessment of how the proposed arrangement would enhance goals that the RSC professed motivated its entry into the arrangement.
“No cogent explanation was provided as to why this agreement was entered into in such haste.”
As of Wednesday morning, the Force themselves have not be accused of any wrongdoing by the Senate inquiry. Either way, should they be included in future examinations by the CCC, they do have the financial backing to Twiggy Forrest to help them out.