Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at the latest Waratahs coach candidates, how keeping it simple delivered a Wallabies call-up for a Brumby, an injury update on Suliasi Vunivalu and the main motivation for Jordan Uelese
Manenti the Man
Auditions have continued to come for ‘The W Factor’ – the search for the Waratahs next head coach (TV show rights trademarked) as Sevens head coach John Manenti puts his hand up for the role.
Manenti led Eastwood to three Shute Shield titles in five years as head coach before helping Australia’s women’s side to gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
With the Olympics campaign to be wrapped up by the end of July, Manenti wants the opportunity to rebuild the Waratahs, lambasting their neglect of the Shute Shield.
“I’d love to at some stage move into Super Rugby and I’d love to be able to do something to improve the current situation at the Waratahs,” Manenti told foxsports.com.au.
“We’ve gone away from what our best source of players was and potentially the best club comp in Australia and we started picking development players to be project players.
“When Cheik came in he asked me for a list of players who were doing well in the Shute Shield and I gave him 25 names and he took 18 blokes to Argentina on a development tour.
“Perhaps not all of them but the ones that he liked helped become the foundation for his squad for the next three or four years and so effectively he picked the bones out of the Shute Shield.
“But I don’t know if in the last three or four years there’s been a real concern about what happens at club land.”
Another potential candidate is Darren Coleman, who is reportedly willing to leave the glitz of LA and come back home, having made a name breaking Gordon’s eternal drought without a premiership.
However, one man who will not audition for the role is former NSW assistant and Verblitz
coach Simon Cron, who told SMH that he gave the Japanese club his word.
Not a nobody
Brumbies lock Cadeyrn Neville has revealed how a simplification of his game has helped inspire a second coming to the national set up.
Neville has been a regular selection in these ‘wider training squads’ across his career, selected by four different Wallabies coaches (Deans, McKenzie, Cheika, Rennie).
Despite this, he is yet to play a minute for the green and gold, with a revival for the Brumbies helping to keep the 32-year-old’s dream alive.
“For sure, it’s good to be back in that set-up and get recognition at this stage of the season,” Neville told Rugby.com.au
“(Last year in Rennie’s squad) probably the most important thing for me was getting familiar with the players who are going to be regular fixtures there as well as the coaches.
“How well you work with each other is ultimately what’s most important.
“It’s awesome to have this many Brumbies (14) involved. It’s easier working with guys you train with every day and you are proud of your mates getting there.
“Personally, it feels a long way off before they assemble the (Wallabies) team though.”
Like seemingly the majority of Australian rugby, Neville can partially thank Brad Thorn for his revival, with the former Kiwi helping him define his role as a player during his short stint with the club.
“Brad put it back on me straight away when he asked me what sort of footballer I wanted to be,” Neville said at the time when he spoke to the then U20’s coach.
“A player who has a big, physical presence around the field” was the answer from Neville.
“Improving things like shoulder strength and balance to make better contact when tackling was one thing I worked at.”
The Reds could be without new convert Suliasi Vunivalu until the end of the regular season after suffering a hamstring injury.
This was confirmed by Queensland general manager Sam Cordingley, revealing that the former Storm flyer had ‘twinged’ his left-hamstring.
“He’s got a minor hamstring twinge and it’s under management,” he said on Monday.
“It’ll be under a month at this stage; we’ve got pretty good medical staff that have brought players back in good time … hopefully between two and four weeks.”
The Reds have followed the lead of every good tourist, basing themselves in Coogee as they look to avoid being trapped by the Brisbane lockdown.
Whilst this trip will hopefully be for a short period, Cordingley was looking at sending the squad on a larger trip in place of the dumped NRC later in the year.
He was optimistic that they could relive the joys of 2005 and take the team across the world, pending the whole COVID situation not flaring up again.
“In terms of the NRC not being part of the future, we’ve got our eye on a few different things and that might be for instance taking the Reds back on tour as it used to be,” the former Reds and Wallabies halfback said.
“There are obviously some challenges around that at the moment given the state of COVID, but we’d love to be playing against teams in New Zealand or Argentina or the UK of France.
“That might be the plan for the Queensland Reds and that would provide an opportunity after Super Rugby to allow those quality players in Queensland Premier Rugby to put their hands up to fill the gaps of the Wallabies at the time.”
Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese has committed his focus towards delivering the Rebels a maiden Super Rugby premiership as he works his way back into the Wallabies set-up.
Uelese was a surprise omission from the 40-man squad, with the 24-year-old struggling with injury throughout the season.
I got the chance to talk to Uelese last week before the squad was announced and he said that the dream of a maiden title and a chance to inspire the next generation was all the motivation that he needed.
“We’re that next generation, you’ve got guys like Christian Lealiifano, Digby Ioane, there’s a lot of players who grew up in Victoria, but just didn’t have that pathway,” he told Sporting News
“Now that we’ve got a team and now that we’re plastered all over there, it just proves that there is a genuine pathway in Victoria to come through from club rugby, through school footy, senior club footy into the Melbourne Rebels, which is special.
“For now, my goal is to be the best player I can be for the Rebels, the best Jordan Uelese I can be to help my team win their first Super Rugby championship.
“We’ve got the squad to do it, we’ve come through it so many times and being away for that five week period has brought us together as a club.
“We’ve got two wins on the trot, we’re really building to win that championship this year and I think we have the squad to do it.”
Having spent the best part of the last year on the road, Uelese wasn’t keen on following Brad Thorn’s stance and turn into the Rotorua Rebels for Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, eager to stay at home and reward their fans for their commitment.
“It’s different for everyone, I personally wouldn’t want to move to New Zealand for that five-week period, been on the road for long enough, but, if it means that we get more game time then sure,” he said.
“There’s guys in that team who have kids, families and stuff like that.
“Good on Brad Thorn for wanting to be the Queenstown Reds but we’re the Melbourne Rebels, we want to be here in Melbourne.
“We want to play in front of our fans and give them what they deserve.”