NRC Team of the Week – Round 3 - Green and Gold Rugby
National Rugby Championship

NRC Team of the Week – Round 3

NRC Team of the Week – Round 3

It’s a bit of a running theme over on the GAGR Forum, or even on the comments section of the main page, for someone to suggest “too many Tahs” whenever a team is announced or even suggested. Well, that aint gonna happen this week (well, it probably will be it will be completely tongue in cheek). Such was the dire performances of the two NSW teams in Round 3 of the NRC that I couldn’t bring myself to consider any of them in this Team of the Week.

Accordingly removing a couple of teams-worth of players from consideration didn’t necessarily make selection any easier.  Big wins to Brisbane City and Melbourne Rising had to be weighed up with the quality of the opposition. Similarly QLD Country’s big win over the high-flying Fiji Drua was a bloody impressive performance while the match up in Canberra was of high quality. Anyway, that’s a little of my methodology, so let’s get to the outcomes.

15 Karmichael Hunt (Brisbane City) – 1st week in team

You get the sense that Hunt is finding his feet again in rugby following limited game time this season.  For Brisbane this weekend gone he was moved from outside centre, back to fullback and the move paid off. He was dangerous from the back and active in his ball distribution.  Justin Masters enjoyed plenty of space from the back against the Eagles as well.

14 Jock Campbell (QLD Country) – 1st

Campbell has been one of the surprise packets of the NRC this season. Perhaps perceived to be simply benefiting from being on the back of an all-star backline, he’s proven to be a dangerous runner in his right and surprisingly powerful given his frame.  Andy Muirhead has been in fine form for the Vikings and looked dangerous again on the weekend.

13 Jordan Petaia (QLD Country) – 2nd

I’m really liking the look of young Len Ikitau from the Vikings and he did some good things against the Force. But the options here were former Rabbitoh Tautalatasi Tasi had an impactful debut for Brisbane but it’s hard to go past Petaia who scored a hat trick and was a real handful for QLD Country against the high flying Fijians.

12 Jordan Jackson-Hope (Canberra Vikings) – 2nd

There was plenty of talent on show in the 12 jersey last weekend. Billy Meakes was very good for the Rising, while Matt Gordon played strongly in his first starting gig for the season for Brisbane. Duncan Paia’aua was at the centre of most things for QLD Country, while Henry Teafu was busy for the Force. However the standout was the young Vikings centre who was sharp, scored a brilliant individual try and made an impressive 19 tackles.

11 Tom English (Melbourne Rising) – 1st

Not so tough this one. Sure Filipo Daugunu was exciting for QLD Country and James Kane did a lot good in his Sydney Rays run on debut. But how can you go past English and his five tries? He set a new competition record – a record he himself first set back in September of 2014 when he scored four tries against Brisbane.  He was exceptional against the Eagles in bumping the record up by an extra try.

10 Hamish Stewart (QLD Country) – 1st

This one was a tough call really. Despite a good game by Wharenui Hawera this was a contest between the two Queenslanders. While Quade Cooper was steering the ship for Brisbane City in their first win of the season, Hamish Stewart was guiding QLD Country to an important win over Fiji Drua. Stewart pips Quade for mine though because of the way he dictated play. In fact it was his kicking game that really caught the eye and showed a maturity to his game we hadn’t seen previously.

9 Michael Ruru (Melbourne Rising) – 1st

Such was the one-sided nature of the match, Wallaby hopeful Jake Gordon did not get much of a chance to show his wares against the Rising.  On the flip side, Ruru was loving life and causing all sorts of havoc with the ball. When he wasn’t unleashing his free-running backs, or feeding his destructive pack, he was chancing his arm himself and doing so pretty damn well.

8 Ben Hyne (Canberra Vikings) – 1st

Brynard Stander was pretty damn powerful in attack and a strong presence throughout the Force’s match up with the Canberra Vikings. On any other weeekend he probably would have snagged this spot. But his opposite number, and Vikings skipper, Ben Hyne was an absolute powerhouse in his play. Putting aside his 24 tackles, Hyne was inspirational in his relentless endeavour to curtail the Force attack. A real darkhorse Wallaby contender for mine.

7 Chris Alcock (Western Force) – 2nd

It is an acknowledgement of Alcock’s importance to his team that he is the only player from a losing team to make this ‘selection’.  I thought Tom Kibble, debuting for QLD Country, showed plenty but Alcock was so crucial to any opportunity the Force had to win in Canberra.  Another in the long line of backrow leaders in the west, Alcock was in the middle of most of the good things the Force produced in Canberra and is part of arguably the best backrow in the competition.

6 Adam Korczyk (Brisbane City) – 1st

The Brisbane skipper has been out of sorts this start of the season, but relished being back on the side of the scrum having been forced to pack into the second row last week.  While Rob Leota enjoyed the one way traffic of the Rising’s win over the Eagles, Korczyk ran strongly when he got the chance and toiled manfully when the game tightened up. Experiencing his first captaincy pressures, Adam seemed more comfortable with the role on the weekend which must be a good sign moving forward.

5 Darcy Swain (Canberra Vikings) – 2nd

The young Viking lock is another of a promising batch of Queensland locks who we are likely to see competing for Wallaby jerseys in the not too distant future. While Angus Blythe and Harry Hockings have been impressive for QLD Country, Swain has been outstanding for Canberra and was at it again against the Force. He was throwing his considerable body mass around like no bodies business and with 17 tackles to his name, many of considerable impact, he wasn’t shirking his duty either.

4 Blake Enever (Canberra Vikings) – 1st

Swain’s locking partner on the weekend, has considerably more experience in professional rugby but seemed to enjoy his the youth and exuberance of his team mate. They combined nicely in attack at times and Enever matched Swain in the tackling department. It’s worth throwing in the name of Rising skipper, Angus Cottrell who was thrown into the locking spot due to a late line-up change and was as abrasive as ever despite the unfamiliar position.

3 James Slipper (QLD Country) – 2nd

This was a tough call this week.  Vikings tight head, Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, was pushing hard for his selection in consecutive weeks however only lasted 20 minutes before injury.  Shambeckler Vui has been the Rays best player in their two big losses. Instead I’ve opted for James Slipper, despite some challenges at scrum time. He’s a massive influence around the park, with powerful running and resolute defence. You can tell the young QLD Country pack are thriving on his experience and abilities.

2 Efi Ma’afu (QLD Country) – 1st

Ma’afu earned his first start for the year, swapping with the highly consistent Alex Casey for QLD Country’s game against the Drua in Mackay. The youngster proceeded to have a stormer of a match with some solid set piece work. His defensive work was most eye-catching though in making 10 tackles and not missing one against a highly elusive Fijian team.

1 Fereti Sa’aga (Melbourne Rising) – 1st

Finally someone has broken the JP Smith hold on this TOTW #1 jersey! Harry Hoopert from QLD Country was a contender through his strong running while Sione Tuala of the Vikings had his moments too.  Sa’aga get’s the guernsey though built from the powerful platform he provided in a dominant scrum as well as his increasingly impressive work around the park.


  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    Thanks again, Reg. Don’t get to watch as much of the NRC as I’d like so love your wrap ups.

    Good to see Petaia playing at 13 rather than on the wing. Do you think there’s any chance of him playing there for the Reds? Surely Samu at 12 and Petaia at 13 have a very good chance of being a longterm centre combination for the Reds, if not for the Wallabies as well.

    • RugbyReg

      thanks mate. Appreciate it.

      Not sure about Petaia. He played a bit of fullback at school so perhaps that’s an option considering the Reds are lacking here?

      I remain a big fan of Duncan Paia’aua at 12, although he does have some defensive deficiencies. So that leaves Kerevi at 13 still for mine.

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        Can’t argue with that. Paia’aua is a quality player. Would be the perfect inside centre for the Brumbies inside of TK I think! After Toomua, of course…

        • RugbyReg

          Well keep an eye out for Jordan Jackon-Hope who has been very very good for the Vikings at 12 this NRC.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yeah, it would be great to see get a regular start at Super level, and do well. Impressed by what you said about his defence too, especially for such a small guy in such a physical position.

        • Brumby Runner

          I notice he is making almost all of his tackles at knee or below level. Will never dominate but is effective.

        • servo

          I hope he does get some more game time. I think we should reward players doing well in the NRC. I just think he’s on the small side for SR. He just needs to beef up a bit but not lose his speed and he’d be a great option.

      • Slim 293

        It looks like JJH beefed up slightly this year without losing his pace……. still not a massive guy but he’s making his tackles and not being dominated which is good to see.

        If he keeps this up he should definitely be given first crack at 12 for the Brumbies next year…

        In the meantime Simone is just going to have to keep waiting to get a shot.

        • Huw Tindall

          Lots of wraps on JJH after 3 rounds of NRC. Sounds like a bit of a play making 12 who isn’t a liability in defence. I know a few teams who could use one of those!

        • servo

          Agreed, he just need to put more weight on I reckon.

  • Brumby Runner

    Reg, great analysis again. Can’t fault any of your selections or reasons.

    I don’t mind you claiming Swain as a Qlder, but he has developed as a top class lock down here. Always behind Hockings and Blyth in Qld but as you will no doubt discern from my comments on the subject, I’ve always rated Darcy the best of the three since the warm up games for their U20s campaign. His defence is absolutely outstanding, and he has excellent skills with ball in hand for a big lock as well. Wallaby in waiting imo.

    Agree with JJH selected at 12 this week, but still think he is too much on the small side to make a big impression at higher levels. Still hanging out to see how Simone can handle this level too.

    • RugbyReg

      Swain has been excellent this last couple of weeks. Definitely playing better than Hockings and Blythe this NRC.

  • Bobas

    This team would have beaten Argentina.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Bobas, the Wagga Wagga D Grade U15 would have beaten Argentina! ;-)
      BUt the Wallabies certainly wouldnt.

      • Bobas

        To be fair they would be beaten up front, but they’d get a bigger crowd and less hate if they played them.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Very ture.

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      I don’t know about that. But his team would have beaten the Wallabies.

    • Gallagher

      Depends who the coach is doesn’t it? The Wallabies are littered with excellent players at the moment, but its how they are being used and strategies they are using that is failing them.

  • The Jackal

    I’d love to see a couple of these guys given a crack at Test level as they are legitimate footballers with rugby nous and instincts not just athletes who play rugby (no names but Reece Hodge).

    I’m not sure if he is too small (can’t be smaller than Damian McKenzie) but Andy Muirhead just does everything right on the field and is constantly scoring tries. Could give late game impact off the bench.

    Petaia looks ready for the big show now, class on the field with every touch. Maybe past it now but players like Cottrell & Alcock would have done a serviceable job at Test level and left it all out on the paddock each week.

    • Brumby Runner

      MacKenzie is a freak. His attacking prowess is almost unmatched. Not fair to compare JJH or many other players with DMac.

      I do agree on Cottrell and Alcock. Neither would let anyone down at test level, and nice to see Cottrell’s impact on the weekend playing lock acknowledged in Reg’s write up too. Really showed his lineout jumping capability in that game and kept up his high work rate throughout as well. Would make a good replacement for Tui in the next few tests.

      • The Jackal

        Fair point re McKenzie. I’m just a little sick of the AUstralian mindset that bigger is better, love to see some more agile small guys in there rather than just powerful players like Koroibete. Seeing Dyanti, Kolbe, Moyano & Delguy light it up over the weekend has me thinking who could provide that elusive impact for the Wallabies. Thinking the days of the Julian Savea power winger may be over thankfully.

        • Brumby Runner

          Sure, but don’t go overboard. The likes of JJH and Jack MacGregor are very small, a la DMac but not as talented as DMac. There are other talented players who have more size but who do not qualify as massive units, like Maddocks, Naivalu, Petaia, Muirhead, Perese, Clark, even Koroibete and Speight who will be more likely to make it to the top than the likes of JJH and JMacG.

    • Huw Tindall

      I’m a big fan of Muirhead after this year’s Super comp and he is continuing into NRC. Bolter for mine. Don’t move Banks to the wing or anything like that. Muirhead is a quality winger who knows his positional play and has a great turn of pace and swerve. Always in the right place at the right time.

      • IIPA

        Yeah big time agree on Muirhead. Also I like Ian’s comments re smaller guys. Where are our Dmacs,Delguys or Kolbes? Cheika has scared them all off.

        Actually it started with the signing of big league wingers like Lote and Sailor. The final nail was Rod Davies getting monstered on debut by Tuilaga. But he would have monstered Julian Savea at that time.

        Jack McGregor looks sharp and quick of mind over at the Force. In Davies, Lacey and Uyen they’ve also got just about the best set of pure wingers in Australia.

  • Ian Rodger

    I would love to see a guy like Petaia get a crack at the wallabies. It’s not like we can get much worse and we have to build towards the RWC next year. So bring in some propper young guns who actually know how the game works.

    • Huw Tindall

      Bloke has barely started shaving so like Thor let’s give him time. He could have a long career ahead of him so no need to rush. Expect to see him in extended training squads soon if he continues his rise.

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