Born Free (to play wherever). - Green and Gold Rugby
ACT Brumbies

Born Free (to play wherever).

Born Free (to play wherever).

Whinging already? A future 'tah for sure.

With the Melbourne Rebels now in the player market place, not too long after the WA Force entered, a subset issue is now a subject of hot discussion.  Who can lay claim to the player.  It is a common cry out of NSWRU and the Sydney club land that they created the majority of all our professional players and now they are being ripped off because of it.

Another parallel discussion of late, particularly up here in Queensland, has been with regards the number of New Zealand born players seemingly making their way in elite rugby over here. It is particularly noticeable, it seems, in schoolboy rugby, but is apparent across the country in the Super 14 as well.

Well it’s time to look at the facts in a little more detail. It’s time to look at the numbers. Numbers and birth places to be precise, of each of the full time squad members of our four current Super 14 teams.

Let’s start by looking big picture, and yes, it is a fact that more players were born in NSW than any other area. I guess, I should acknowledge that birth place is by no means the perfect stat to use but, hey, it’s all I had and if it allows you another article to read, thus putting off some real life work you really should be doing, then shut up, stop complaining and enjoy the article.

chart 1

Of the 121 players  listed in the various web sites and Super 14 media guide, on full time contracts (31 for the Reds and Tahs, 30 for the Force and 29 for the Brumbies) a whopping 52  were born in NSW.  Queensland is, as you would expect, in second spot but with only 20 players. Also unsurprising is the fact that Nu Zulund is in third spot, just behind paradise, with 18, however included in this is the Reds’ import Daniel Braid. ACT is next with 6 players.

The remainder are all over the place.  If I was to be generalist then ‘Over Seas (but not kiwis) has 17 players. However there are a few ‘marquee’ players or imports (Sosene Aneis from Samoa, Tim Fairbrother from New Zealand and Andre Pretorius and Hendrick Roodt both from South Africa).  Roodt and Fairbrother being the only ones who may end up playing for the Wallabies.

The other ‘outliers’ here are just the random birth places.  Guy Shepherdson was born in Indonesia, Stephen Moore was born in Saudi Arabia, Cameron Shepherd was born in the Ol’ Dart, whilst Matt Dunning was born in Canada, eh?

Ok, what else can we look at?

Umm. Yep. Let’s look at a state by state breakdown.  Where are they getting their players?

Firstly, and quite rightly, the Reds.


Greater than what?

Well, the patriotic little bastards have 11 Queenslanders in their squads, which is a smidgen over a third. Breaking it down a little further and that 7 city-slickers (I mean, players born in Brisbane) and four country folk. Well country may be stretching it for Benny Lucas who was born in Ipswich, but the rest (Rodney Davies in Rocky, Greg Holmes in Warwick and Rob Simmons in Theodore) are all ‘from the land’ (again, another gross generalisation).

The Reds have eight kiwis. More kiwis than Brisbanites then.  I’ve mentioned Braid, who was born in Auckland as was Brando Vaaulu, but then there’s Quade Cooper, Danya Edwards, Richard Kingi, Digby Ioane, Leroy Houston and the one formerly known as Tasi Luafutu.

There’s a few from Sydney in there (Adam Byrnes, Ben Daley, Morgan Tuninui and Laurie Weekes) whilst the Faingaa twins hail from Queanbeyan and Van the Man is from Moree giving us 7 cockroaches in the squad. Prop Jack Kennedy was born in Canberra.

The other randoms are Will Genia from PNG, Will Chambers from the Northern Territory and Scott Higginbottham from out west (meaning Subiaco).


Newie - home of some pretty decent halfbacks. And Luke Burgess.

To the Tahs.

They have 13 Sydney bubs, with a healthy smattering of regional lads representing areas like Newcastle (Luke Burgess and Super Prop), Young (the chuckle brothers Caldwell and Carter), Shellharbour (Dan Palmer) and Belmont (Dan Halangahu). So almost two thirds of the squad are home-boys, which is an indication of the production line that is NSW Rugby. Or perhaps an indication that about a third of this country’s population lives in the state.

So where do the others come from? Well obviously Roodt and Anesi have been covered and they are joined by other ‘foreigners’ Chris Alcock (South Africa), Nemani Nadolo (Fiji), and their kiwi locks Cam Jowitt and Dean Mumm.

They’ve poached just the three blood Queenslanders in Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell and Ben Mowen. Stolen a couple from Canberra in Al Baxter and Chris Thompson whilst back up flanker Ben Coridas comes from the home of AFL – Geelong. Note well Mr MacQueen.


Poor, poor Nara.

If we move on down, move on down the road, we get to the Brumbies. Being a relatively small territory, just down the highway from Sydney, you could expect a fair chunk of NSW players in their lot. And they do. In fact the Brumbies have more Sydney born players on their roster than the Waratahs do – 15 to be precise.  With Josh Valentine from Newcastle, they round out their NSW squad number at sweet 16.

The Brumbies have the same number of Canberra boys as the Waratahs do – two, in Peter Kimlin and Henry Vanderglas. But they’ve only got the one banana bender in Gladstone’s one Mark Chisholm.

There’s a few of kiwis in there in Huia Edmonds from Ashburton and Franky Fainifo and Christian Lealiifano, both JAFA’s. And whilst Moore and Shepherdson are unusual cases, Jerry Yanuuanutawa (Fiji) and Sitaleki Timani (Tonga) both hold their country of birth close to them having each spent significant schooling years in their respective birth countries. Alfi Mafi, on the other hand, was born in Tonga did much of his schooling in Sydney, whilst holding onto his strong Tongan heritage.

The final two names on the squad list will also be interesting to those working through the hit list for the Melbourne Rebels. Wallaby skipper, Rocky Elsom, and boom fly-half, Matt Toomua, were both born in the land of Underbelly and would be prime candidates for the new team. Excellent players and a fantastic news story.


Force development program - driving across the Nullabor.

Now moving West, and to the Force. Now they have a  few locals on board in Kieran Longbottom and Ryan Tyrrell who have both come through the system over there and it’s great to see them crack the professional squad. The other westie is Brett Sheehan who has just moved ‘home’ after plying is trade in the more traditional rugby areas in both Queensland and New South Wales.

Much of the rest of the squad are from the traditional heartlands with 10 from NSW and 5 each from Queensland and New Zealand. Interestingly, of the five Queenslanders only one was Brisbane-born (Mark Bartholomeauz) with the remaining four from regional areas. Again, whilst James O’Connor’s the Gold Coast is hardly regional the likes of Townsville (Richard Brown), Millmerran (Nick Henderson) and Bowen (Tom Hockings) sure are. There’s an equally strong regional feel to the NSW Connection with Nathan Sharpe (Wagga Wagga), Nick Cummins (Port Macquarie), Ben McCalman and Richard Stanford (both Dubbo) the country lads.

The kiwi connection comes from Sam Harris, Stefano Hunt, Pek Cowan and Josh Tatupup, and of course Tim Fairbrother. There is a strong African feel to the squad with David Pocock, from Zimbabwe as well as Mark Swanepoel and Dane Haylett-Perry both from South Africa. And then there are Dunning and Shepherd and their ‘ex-pat blood’.

And that’s it for the Aussie Super 14 teams.  A quick glance left and right shows a couple of things. Firstly, South Africa does not have a lot of foreign born players.  Now I wouldn’t dare suggest that the reason Australia has more foreign players is because more people want to come to Australia to live, which might also explain why South Africa seem to have to rely more on home grown talent…

Aussie Benson

Aussie Benson

Secondly, Benson Stanley (Blues), Ben Franks (Crusaders) and Tevita Mailau (Blues) are all Australian born. Two of those, Franks and Mailau, are props.   More possible Rebel options.  Franks has played for New Zealand against Munster but this alone does not tie him to the All Blacks.

Where does that leave us? Well, it would seem NSW will continue to provide a large chunk of our player numbers at the pro level, with New Zealand probably increasing its share. Personally, I’m a little concerned about the Brisbane’s numbers, although pleasantly surprised by the regional QLD stats.  I wonder if our schools, our main development path, are focusing on attracting the scholarship holders from interstate and overseas too readily rather than developing our own talent? I wonder if the development path is actually there for our own talent?

But that’s an article for another day.

  • I think that schooling is a more reliable indicator of where a player’s roots lie than where they were born, as they may have only lived in their birthplace for a short time.

    For the Brumbies there are five players who finished their schooling in Canberra: Matt Giteau and Henry Vanderglas at St Edmund’s, Peter Kimlin and Guy Shepherdson at Canberra Grammar and Huia Edmonds at Erindale College. There are also a couple of others who played Colts for a Canberra or Queanbeyan team.

    • Noddy

      agree Place of Birth is not the best judge, but don’t think School is either. Particularly at a time of scholarships.

      • Seb V

        nah i think school is the big indicator. Its where most of their rugby is taught.

        • However the school information is not as freely available, and players could have gone to several schools making it difficult to collate the data.

          Great article Noddy, and good to see the Tahs leading the way in both growing and retaining star players

  • Aussie D

    Belmont is actually a suburb of Newcastle so they have four (superprop, Burgess, Valentine and Hangers).

  • Newb

    great read noddy. interesting to see it all laid out like that. i wonder what corners of the world melbourne will pull their recruits from. perhaps not so far after all.

  • reds fan

    As a nation built on migrants I find any accusations of player stealing quite amusing. Most of the overseas born players listed have generally migrated here at a young age and consider themselves Australian, or have chosen to move here to improve the opportunities available to them and/or their families (like all the other migrants). There are really only a handful of non-marquee professional rugby players that have moved here trying to break into a Test side cos they dont think they could make it at home. The breakdown you have shown is more oz-born-centric than my workplace which is full of poms, kiwi’s, french, south africans, irish, americans, indians, chinese, japanese etc. I think our professional player stocks are but a reflection of the composition of our society. Long may it be so.

  • Calexico

    I reckon Canberra/Queanbeyan should count as one region – except in the case of George Lazenby.

    • Seb V

      i agree, queanbeyan is basically canberra anyway. Some junior comp.

    • The Australian Bureau of Statistics agrees with you, the City of Queanbeyan and the ACT are considered a single urban area for statistical purposes.

      So you can include the Faingaa twins, who were born in Queanbeyan and were schooled at St Edmund’s, in the ACT camp.

  • Tucker

    I don’t know what the other states development is like, but NSW country schools is sending 50 boys to South Africa for a tour this Easter, and they do this every year. Players such as Adam-Ashley Cooper and Scott Staniforth have come through this system

  • M Simons

    Sorry, the whole exercise was pointless due to the use of place of birth. If only they had use schooling (particularly high schooling) then the results would have been more interesting.

    I was born in Europe, lived there for 6 months and then returned to Brisbane to school (and play all my rugby). If I’d played representative rugby then I’d be considered a foreigner??!

    Please attempt the research again but base it on high-schooling. The informaion is really not that hard to pull together. Consequently, I think you’d find a much higher number of players that were weaned on rugby in Sydney and Brisbane schools.

    • Noddy

      “Please attempt the research again but base it on high-schooling”

      what are you, my teacher?

      “The informaion is really not that hard to pull together”

      awesome. I look forward to you providing it to me,

      • M Simons

        Gee, your a sensitive soul.
        Didn’t expected that response from a hardened rugby man.
        I’ll make the point agaaaaain! Poor article that could have been great if your used the right metric.

        • Noddy

          seemingly you didn’t bother to read the article?

          Here you go, a couple of highlight:

          ” I should acknowledge that birth place is by no means the perfect stat to use but, hey, it’s all I had and if it allows you another article to read, thus putting off some real life work you really should be doing, then shut up, stop complaining and enjoy the article.”

          and as for your supposed classification as a foriegn player read the bits about Stephen Moore and Guy Shepherdon

  • Col

    I am soooo sick of these b Queensland news reporters now trying to claim Ben Daley as a Queenslander – for God sake he was born in NSW – his Dad & grandad were born in NSW – he played RL in NSW…his Dad played RL in NSW- The Daley name is well known in Sea Eagles area for many many years!!! Get honest you Qld folk…he is a great Aussie player not because he is a Qlder

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