NZ-ing It - Moving To The Darkside - Green and Gold Rugby

NZ-ing It – Moving To The Darkside

NZ-ing It – Moving To The Darkside

With the ink still drying on the newspaper reports of Jack Debreczeni new deal with New Zealand Super Rugby club, the Waikato chiefs came word that Sef Fa’agase had signed with the Hurricanes. Sef and Jack were both on the outer with the Reds and Rebels respectively. And both will immediately be available for All Black selection. So did the Reds and the Rebels get it right and two top Kiwi Super Rugby teams are wasting their hard-earned or have Australia’s rugby brains trust got it wrong again and gifted New Zealand another couple of diamonds in the rough? Maybe it’s just part of the plan to shrink ourselves to greatness.

The Form

Sef Fa’agase

Sef Faagase Queensland Country v Melbourne Rising NRC150823_0031


Fa’agase joined the reds in 2014 and despite being a strong scrummager and handy around the park he never managed to hold down a starting spot despite 43 appearances. There always seemed to be that one player just a little ahead of him. In the last year or two, the emergence of Taniela Tupou and the Smith twins has him firmly on the outer and saw his game time dwindle to stuff all. Say what you like about the Reds general play but there is no denying their set-piece has been top notch the entire time Sef has been with them throughout that period. Fa’agase can scrum, lineout and is good over the ball. He could easily excel in a new environment but with the young players coming through at the Reds has probably made the smart move and moved on.

Is it good for Australian rugby? No

Jack Debreczeni

Photo credit Cam Inniss Photography

Photo credit Cam Inniss Photography

Jack Debreczeni is a 192 cm 100 kg flyhalf/fullback with a silky pass and a giant boot. On his day he could tear a team apart, but none of a succession of coaches could get those days to come with any regularity. He ended up playing second fiddle to less talented or much younger flyhalves and now with the Rebels signing Quade Cooper, and every other spare wallaby back on the planet, he finds himself without a contract. The Reds are looking for a flyhalf but either they weren’t interested in Jack or he felt it was time to give up on Australia and try a new coaching system.

Is it good for Australian rugby? No

Those Who Came Before?

Michael Alaalatoa

Michael Ala'alatoa

Michael Ala’alatoa

The older brother of Wallaby prop Allan Alaalatoa and son of Samoan international Vili Alaalatoa, Michael played in the Shute Shield and worked his way into the Waratahs wider training squad before walking away from Australian rugby to play ITM cup for Manawatu. Strong performances there saw him win a contract with the Crusaders Super Rugby squad. He’s played 14 games in the last three seasons and helped them win the 2017 and 2018 finals.

Pete Samu

Lineout won by Peter Samu.

Lineout won by Peter Samu.

Pete Samu tried his hand at a contract in Queensland before moving to Sydney to play Shute Shield in 2012 where he had a stellar season winning the most valuable player award. But that wasn’t enough to get the Waratahs attention. In 2014 he moved to New Zealand to play for Waimea Old Boys is the Tasman club rugby competition. From there he made the Tasman squad in the ITM Cup. In 2015 he played for the Crusaders Knights development team and was named their player of the year, that lead to a Super Rugby contract with the Crusaders Super Rugby team where he played 29 games over the next three seasons and won two Super Rugby title along the way. In 2018 he was called up to the Wallabies after signing a contract with the Brumbies for the 2019 season.

Tyrel Lomax

Tyrel Lomax and Jordy Reid

Tyrel Lomax and Jordy Reid

Tyral Lomax played for the Melbourne rising before scoring a two-year deal with the Rebels. He played 13 games for the rebels in 2017 before announcing he had signed with the Hurricanes for the 2019 season on a two-year deal. The rebels decided to let Lomax go for the 2018 season and the Hurricanes gladly picked him up a year early where he played 15 games.

The Last Word.

With the demise of the Western Force, there are up to forty less professional rugby players in Australia. It goes without saying that some of those players will leave to earn a living. But there is a shortage of flyhalves in this country! To let one of them wander off into the arms of the greatest rugby machine in the world is madness. It’s pointless developing talent only to shepherd them into the arms of our rugby enemies. Having successful teams might help. A vibrant national competition with financial support for its players would also help. A national coaching plan to formalise training across all age group coach’s would help identify and develop talent more than any other measure. It’s also the least likely to happen.

Until then I guess we’ll just have to watch our players playing in foreign competitions or running out in another countries colours.

  • Huw Tindall

    Until central contracting happens this is going to be inevitable I fear. Litany of cases of some sides being overweight in certain areas essentially preventing someone getting game time at another side. I understand the need for depth to have a competitive Super squad but it’s not the answer when the national side is the ultimate revenue generator and priority.

    Agree that coaching will also help us get more out of who we have no doubt but it’s not the only reason we lose players to other nations.

    • Central contracting would mean the state unions giving up their power. Never going to happen.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        and that’s one of the main problems with Australia rugby

      • Bakkies

        If the states could trust the RA they may be willing to do that. With no trust which is occurring right now you can’t blame the states for holding on to their independence.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Actually mate that’s a fair point. As much as it is holding back Australian rugby you can understand why.

    • Kokonutcreme

      Even in NZ with central contracting, it doesn’t prevent teams stockpiling talent in particular positions if they all happen to be born or are playing within the catchment region.

      Unlike Ireland, the NZRU can recommend players move to get more matchplay if they want to challenge for an All Blacks spot but they won’t force a player to.

      Each Kiwi Super team will name a first pick squad of players they want to keep, then they rely on the draft to fill any gaps, after that players are named in an expanded squad for development who are on standby to cover injuries.

      Players in the expanded squads can move around to different franchises depending on their needs to cover problem positions.

      • Bakkies

        Joey Carbery was encouraged by the IRFU to move as Leinster had two other tens so he was playing out of position to get game time. Ross Byrne just made his test début was stuck in the A team a couple of seasons ago due to this problem.

        Carbery came through the Irish under 20s a year after Byrne spent a season playing club Rugby for Clontarf.

  • Gottsy

    To be honest, I think that Debreczeni going to NZ could be really good for him. As much as he is an up and coming talent, he has been for years now and has somewhat stalled in his development (probably not his fault). Same can be said about Fa’agase, I’ve always rated him and his work rate but there must be something missing for him to not get game time, especially considering the depth of props outside Qld.
    If the desire to one day return to Aus rugby is there, then I say let them go and develop as rugby players, as there is clearly something wrong with the development pathways and coaching in Aus. You see it constantly (especially at the reds), teams with bright young prospects that just get discarded after a few seasons.
    Lomax was always going to go, his heart was never in it, but if we can have a few more success stories along the lines of Pete Samu, then fingers crossed it might spur RA into action to have a closer look why we can’t properly develop and retain our talent

    • BigNickHartman

      yeah, this. Debreczeni’s been on the scene for ages and hasn’t gone anywhere. And now there’s Maddocks, Quade and Toomua at the Rebels next year so you can see why he’s done one.

      It’ll be interesting to see how much the Kiwis can get out of him. It might just be a case of being coached well. In between McQueen and Wessels were there any good coaches at the Rebels?

      • Jack

        their wooden spoon says no

      • Gottsy

        Yeah for sure. There’s also quite a few other players that have gone over that Who? mentions that would give quite a bit of credence to this too.
        Also, take a look at the Southern Hemisphere players that come over here to Europe, so many of them are arguably on a more even playing field amongst their peers (generalising massively here) but that also says to me that the biggest difference is the systems and pathways in place in NZ

      • Kokonutcreme

        Regarding Maddocks, I’ve never seen him play at 10 but many on here and other sites mention him as a future Wallaby flyhalf.

        When will he ever get sufficient gametime at the Rebels in that position to develop so he can chase the Wallaby spot?

      • Bakkies

        McGahan is actually a good coach who flourished in a strong Irish system that was looking to get better. He had a lot to do with the improvement of the Munster Academy. Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Simon Zebo, Dave Kilcoyne, etc came through that system when Munster were going to lose a lot of class players due to retirements.

        He floundered in the basket case that is Aus Rugby. Look at how well Andy Friend is going at Connacht he is very well received by the fans.

  • Fa’agase, the little I’ve seen of him, may or may not have what it takes to make it in NZ. But we’ve seen them take players that look moderate elsewhere, polish them up, and turn them into much better players. You’d have to think Whitelock in particular might be thinking of retiring after 2019, he’ll be 31, which isn’t ancient for a lock, but he probably won’t be playing at 35 in 2023, so he might retire from international rugby and go to England or France for some money. Slotting a more polished Fa’agase in as a reserve lock wouldn’t hurt the ABs.

    And, honestly, while there’s a tonne of criticism of Thorn, some of which maybe, fair some certainly not, he does seem surplus to their requirements. There are other teams who could probably do with him though.

    Debreczeni seems like a bit more of an opportunity lost. He would seem like he should have fit straight in to Thorn’s plans. He also seems less likely to get a shout at 10 or 15 for the ABs tbh. They’re not lacking in depth in either position after all. But Australia looks like it’s missing quality 10s and while they’re ok for 15s at test level, their must be a side that could do with a utility player as cover at least. I’m fighting the urge to rant about a national coach who isn’t giving young players a chance again. I wonder how much of a factor that was in this though? J. Barrett just had a shocker. Ben Smith will be retiring in 2019 if not before. The ABs have cover at 10 and 15, but a young utility back that can cover 10 and 15 and does well at SR level could be in the running in 2020. The Wobs will have a new coach by then I’m sure, but Debreczeni will, I hope for his sake at least, be shining elsewhere.

    Central contracting would make a difference yes. It clearly works. But it’s hard to introduce. Even when the Welsh regions were going bust and the WRU wanted to bail them out but wanted central contracts as part of that, the regions resisted it. There’s a half-arsed dual contracts for some players. Central contracts will come but it’s really taking its time, even in rugby-mad Wales.

    • Kokonutcreme

      Perhaps you’ve confused Fa’agase with someone else as Sef is a prop and not lock.

      • Funk

        I wouldn’t want to be the bloke who has to lift him in the line out!!

      • I really did. I’m not sure who though.

        I guess similar points stand for him, but with Franks and Moody.

  • Who?

    Timely article Sully, and I agree with your points and most in the comments thus far.
    But I feel the need to point out that we’re becoming something of a development stage for Kiwi teams. This year we lose Sef, last year Tyrel, and we also let Ta’avao go back home. Ta’avao was rubbish at the Blues and then the Tahs, suddenly, this year with the Chiefs, he can scrimmage and wears a Black jersey! The year before Toby Smith went home. We’ve also seen Sam Lousi go absolutely nowhere at the Tahs, then find himself an integral part of the Canes pack. And obviously we’ve had other guys like TK’s cousin, Chris Kuridrani’s brother, one Mr Nemani Nadolo. We did nothing with him, couldn’t get the best out of him, he goes to the Crusaders and becomes a superstar.
    It’s terrible to think we’ve closed down a Super opportunity for a team (haven’t closed the Force, but RA’s made it night on impossible for them to get a game, and it’s hard to maintain a team without a comp), so we’re losing players. But it’s equally terrible to realize that our coaching is of such a standard that we couldn’t develop the (clearly good!) talent we have to its potential.

    • Yes, coaching development is the most disappointing area of rugby in this country

    • Kokonutcreme

      I guess its a growing cycle of opportunity that swings both ways. Tongan Thor, Willie O, Sekope Kepu, Mike Harris, Pete Samu, Alby Matthewson are examples of players who have done the reverse.

      Outside those examples you mentioned, its players below that level who are still learning and yet to play professional rugby that you don’t want to lose to NZ forever. Nick Frost is one that springs to mind.

  • Metootootoo

    The Rebels did not let Lomax “go”. Given the uncertainty of 2017 he decided to take the offer from the Highlanders. The Rebels decided not to fight it and released him.

    • I guess the result is the same. An Australian qualified professional rugby player playing in another country.

      • Funk

        Pretty sure that i read that he wanted to play for the aigs, due to his dad being a kiwi rep in league, not sure there is too much you can do about that…

  • Brumby Runner

    I’m wondering what is happening with Falalei Sione. U20s LHP with Tyrel Lomax on the TH side and Sione stayed in Canberra to get a few games with the Brumbies. Then moved to Manawatu in NZ but apparently hasn’t been picked up in a SR side. Will he be back?

  • Ads

    The Debra one is the one that concerns me the most. 9 and particularly 10 are our biggest problems at the moment from a player perspective IMO, along with stupid defence, and a complete lack of rugby smarts (coaching!).
    We should have Foley and Cooper playing at 10 for different super teams, and putting pressure on each other. All other potentials need to also be given game time and QLD and ACT need to be developing other options. Stewart may be that guy. Unfortunately I think CLL isn’t. I think I’d even prefer Barnes in the Euro squad instead of AAC as he was/is a good tackling/kicking 10 (hope his concussion stuff is sorted out) from a mentoring perspective.
    The only way it works well is IF Debra learns more playing over in NZ and comes back a better player. Entirely likely. Can’t see him getting ahead of anyone at 10 and 15 for the Blacks.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    With you 100% Sully, your last point about the need for a national coaching framework is spot on. I personally think that until RA can break the state hold on the game here and bring in some central control and national frameworks for the development of coaches, players, administrators and referees the game will struggle to evolve.
    Good to get players into NZ and if they develop that’s great. But what happens when they come back to the same structure that failed them earlier?

    • Kokonutcreme

      “But what happens when they come back to the same structure that failed them earlier?”

      Brilliant question. Will be watching Samu with interest to see how he progresses with the Brumbies.

      • That would depend on who’s coaching them. Some would listen many would not.

  • Muzz

    These two could be very handy players in the hands of the NZ rugby system. I do hope we see the best of them though

  • Bakkies

    Shrinking to greatness is really working.

    Jake McIntyre who is improving with guess what proper game time is likely to be the next Brock James not return to Australia.

    Paul Warwick is another player that never got a go in Australia was the type of player that needed post Latham and Larkham but played out most of his career at Connacht and Munster. Had a Rugby brain and a strong kicking game honed in tough kicking conditions. His clinic in a gail and pissing rain led Munster to a win over the Wallabies. A sevens tournament representing Australia prevented him from playing for Ireland.

    Than you have Finlay Bealham who was never in the Brumbies system went to Connacht via Ulster after his old man got him on to a Irish passport and sent film of his son playing over to Ireland. An Australian prop who can actually scrummage on both sides properly, strong carrier and has good handling skills is playing for Ireland. Strong propping depth has prevented him getting more caps not ability.

  • Just a small point, both Sef Fa’agase and Tyrel Lomax are with the Highlanders, not the Hurricanes.


Just another Rugby tragic. Shane "Sully" Sullivan has been in man love with the game since high school in the 70's. He inflicts his passion on family and anyone who will listen. He can't guarantee unbiased opinion but he can tell you the Reds are Awesome! To read non-rugby content head to

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