Monday’s Rugby News looks at the Super Rugby Australia results, Michael Hooper’s captaincy pitch, the back and forth between Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby and how Rugby Australia can afford Joseph Suaalii’s ‘multi-million’ dollar deal
Round four action
Round four of Super Rugby Australia saw a pair of teams make emphatic statements as the games relocated to NSW.
The action started at the SCG where the Waratahs looked to turn around their slow start to the season against the Rebels.
They looked set to build off last week’s narrow loss when Alex Newsome crossing in the opening ten minutes.
However, this was the only bright spot for the Tahs as the Rebels took control of the rest of the match, with the newly single Matt Toomua slotting 19 points from his boot.
Tries before the end of both halves to Ryan Louwrens and Marika Koroibete would seal the 29-10 win, with coach Dave Wessels praising his young forward pack post-match. “I’m very proud, in particular, of our young forwards,” Wessels said.
“We had Cameron Orr starting debut, Trev Hosea starting debut, Jordy (Uelese) would only have a handful of caps, Pone’s (Fa’amausili) only got three caps, Josh (Kemeny) has only got three caps and they played against a really experienced pack,
“If I compare that to the Waratahs, (Tom) Robinson’s got 50 something, (Michael) Hooper, (Rob) Simmons over 100, (Ned) Hanigan, (Jack) Dempsey over 50, so for a young pack that was probably the most pleasing thing for me.”
The action then headed to rugby league’s ‘eighth wonder’ with the Force hosting the Brumbies at Leichardt Oval.
Unfortunately for the Force, they were outclassed and outmuscled by the competition favourites, who pitched a shutout 24-0 win.
With the ACT side seemingly adapting to life without standout fly-half Noah Lolesio, Brumbies coach Dan McKellar was proud with how his younger players stepped up, particularly Bailey Kuzenie.
“I thought BK was good,” he said.
“We talk all the time about when we expose the young players that they’re ready to go, we don’t throw them under the bus.
“They’re young men and in that position in particular, there’s a lot of responsibility to make calls and direct the team around the park, tell guys who are much more senior what to do and he’s been working away in the background.”
Hooper’s captaincy call
Incumbent Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has expressed his desire to remain in one of the nation’s top roles as he looks to guide the Wallabies into a new era.
After the departure of Michael Cheika, Dave Rennie refused to confirm Hooper’s position as skipper, reaffirming that he would decide when he selects his first squad.
Whilst the 28-year-old made the surprise decision to step down as captain from the Waratahs at the start of the year, he has told Fox Sports that he still wants to lead his country from the front.
“No, I haven’t spoken to Dave about it because it’s something that I think will develop down the track,” Hooper said.
“As far as my take on captaincy, it’s a privilege that’s given to you by the people that decide that. That’s always been my mindset on it.
“If it pans out that way, yeah, I’m going to do everything I can to be the best I can be in that environment and, if I’m not, how can I help the team as best as possible – that’s my mindset.
“Look, I’m very proud to have been captain of the country and I would still be very proud to continue doing that, and I would be very pleased to take on that role if it was bestowed upon me.”
With uncertainty continuing to cloud the future of domestic rugby in Australia, Hooper threw his support behind an Australian-only competition as he enjoys a more settled lifestyle.
“I’m getting now an opportunity in my career to play solely an Australian comp, which I never thought I’d be able to play. You would never have anticipated that,” he revealed.
“What can I do in this competition (is the focus)? The other guys here, the senor guys, have certainly been in the same mindset, Rob Simmons, Karmichael (Hunt), Tetera Faulkner, some guys that have been around for a long time, well this is a bit of a new lease on life, there’s no travelling, (so) what can we get out of this competition?
“We can help leave a mark here with some of the guys that are coming through and that’s been really exciting.
“And the enthusiasm brought from all of the guys in the squad, maybe it’s a first or second year (player), has been so great for us.”
NZR receive backhand from RA
As Australia and New Zealand continue to shirtfront over the future of domestic rugby, RA chairman Hamish McLennan has confirmed that they will ignore any ‘expression of interest’ requests from their NZ counterparts.
New Zealand Rugby is leaning towards an eight-team competition, with latest plans from 1 NEWS suggesting that they are weighing up a 15-week home and away competition.
With NZR sending a pretty condescending message to RA in order to ‘submit expressions of interest’ to join them, McLennan has revealed that any message in this topic would be sent straight to junk mail as they continue to receive interest in their own comp.
“The expression of interest I’m not interested in and if they send it over I won’t open it,” McLennan told SMH.
“If [chairman Brent Impey] and Mark [Robinson] want to chat with Clarkie and myself, I think next week’s the week to do it.
“My preferred competition is trans-Tasman five and five and I even received a call last night from London from powerful backers wanting to invest in the competition,” he added.
This position was backed by Waratahs chairman Roger Davis during the week, who decided to take a similarly petty approach as they plan their future.
“We will now invite the New Zealand Super sides to participate in our competition,” Davis said.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. NZR went straight to the clubs and bypassed Rugby Australia. We can do exactly the same.
“They’re trying to split us from Rugby Australia, so we’ll see how they like the same game being played on them.
“It’s appalling really. We’re not going to split or destroy the code by dumping two or three sides. It would do irreparable damage to the game here.”
As soon as word got out about the supposed $3 million deal offered to teenager Joseph Suaalii, many were shocked that the cash-strapped organisation would make such a big play given the current climate.
At this stage, players are still on reduced contracts with more than a third of RA staff either made redundant or forced to take cuts to their pay and hours.
So that begs the question, where has all this money come from?
Well, The Australian has shed light on this, revealing that the offer has been made possible through the Emerging Wallabies Fund.
This fund is controlled by Australian Rugby Foundation, which allows all the Mosman-type characters to give back and donate to rugby in order to ensure the sport’s future talent.
The fund was set up by Raelene Castle whilst she was in charge, which at various points has supported David Pocock and Israel Folau, designed to stop the favourite past time of leaguies – poaching our best players.
“Our mandate is to support Rugby Australia as well as Rugby in Australia with the overarching goal of increasing the investment into rugby around the country and across all aspects of the game,” the ARF said on their ‘about’ section.
The Australian also provide interesting clarity around the true figure that has been thrown at the Kings product, stating that no youngster will be offered a deal higher than the final year of Jordan Petaia’s extension, which is about $375,000.
They suggest that the prospect of Olympic gold, not money, could be the driving factor that convinces Suaalii to join the Waratahs and remain in rugby.
Already, men’s coach Tim Walsh has indicated that he would welcome Suaalii into the fold with the hopes of playing him in 2021 (if the event is not cancelled.)
Along with this, any deal that would be thrown at home would reportedly expire in 2021 at the 17-year old’s request.