New South Wales Waratahs 2019 Season Review - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

New South Wales Waratahs 2019 Season Review

New South Wales Waratahs 2019 Season Review

New South Wales fans haven’t had a lot to cheer about since 2014, but following a semi-promising season last year which saw the Waratahs make it to the Super Rugby semi-final, there was a sense that, with new talent coming through and a game structure that looked to be finally coming good, 2019 might see the Waratahs go further. The season started promisingly with a close loss to competition heavyweights the Hurricanes, followed by wins against the Sunwolves, Reds and most notably, the Crusaders. And then, everything went to hell with a loss to the Sunwolves in Newcastle, a winless tour of South Africa, and 0/3 at Western Sydney Stadium. Despite grabbing two wins against both the Reds and Rebels, by seasons end the Waratahs crashed out embarrassingly in New Zealand with a 49-12 defeat to the Highlanders. The end of 2019 sees a flurry of players leaving, as well as Simon Cron and notably, Darryl Gibson, setting the stage for a complete revamp in 2020.

Our producer Nick Wasiliev, along with stalwarts Nathan Williamson and Oliver Lembke sat down to give the lowdown on another disappointing Waratah season.

SEASON RATING:

Nick: D- Harsh, but in my opinion, earned. Many GAGR Folks who follow me know that I’m a Brumbies supporter, but the truth is (other than for eighty minutes whenever they square off twice a year), I genuinely want the Waratahs to do well. They are a key team in Aussie rugby, and if they are performing well, that is positive for the game nationally.  And in truth, this was a team that, with the amount of talent at their disposal (and the potential they showed last year), underperformed hugely. They went backwards, were outmuscled in key games, and by season’s end, despite somehow still being in contention, looked totally rudderless. I feel for Tahs’ fans, because this season seemed to summarise all the problems they’ve had over the last few years: so much potential, for little result.

Nathan: D It’s tough to grade a side that was in finals contention until the final match with wins over the Crusaders and doing the double over the Rebels and the Reds. However with all the talent in that side and their performances comparative to last year, a D seems fitting. When you have 15 players with international experience, going 6-10 is unacceptable from a fans perspective regardless of all the drama and disruptions that have faced the club over the past 12 months.

Oliver: D- For a team that finished 2018 one game short of the grand final and started 2019 with a very similar roster it’s hard to rate them any higher than a D.  Tahs fans can blame the Izzy Folau debacle for derailing their season but ultimately NSW never really looked like title contenders even before Super Rugby’s leading try scorer opened his Instagram account.

Karmichael Hunt, Bernard Foley Alex Newsome chat Waratahs v Rebels 2019 (Credit Keith McInnes)

Karmichael Hunt, Bernard Foley and Alex Newsome chat

SEASON LOW POINT:

Nick: This is a tough one. I know that Israel Folau is going to probably be mentioned in all of our responses, and I really don’t want to talk about that. The fact, however, that Nick Phipps came out on June 9 and basically said that the distractions off-field with Folau cost them a finals place, despite the fact THEY WERE STILL IN CONTENTION AT THE TIME, was even more frustrating. It suggests to me that off the field this year was effectively a mess, and that the team was not focused on playing each game, week in, week out. In their mind, their season was already over, and as a team of professional athletes that is not good enough. And, low and behold, that mentality showed when they rolled over and let the Highlanders demolish them. These off-field problems were amplified by my low point of the year, the departure of Simon Cron overseas (who has been touted as a major coaching prospect for the Tahs for years). I genuinely believe that Cron was the bloke who could rebuild this Tahs outfit, except now, they’re basically rebuilding the team from the ground up with no lead coach who’s been in the organisation for a while. I’ll be prepared to be proven wrong, but considering his passion and the amount of time he has been in the NSW system, I was hoping that Cron would be the man to lead the Tahs forward.

Oliver: In a season with numerous low points, the one that immediately stands out is the loss at home to the Sunwolves. While the Super Rugby perennial cellar dwellers were indeed stronger in 2019, the way the Tahs were comprehensively outplayed in front of a dismal crowd in the first ever Super Rugby game in country NSW seemed like the beginning of the end of their season.

Nathan: I’m going to stray away from the obvious answer of the Israel Folau saga since we had 3 wins from 7 gamesbefore his social media post. What I consider to be the low point was our adventures against the South African Conference. This period started with all the hope and optimism that comes with playing at a new stadium before crashing down to earth with three straight losses. This stretch was particularly heartbreaking for myself as I witnessed back-to-back losses in the last 5 minutes against the Bulls and Lions in the late hours of Saturday evening/Sunday morning, crushing any good fortune and spirit that I had left for the season.

Waratahs huddle v Rebels 2019 (Credit Keith McInnes)

The Waratahs get into their huddle, pre-Rebels game

SEASON HIGH POINT:

Oliver: What makes the loss in Newcastle such a low point is perhaps what occurred the weekend prior. The Tahs became the first team to defeat the Crusaders in 18 games, in what was by far their most complete performance at the SCG. The forwards stood up to their more fancied opposition, while the backs clicked into gear leading to tries to Cam Clark and he who shall not be named.

Nick: The Crusaders win was stellar, but I’m going to go with their wins over the Reds and Rebels. Right now, from a mental perspective, the Tahs really look to have an edge over both those Aussie counterparts, and these clean sweeps effectively was what kept them in finals contention. It’s a pity they weren’t able to apply this mental dominance and bring it to other games they should have won, such as against the Sharks. Against nearly all other teams, it felt like from the get-go, the Tahs were on the back foot mentally, and it showed in the results.

Nathan: Hard to go past the win over the Crusaders at the SCG. Every one of the Waratahs big guns put in world-class performances, especially Folau and Foley and the forward pack resembled a brick wall in defence. That was one of the best performances that I have seen out of the Waratahs since the 2014 Grand Final and really built hopes that we could pull off something special this season. How wrong I was.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Nick: I always appreciate growth in players, and for me, the player who showed that the most was Harry Johnson-Holmes. In a year where the Tahs forwards were routinely outplayed, this young red-headed prop progressed astronomically, and over the course of the year, turned into a legitimate attacking weapon that gave the forward pack some much needed go-forward. The fact he got some much needed games under his belt showed, and I hope the Tahs give him more of a chance to play on a more regular week in, week out basis in future seasons. This is a guy you need to watch.

Nathan: Michael Hooper was the stand out for the Waratahs across the year. In every match he played, Hooper was immense, often covering at least two of his fellow team-mates in defence. His performances over the year have pretty much ended any debate about his exclusion from the Wallabies starting line up. Special mentions to Kurtley Beale who looked reinvigorated during the second half of the season at fullback and Rob Simmons who was consistently solid throughout the year.

Oliver: This was a tough one to pick. Before the season, the Waratahs backs were labelled the “the Rolls Royce of backlines”, looking back on it no one stood up and put together a career-best year. Beale was solid at fullback, Hunt had a couple of outstanding games, Foley was again hot and cold, while Phipps only just did enough to start ahead of Gordon week on week. Youngsters Cam Clark and Alex Newsome look set for long careers in Sky Blue but hardly set the world alight.   It was actually in the forwards where we saw higher individual performances week on week. Micheal Hooper was as always a rock, and Harry Johnson-Holmes was a significant presence covering for the injured Tom Robertson. Veteran Sekope Kepu was solid without being spectacular, and the promising Jack Dempsey looked good but only strung together eight games. Perhaps the biggest shock was the form of Rob Simmons. His lineout ability was predictably world-class, as was his work rate, and he seemed to be hitting harder and getting over the advantage line more so than ever. This is going to be a controversial selection, and I expect to cop it in the comments, but I’m going to go Simmons over Hooper for 2019 player of the year.

Daryl Gibson Waratahs v Rebels 2019 (Credit Keith McInnes)

Darryl Gibson departed the Waratahs after four seasons in the top job this year

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:

Nathan: The majority of the Waratahs new additions either only played 2-3 games as a result of the Wallabies resting period or had featured for other clubs in previous years,such as Tom Staniforth and Will Miller. The standout rookie was Lachie Swinton, who added some much needed grunt and aggression to the Waratahs back-row in Jack Dempsey’s absence (for the majority of the season). Swinton played in 13 of the side’s 16 games and he was one of the few bright spots of the Waratahs’ year, establishing himself as a promising player for years to come.

Nick: Must admit, I agree with Nathan here. Lachie Swinton had been hanging on the edge of breaking into Super Rugby for years, and to see him do so in emphatic fashion was really great to see. The other standout for me was Will Miller in the few games he played. He’s a player that deserves higher honours, and for me it’s a matter of when, not if, he achieves them.

Oliver: Rookie of the year was a more straight forward selection, Lachie Swinton create plenty of damage with his aggressive abrasive nature. I suspect the 22-year-old will have a significant role to play over the next few years for the men from NSW.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE MORE OF IN 2019:

Nathan: MORE ATTACKING RUGBY. The Waratahs seemed to go through phases of throwing the ball around and making line breaks and periods of wasteful and aimless kicking. The side looked promising when they kept ball in hand, with the back three of Clark, Beale and Rona looking damaging in periods of play across 2019. In 2020, there needs to be a consensus effort to further experiment with ball and hand in and take some risks instead of playing a game plan geared around kicking and territory, which most other Super Rugby clubs evidently can play better than us.

Nick: It was most telling for me when the Tahs played first the Sharks, then the Brumbies at Parramatta that what they desperately needed was more structure in the forward pack in 2020. There were moments throughout the season where the Tahs forward pack was straight up bullied in some games, and they really lacked the aggression that was needed to set a platform to unleash the backline. For me, it was a key weakness that, in the end, they struggled with all season.

Oliver: 2020 is set to bring a new dawn for the Waratahs. The old firm of Phipps, Foley, Kepu and Folau would have all moved on and the glory days of 2014 will be all but a distant memory. A new coach (hopefully Scott Wisemental) will inherit a team that is very much rebuilding but has the foundations to be a real force in 2-3 years’ time. Let’s hope 2020 brings continued improvement from the blokes nearing the peak of their career i.e Dempsey, Hanigan, Gordon, Newsome and Clark as well as unearthing some more diamonds in the elk of Johnson-Holmes and Swinton.

Alex Newsome

Alex Newsome

WHAT NEEDS TO BE FIXED NEXT YEAR:

Nick: Ahhh, such a tough question to answer so quickly. I know it, Nathan and Oli know it, and you, dear reader, probably know it too: this year was a basket case, on and off the field. The season was absolute bollocks, and the sooner they put it behind them, the better. 2019 was not good enough, and I’m sick of saying that! And I don’t even support this team! This is a team that needs drastic change. From the forward pack to a restructure of the game plan, everything needs to be revamped. Frankly, I think Gibson stepping aside might honestly not be a bad thing. Gibson leaves after four seasons, with a 46% winning record and only one semi-final finish to show for it. While I was hoping Cron would stick around as an anchor to rebuild the squad, at this point, it probably is time for a fresh approach and some new blood, for both the players and coaching staff. For whoever takes the reins next year, (my money is on Chris Whittaker, as much as I think he’s done nothing to prove he’s got the chops to make it) they are going to have their work cut out revamping this team. Honestly though, I’m open to something new. What’s the worst than can happen? *nervous laugh*

Oliver: To be honest, there is a lot that will need to be fixed next year if the Tahs are to return to the top of the Aussie conference. The issue that stands out the most is some hard-nosed monster forwards who are prepared to do the tough stuff, think Jaques Poitgetier circa 2014. The other main concern will be where the tries are going to come from. With Folau and Foley no longer around the Tahs will need a new architect, as well as a consistent, try scorer to fill the void left from the two Super Rugby title winners.

Nathan: There are so many things that need to be fixed after this nightmare season, however, the main thing I wish for is a stable season free of drama and controversy.  There were so many issues and distractions that Netflix has already shot two series of a documentary dedicated to the side titled “Days of our Waratahs”.  Hopefully next season can get back to focusing on the rugby, rather than rubbish, with the main area of concern coming with shoring up the scrum and finding ways to close out matches.

  • Geoffro

    Thanks for the analysis guys,top shelf, as depressing as the subject matter was.Completely underwhelmed by the Tahs backline of old timers and the fact Clark and Rona were probably their best along with first season Reds discard KH lets me shed no tears that this quartet of “seasoned international veterans” is buggering off.They didnt stand up in their swansong and Cow boy having a cry and putting blame on the loss of IF gave me indigestion.As much as NSWRU are probably wanting a home grown coach I hope they pursue Dave Rennie and a few young blokes who really want to give it a nudge.

    • Huw Tindall

      Agree with this Geoffro. I hope the only reason Rona isn’t in the Wallabies squad is because he is off to London Irish. He was hands down the form Aussie winger of the comp. I was no particular fan of his coming into the season but by the end I was impressed. Actually quite a big guy, good pace, runs good lines, good under the high ball, good defence. Sounds like exactly what we need. Hunt an excellent buy as well and to be fair AAC for the price of a Super Rugby minimum wage contract was another great buy.

  • Huw Tindall

    Great analysis guys. It’s hard finding the motivation to pick apart such an average season, even if you are a blue tinted glasses wearer like me.

    I said it at the start of the season but there was no way the Tahs could replace Naiyaravoro and would thus struggle this season. You can’t replace 14 tries and when Folau went (who I think got 13 last season) that was literally about 60% of all the tries the Tahs scored last year. Given they didn’t really change their side to side deep running attack pattern they were on a hiding to nothing as you need big/fast runners on the outside to exploit it. Both Folau and Naiyaravoro simply do things on the football field which others can’t. Izzy in the air and Naiyaravoro break tackles at a whim down the left flank. If he had stayed in the country he’d have been a lock for the Wallabies IMO and a real point of difference. He’d even turned around his defensive play and general field position so he wasn’t a liability at risk of being turned by tactical kicking. Just more classic Tahs and sh!t recruiting and squad management.

    On the forwards, whilst the scrum did OK the the forwards were just too small and light a pack to get quality front foot ball. When we were down to playing essentially 3 props, one second row (Simmons) and 5 back rowers you knew we were stuffed. Depth was tested again with Robertson (knee) and Latu (self inflicted) but on top of the lack of Jackpot style forwards it was a step too far. No matter who good a backline is we all know the game is won up front and the backs decide by how much.

    Not much more to say really. I guess they did OK to be as close as they were. I still come back to the stat of 8 games lost by 8 points or less and 6 of those by 7 or less and I think 4 by 3 or less. If Foley had kicked the relatively easy shot in game 1 to beat the Canes it would have taken the Tahs into the finals just. A season of what could have been with a side that was ultimately terribly balanced.

    Looking ahead to next year it could be seriously dire. Unless there is some amazing off season recruiting I don’t see how the remaining crew can be a threat next year. Add on the coaching shemozzle and it’s an uphill battle. I guess that with all the talent going around they must have some serious cash to throw at people. Looking at who is leaving I’d estimate about 20% of the salary cap has been freed up. Hell Folau alone would have been on about $500K from the Tahs plus Wallaby top ups. Foley couldn’t be too far behind. I am too far removed (literally) from the NSW club scene and pathways to know what youngsters are up and coming so I hope I’m pleasantly surprised and we develop some genuine talent. Maybe it NSWRU treated the NRC with respect we wouldn’t be in this position. Looking at the Reds and Brums it’s done wonders when you coordinate you NRC squads with the state programme, not some afterthought.

    Enough for now. Internationals are almost upon us. See you in 2020 Tahs.

    • Nicholas Wasiliev

      Great points on the NRC, so much so I’m kicking myself for not mentioning it.
      I do agree, despite their lack of success so far I do get a sense the Reds are moving in the right direction, and I think that is squarely to do with the large amount of success they’ve had at NRC level. There is players coming through, and an increasing competitiveness for positions at club level.
      More importantly, if Thorn was to leave tomorrow, I get the sense they wouldn’t be starting from nothing, like NSW is now. Reason 5,985 why the NRC needs to be taken more seriously in NSW. Goddamn it.

      • Huw Tindall

        To top it off they knew the exodus was coming as it’s a RWC year so it’s part of a known cycle. To not have used the NRC properly in this instance is an even bigger indictment.

  • Crescent

    Look up dysfunctional in the dictionary and you will see NSWRU listed. To lose Cron because he could not see a path to the head coach role, then lose your head coach is mind boggling.

    To have a guy who pissed all over a public bar berate the off field behavior of another player is laughable, and to remain silent on another who was found pissed as a fart behind the wheel without a valid license – well, you get the picture.

    And that is before we take the field with a light weight forward pack that could not consistently deliver quality ball, and have not appeared to have recruited to fix that glaring issue. But never mind, our backs were so one dimensional that even if they received quality ball, they usually pissed that possession up against the wall. Talent to burn, and it was a lovely bonfire.

    Ironically, in terms of players, the framework is there for a great team. Shame that Gibson’s player management has been so poor, we are going to burn another season getting new faces up to speed, or worse yet lose more development players because they aren’t getting any time to….. develop.

    Need to get some steel in the forward back (back to Shute Shield for Flanders!) and a quality backs coach to get them some options in attack.

    Players I felt stood up this year – HJH, Swinton, Miller, Clark, Hunt. Honorable mention to Dempsey who lacked time after that hamstring injury.

    So good riddance to 2019. Here’s wishing Santa brings an early present of Rennie to head coach and a roster of players that will get their heads in the game on and off the field.

  • RugbyM

    Great review. Sums up our season really. A few standouts here and there for the odd game, but generally shit.
    As it would have it, facebook’s damn “today X-many years ago” feature popped up with photo i’d posted of the 2014 Tahs v Highlanders Sunday arvo footy, at a properly packed SFS. I googled the final score = 44-16 to the Tahs. Those were the days hey…

  • Who?

    Great article guys. Hard to argue against what you’ve got there. And some great comments on here, too. But a few points to highlight and note.
    .
    Firstly, losing Foley. If Beale sticks around at 15 (can’t remember anything saying he’s leaving), I don’t know that it’ll be as disastrous as some might think. Mason getting game time at 10, with Hunt and Beale, is hardly a poor backline. There’s talent coming through to start to cover the gaps (Foketi improved as he got game time through the season).
    .
    The forwards are the issue. I’ve long said exactly the same thing as Huw in the comments – 3 front rowers, one lock and four loosies – generally small loosies (none of Hooper, Miller, Hanigan, Dempsey or Wells are big – all very good players, but in need of balance from a JacPot or perhaps – eventually – a Swinton) – isn’t going to cut it. The Tahs got bossed by Saffa packs, the only surprise was that the Rebels got bossed even more in Melbourne. All five small Tahs loosies (listed above) are great players, they just don’t provide balance. This is a Gibson issue – two years, he’s not managed to find a ‘real’ lock, a natural lock. Imagine any of those five small guys from above playing at 7 with Swinton at 6, Holloway back at 8, and a Rodda-type player at 4. How good would that pack be? SO what’s missing from the Tahs’ pack? One lock. That’s it. It’s a balance issue, and Gibson’s failed to address it.
    .
    In spite of all the discussion about the pack, it’s fascinating that the standout players were all forwards. Hooper, HJH and Simmons. HJH started well in general play and only got better through the year (I thought his scrummaging improved from a technical standpoint, too – less vertical left elbow at the end of the year compared to the beginning). Simmons was very consistent, and Hooper’s efforts have never been an issue. In a team with a pack that almost no one rates, it’s fascinating that only Beale (for only half the season) was mentioned by more than one analyst (whereas the forwards were mentioned by two – even though one analyst only mentioned one player).
    With a supposedly high quality backline, lots of experience/caps (Phipps – 70, Foley – 67 (wow, didn’t realize he was still behind Cooper’s cap count), Hunt – 6 (but so much experience across three codes), AAC – 116, Beale – 60 (again, lower than I’d have expected), Folau – 62), it’s just fascinating to see so few mentions (let alone positive mentioned – Beale’s second mention was that he was ‘solid’) in the player of the year section.
    Perhaps it’s the same reason we usually rate our 7’s so highly (and part of the reason Hooper gets marked harshly) – because when you’re the player people see having impact most frequently, you get praise. When the reality is that those around aren’t carrying their share of the load (how much of George Smith’s and David Pocock’s reputations is built off that? Not saying they aren’t great players, just saying they were always more visible in general play than McCaw, who could meld into a Black pack)..?
    .
    And Nick, love the turn of phrase, but you don’t need the ‘w’ on the end of ‘lo’ when you’re beholding. ;-) Keep up the good work. :-)

    • Geoffro

      Skelton in his new form may have been a decent addition if he’d made a bid for the WC (that all sort of faded and hear he’s now signed a two year extension at Saracens) haven’t seen him go around lately but as players player of the year in a European cup winning side he must’ve been OK.Spot on with Hoops , I dont know why he gets criticised when he has such a phenomenal workrate and when he does get noticed he’s slammed for seagulling .Beale at fullback,if he just played his natural game and didn’t try to turn every play into a miracle he’d be fine by me.

      • Who?

        Good point about Skelton.
        .
        Hoops, the issue is that he doesn’t do what we expect 7’s to do. We’ve had years of bigger guys who make big impacts pilfering ball. Hooper’s not a traditional, jackalling, on-balling Aussie 7. He’s more of a traditional Aussie 6 (big motor, lots of workload, just not nearly as tall). He also doesn’t link like many 7’s now do. He’s a ball runner, not a passing player. Those few 7’s who run (SOB, Ardie) run bigger than Hooper. As in, they break tackles with power, not (just – have to add that for Ardie) with pace. Combine that with the Wallabies regularly picking small loose forward trios who don’t balance out the required roles of the loose forwards, and suddenly the bloke in the shirt we expect to be our hero who doesn’t fill that role the way it was filled for 15 years before him is identified as the prime problem. It’s partially fair, because he’s not a traditional Aussie 7, and we’re usually better equipped at 6 and 8 to work with traditional Aussie 7’s than non-traditional ones (because the traditional role becomes the traditional role by being the most easily filled – not relying on players with unusual abilities), but exacerbated by selection, and the relative dearth of ‘ideal’ Aussie 8’s since Kefu (given Palu only really peaked for a couple of seasons, and much of that wasn’t in Gold).
        No question, Hooper’s an excellent Rugby players, he’s just not the type of player people expect to fill that jersey number, and the selections around him having complemented his skillsets as well as we need.

        • Geoffro

          nail on head with the selection around him part.Realistically the ideal 7 you’re talking about comes along once in a gen (Pocock and Smith) for us and world class guys like Waugh and Wilson (and McCaw !) were truly benefited from the guys playing alongside them.

        • Who?

          The ideal 7 comes along close to once in a generation, but the back ups are more likely to follow the Smith/Pocock mould than the Hooper mould. For instance, McMahon’s probably the Hooper mould (another very rare type of player for us – most guys like him go to League), but Jordy Reid, Colby Fainga’a, Liam Gill, Julian Salvi, David Croft were more the Smith/Pocock (and even Waugh, though Waugh was small) mould.
          .
          So, if you’ve got a Hooper and have to select Reid/Fainga’a/Gill as a replacement, you’ve looking at a change in the balance of the backrow (in terms of who covers which role), compared to swapping in one of those guys for Pocock. Where the difference is quality/ceiling rather than style. Does that make sense?
          .
          It’s interesting Nick Bishop’s a massive Hooper fan, and much of it can be traced back to Hooper’s first game against Robshaw. Robshaw coming off the field saying, “I got out of the first breakdown, where I’d been beaten by Hooper, and he was already in the next one!” And that pattern followed all day. But Robshaw’s a 6.5, not a true 7. That 6.5 sort of player’s become much more common in the international game the last few years. A few teams have multiple genuine 7’s (or pilfering on-ballers), and some would say they’re becoming more common in selection (though I can’t be certain – I haven’t watched enough 6N’s to be sure). But the trend through the middle of this decade was (especially for NH teams) to have two 6.5’s and an 8. So they were loose forward selections that weren’t balanced. And Hooper is better than the average international 6.5…

  • Andy

    Great review. Couldn’t agree more.

    If you look at the state NSW are in as of today it reflects really poorly on the administration and especially Hore who has been nothing but abject in his role over the past 3 years. With the squad situation where it’s at it would be the perfect time to get some of the NRC guys you invested time in to step up and take the mantle. But that’s right, these pricks treated the main development pathway as a joke so we won’t have much luck there…..

    So now we are in a position whereby it’s already July and we need a major recruitment drive to replace up to 11 Wallabies and 14 players who are off contract or departing and we have no assistant coach, no head coach and 2 non performing NRC sides full of players who were mainly the leftovers of the shute shield that hadn’t already rejected the opportunity to play for the chance of no money and no Super Rugby contracts (as there were none left over). Seriously, this organisation is a complete joke and I really believe the best thing they can do is remove the top brass who oversaw this mess and start afresh.

    • Who?

      I guess the one hope we can have is that the Tahs might appoint a coach in the next couple of months, and that coach might be smart enough to point out that good performances in the NRC will go a long way to winning a contract for next year…
      Unfortunately, I’m not sure Whitaker would be cluey enough to make that suggestion, and I’m not sure he’d have the organisational pull for it to make a difference in his current role anyway. :-(

      • Huw Tindall

        Whitacker was coach of of the Sydney NRC team last year and stories were diabolical. Bloke was on the phone the week of games looking to get players on board. They came together with 2 weeks of prep as well. No wonder they sucked. Whitacker was parachuted into the role when he came back signed as Tahs assistant coach. If anyone knows how not to so NRC it’s him. Hopefully he has learnt and the NSW teams will treat it with the respect it deserves.

NSW Waratahs
@Nick_Wasiliev

Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician and second-rower trying to kick start a writing career in an increasingly bonkers world...

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