Nutta's Guide to Red Wine Rugby… - Green and Gold Rugby

Nutta’s Guide to Red Wine Rugby…

Nutta’s Guide to Red Wine Rugby…

Red Wine Rugby… let it mature a bit. And it helps when you have a good cellar…

Following the first Irish test, a few fellow pundits on this noble site were effusive in their excitement over a lot of stuff; a win, quality of defence, maturity at critical moments, effectiveness of play etc. Amongst the joy was positivity around the depth off the bench and a number of players including young Tupou’s performance. And I well-support the enthusiasm. I think the yungfella did well especially when considering the calibre of the talent he was scrumming against.

But the enthusiasm to see Tupou moved promptly to the starting XV pinched a nerve in me I’ve never understood about Australian rugby and that is the almost frenetic desire to expose talent way too young and well before it’s ready for the pressures that accompany it.

In a nutshell I am tired of seeing young talent over-exposed too early and thus wasted. I’m tired of it for both them and for us Punters. Australian rugby has a tragic record for premature promotion of promising young kids before they have learnt appreciation for their position, respect for the jersey nor ensured we had protected their emotional or physical development. We have a record for exposing them to cash, physical load and emotional pressure they simply couldn’t yet handle and as such we waste them.

The most glaring example to me were the 3 Amigos who were allowed to be way too busy Twitting prior to tests, missing photoshoots with sponsors, being where they shouldn’t be & doing what they knew they shouldn’t do, getting way out of line on planes, accusing everyone else of being ‘toxic’ etc etc etc plus all the stuff I’m not supposed to talk about and all the while taking selfies of it.

Those amigos

Those amigos

Looking back I can’t believe we put a whole Lions series in their hands. How did that work out? Now seriously, have any of those guys achieved what they could/would/should have? Two of them will never wear gold again and the one that does will forever be short of what he could have achieved. All of them are dead-set wastes of all the investment poured into them in my opinion. And it was wasted in-part by over-exposure and too-much too-soon at an immature point in both physical and emotional development.

Looking further I can’t help but think of James Slipper’s early days. A solid, promising up and comer who a few folk over-invested their selection currency into and he was dished up to Martin Castrogiovanni in his first test. Fed to Martin Castrogiovanni in his first fkn test? The poor bugger was jammed arse-first into a coke can and folk wonder why he spent the next few years doing his own version of Eat Sleep Rave Repeat to that thump thump music and so seemed continually injured and he’s now a walking bag of busted joints?

Look at what is happening to Ned Hannigan and Tom Staniforth now. They are getting used as crowbars when the lads still have bum-fluff on their faces. How’s the physical form of those 2 lads already? Jaysus if I was their managers I would be prepping my civil suit citing willful & reckless destruction of asset (but manager’s value-add is a different matter altogether).

One of the great advantages I’ve always admired of NPC and Currie Cup is that the extra tier lets a player mature both physically and emotionally. Fringe players aren’t sitting in the stands in their No1’s watching games. They aren’t measuring their lives in gym sessions. They are out playing at a development level they can handle, getting their ‘rugby callouses’ and learning their profession. They get a chance to learn to be professional men whilst racking up minutes and furthermore it keeps good men playing rugby at a good level.

Remember 2mths ago I think it was the Highlanders vs Donkeys in sunny Canberra and the Otago lads were down to their 3rd or 4th fly-half and they rolled out some fella who had been playing NPC since 2004 FFS. Near 15yrs as a fringe pro-player with 2 Super games to his name just warehoused and waiting, all the while mentoring the next guys coming through just by being there and adding to the quality of the competition that developed them. And he shone! There is no way between heaven and hell that would be replicated from a 15yr Shute Shield or Brisbane’s Premier Rugby player stepping into Super like that.

Whereas in this country the only alternative for so long was to be either good enough to make the Wobbly squad straight ex Schoolies week or be lost to the Mungo Toyota Cup (or whatever it is now) or go to the frozen North and join the Black Watch (the +100 odd Ockers now plying their trade in EU/UK/IR) and this loss is probably best exemplified by the loss of talent like Brock James. Now don’t get me wrong, I actually am a Foley supporter. But if there is one commodity we really lack in Oz right now it’s options at 10 and yet there Brock is…not here… and plenty others like him who just needed an opportunity to develop a wee bit.

And now, FINALLY, we have an NRC. It’s just starting to bring through and unearth some real talent. It is showing it can be used to mature players, unearth late developers, lift the general standards and bugger me actually provide a legit pathway for new-comers, Fringers and for those not identified for glory since 13yrs old and going to the right schools etc. It’s gold. It is good footy and it serves a real purpose.

And what does our beloved administration let happen to it? Already shrinking its way to new glory…

In terms of Qld there should be a North & South Brisbane side plus Country. In NSW there should be 3 NRC teams in Sydney: North, South and West. They should be tied to specific Clubs (no cross-town poaching). West should be exclusively Pirates and Parra and SOMETHING for Penrith (or at least the +2m people out there). North is Manly, Rats, Gordon, Norths and Eastwood. South is Uni, Wicks, Southo’s and Beasts. Plus NSW Country. ACT, Melbourne & Perth make a neat 10 team competition. I would consider outsiders (like the Drua and a Polynesian Barbarians or similar) but the core Australian 10 sides should have primacy.

This is the pathway everyone keeps looking for. This links Club to Super and Tests with a sustainable pathway for kids to grow to men and expose them higher as & when they are actually proven ready whilst also keeping older guys suitably challenged and on-ice to bolster the group average of rugby stock both up into Super and down into Club land.

As part of a larger plan, in the Republic Of Nutta, Super 12 (4 Ozzies, 5 Kiwi’s, Pingers, Jags and a Wildcard) would end in-time for June Tests, then after the Tests comes NRC through to end-September based on a randomly drawn 2-Conference approach with the best 2 teams per Conf going into a 4-way semi finals. Post June Tests the Wobbly’s go to NRC as well. Then all is ready for late October preparation for November Tests. Simples.

This is all been said before. This has all been written before. I find this so maddeningly frustrating. It would be so bloody easy to get this right. Or am I the only person who sees it like this – am I the idiot in the room?

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Well written Nutta. You are a man after my own heart and point to a serious deficiency in the Australian setup. The Kiwi part of me says “nah stuff it, the longer it takes those wankers in charge to figure this out, the longer we’ll hang onto the Bledisloe” However, the more mature part of me says “Fuck I wish those wankers in charge sort this out so my brothers in Australia can challenge me properly and together we can stuff the NH even better”. The more mature part actually wins as I want to see Australia strong, I want to lose the Bledisloe every now and then so we can appreciate holding it more, I want to see Australia win the bloody RWC again, I ant to see more Australian teams holding the Super trophy and the Rugby Championship trophy and I’d love to see an ANZAC team kick the arse out of the rest of the world every 4 years.
    To be fair I think there are bigger issues that cause this problem and that comes back to the really interesting (read fucken stupid) way that the management of the game is set up here with RA almost being subservient to the QLD and NSW rugby hierarchy. I think the NRC is absolutely the right way to go, and I’d like to see it with a couple of teams in ACT, 3 from Victoria 2 or 3 from WA, 2 or 3 from SA, 1 or 2 from NT and 1 from Tassy as well as the 3 or 4 from QLD and NSW. I think that would provide a really rich pathway to the 4 Super teams. HOWEVER, and a big however, is that this won’t ever work until RA runs rugby here not NSW and QLD. It also needs a national (not state based) framework for Coach, administrator, referee and player development. It needs a national based academy and it needs the self serving pricks who think they own rugby to die off and be replaced by people who care about rugby in Australia, not rugby in “my state”

    • From NooZealand

      My dear friend, you make us proud. Another kiwi that totally agree with your sentiments. Cheers.

    • Nutta


  • Patrick

    Agree entirely. Well said.

  • Andy

    Can’t believe we pissed off the Rams and didn’t replace them with a western Sydney team. I just don’t understand how the administratiors at RA breath sometimes. Are we missing something? Is Western Sydney not worth pursuing?

  • IIPA

    Love your writing style Nutta and really enjoyed this. I just don’t think RA have the balls to really make something of the NRC.

    As for blooding players too young I agree but at the same time it’s easy to cherry pick examples. Was Slipper any younger than Tom Robertson? You say Ned and Staniforth aren’t ready but don’t mention Lukhan Tui who is even younger and has been way more “fast-tracked” I would say.

    And now more than ever there is just the risk of going overseas if they can’t crack a super rugby spot by 22. Sam Greene?

    I actually think there’s some very solid Shute shield tens who’d make s reasonable fist of a Super rugby debut with the right framework around them: Angus Sinclair, Hamish Angus, Horwitz, Deegan now at the Force.

    • Nutta

      Thx for the feedback and your points are fair. But Dude I was at 1200 words already. I think Robbo isn’t ready and is a good example. Quite likely Tui is too. Given the average reader attention competes with that of a goldfish I was already pushing friendships so had to economise.

      In terms of Shuties making the step to Supers without suitable NRC ‘cellaring’, well I’ll respectfully agree to disagree. We’ve been there and seen it before.

      I believe a well established NRC coming after Super would keep a lot of youngsters here plus keep some older clubman salts going for a year or 3 longer simply because of quality of competition.

      Only my opinion. Not Gospel.

      • IIPA

        Not everyone can write the sort of thesis that Hugh put up here a few weeks ago !

        Your points are all fair enough and I think an established NRC would do that. Just not sure the NRC will ever get to that and the tinkering with teams / dropping of teams probably doesn’t help.

      • Greg

        “Given the average reader attention competes with that of a goldfish”

        errr Thanks… I think.

        • Nutta

          Present company excluded by definition. They disproved the theory by arriving at this point.

    • Who?

      Slipper was 20, I think Robbo was 23..? Agree Tui’s younger than most (not Slips), but he’s also not in the front row. It takes years to develop the core strength for the front row. It presents a completely different set of challenges to any other position.
      Oh, and, if you were worried about young front rowers at the moment, BPA’s the young one. He’s 22.

      • IIPA

        Never realised Slipper was that young when thrown in.

  • Kokonutcreme

    Imagine what would have been if JON didn’t dismantle the ARC upon his return in 2008. It would be 11 years old now.

    • Nutta


  • Muzz

    Totally agree on the NRC. There need to be a decent number of teams and it can be a testing ground for young and fringe players.

  • Twoilms

    It probably all comes down to the fact that the RA are broke.

  • Happyman

    Awesome article Nutta It dovetails into what exists on the ground. I heard about a comment from a club manager at a lunch in Brisbane Premier Grade who is getting pressure from a parent of a very good player to play him in Premier Grade so he will be considered at the next level or he will fall behind. The issue is as a forward if he goes up against men too soon he will probably get hurt.
    One of my biggest issues is that the current Rugby Administration tries to pick winners at 12 or 13 when they get picked up by the school programs and then by the same people who select the Rugby Rep teams. The amount of talent that is ignored that goes to the wrong school or god forbid a public school is horrendous. Many boys at State trials already have agents who are pushing there boys to coaches so those boys are in a better position regardless of ability.

    From a QLD perspective here is a list of players pushed too soon and broke down or got burnt by not being ready yet. I am sure we could all put a pretty good list together.
    Tuttle (Now playing club)
    Mcintyre (Playing in Japan)
    Chris F Seatea (In squad but broken down for a fe years)
    Andrew Ready (Back playing club footy) I have heard it is attitude though.

    I will finish with this I would happily join the republic of Nutta

    • Nutta

      Tiocfaidh Ár Lá

      • Who?

        That’s an inflammatory statement given the current touring party, Nutta. Even if most of them are from Leinster. :-P
        Or will we all speak Gaelic in the RoN?
        It’s crazy to think that our NRC proof, BPA, showing that ‘you don’t have to make every squad and get picked through the academies’ is proving the NRC pathway works by being an ‘old’ debutant at 22!

        • Nutta

          Well spotted at multiple levels Good Sir.

        • Who?

          My shame is that I recognized the Gaelic, but couldn’t read it. Given my grandmother was Gaeltacht (and my family – with whom I had no connection – would’ve used that phrase a LOT), I always wished I’d had the opportunity to learn it. :-(
          EDIT: I hope we all speak Gaelic in the RoN. :-)

        • Nutta

          “Our day will come”.

        • Who?

          Indeed. See link. :-)

  • Who?

    I remember when this was just a reply on an article two days ago… :-P
    Nutta, mostly great points, but the Republic of Nutta might need to update its June Tests, because as of 2020 they’ll be the July Tests. So Super Rugby (whatever format you choose – just please make sure it’s full home and away!) runs through until then, and NRC starts after that.
    And for all complaining about RA and Western Sydney, RA doesn’t own/operate the NRC Franchises. They didn’t want to carry the financial risk. The NSWRU didn’t enter any, they left it to the clubs. Which was a mistake. I think Nutta’s model is what we should be aiming towards, but obviously the QRU decided they didn’t have the depth for three teams the first year (they were also minimizing financial risk, they weren’t confident NRC would be allowed to survive, they considered it a thought bubble. I’m very glad they were wrong!). Hopefully – perhaps with some prompting from RA – they’ll realise it’s worth going to three teams.
    But NSW, it’s not as simple as convincing the state union to split existing franchises to create a third franchise. They have to build franchises. From scratch. Alignment with clubs fixed by geography – just like a true rep team – is what should always have happened, but local rivalries die hard and it wasn’t going to happen from the ground up – it would only happen from the top down. The four franchises as described is what should ways have happened, but the NSWRU needs to step up and do it. And they’ll need cooperation from the existing franchises. It’s a worthwhile goal, but it’s not an easy task and one that the powers that be likely won’t have the will or spine to attempt, let alone complete.

    • Nutta

      From my POV, Sydney rugby and NSWRU have proven themselves either too inept, incompetent or too rivalry-riven and wilfully myopic to accomplish what they must.

      As such they have abrogated any rights to protest or interfere.

      Therefore RA must intervene for the good of the game.

      • Who?

        I’d have no argument against that. Just pointing out to those who are complaining why it’s not already so – that the much lauded and loved SRU and SS clubs are great at running an existing competition (provided you’re an established, long term and secure club), but they’re far too divided to do anything that’s going to be for the good of the game that might also be anything other than strongly positive for themselves.
        That said, as you’ve mentioned, RA believe in shrinking to greatness, so perhaps they’ve similarly lost the right to claim much credibility…

  • juswal

    Good tasting notes, Nutta. I always think about what we’ve done when we’ve had a good year. Reds after 2011: scattered the squad and promoted the coach to the Wallabies. Tahs in 2014: scattered the squad and promoted the coach to the Wallabies. So those vintages did not age well.

    Maybe in the NuttaRC, Eastwood belongs with the western team.

    • Nutta

      Yes and no. If you were a Woodies man you would want that. I say the West should be something more then just an incubator for the East. If we give a designated western pathway then it will attract and retain talent west to access it. That’s why I say leave Eastwood in North and make it attractive to play in the west. That will bring success to the West as hungry players will go there. That makes for diversity and competition and a raising of the bar.

      • Charcoal

        As a Woodies’ member, I would prefer them to remain with the West (Rams). Now that the club is proposing to relocate from T G Millner in the next few years to expand their footprint in North Western Sydney, it would be more appropriate. Just having West Harbour and Parramatta as feeders for the Rams wouldn’t be enough to make them competitive, regardless of what might come out of any replacement for Penrith. On the other hand, the Northern Sydney team would be top heavy if it also included Eastwood. But that’s all academic now with only two NSW teams proposed, for this year at least.

        I do agree with you though that if an expanded NRC were to eventuate, the NSW teams should be split on a strictly geographical basis according to Shute Shield feeder clubs between North, South and Western Sydney. This has been one of the failings of the NRC to date, in that the NSW based teams have had no tribal following, with crossovers of club players between regions creating a dog’s breakfast, so that potential supporters have no idea who to support. I’m not even sure that the proposed Sydney and Country teams for this years competition is going to work.

        I mean no disrespect to NSW Country, but the team will most likely be made up mostly, if not exclusively, city based players anyway, so what’s the point of it? If they are going to go with two NSW teams, then it would have been preferable if it were to be North Harbour and South Harbour, which would at least create some tribal following and it has a past history.

        I also agree with the general thrust of your argument about an expanded NRC after Super Rugby, in whatever format that takes. Another failing of the current NRC is that it is over too short a time frame. The NSW and Qld NRC teams have been at a disadvantage compared with their one city team competitors which are mostly made up of contracted Super Rugby players, whereas the Super Rugby talent in the former is split between multiple teams. Players drafted from clubland just don’t have enough time to come up to the same level as the full-time professionals. This imbalance could be addressed if the NRC was played over a longer season, giving the aspiring Premier Club players the opportunity to benefit from more intensive training and fitness. The Premier Clubs may not like it with the dilution of their best players, but the flip side is that it creates more opportunities for lower grade players to show their wares in First Grade. It certainly won’t diminish my interest in attending club games and at the same time, it will increase my interest in following my local NRC team with my club team representatives.

        This can only work if the NRC teams, based on geographical division of feeder Premier Club teams, is enforced. If some aspiring club players may miss out because there are others ahead of them in any particular NRC club, then it creates the incentive for them to transfer to another Premier Club where there is an opportunity to play at the higher level in the NRC team for that region.

        Sorry for being so long-winded, but on a final note, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments with regard to rushing young talented players into Test Rugby or even Super Rugby for that matter. While talented backs may adapt quickly, it’s not the same for forwards and particularly front rowers. I may be old school, but it was always the accepted norm that front rowers and particularly props never really matured until their mid to late twenties. No matter how good you may be physically, it takes a long time to master the dark arts in the front row and I speak from experience. There are plenty examples of smaller experienced props, such as Benn Robinson, who outmuscled their supposedly stronger and heavier opponents because of their technique.

        That’s why I feel uncomfortable with rushing some of the up and coming front rowers in their early twenties into Test Rugby. They’re not ready yet and it could destroy their long term prospects. I’d suggest that there would be many older grizzled front rowers running around in clubland that could teach them a thing or two.

        • Who?

          The comments about NSW Country being made up of city-based players is a familiar one. It’s one that’s been levelled at Qld Country, too. But reality is that no one playing in the bush will be able to maintain a standard whereby they’re capable of competing with teams filled with professional players.
          The QRU’s approach is that any Reds player not from Brisbane is sent to Qld Country. Pay rates are unaffected by where you play, they just want to get as many ‘natural’ country players into the Country team as is possible, and then check the balance of contracted players across the two squads (i.e. if they’ve got 3 contracted 10’s in the Reds and they’re all down to play for City, then one will be sent to Qld Country).
          This would work well for the Eagles. If the NRC Teams were centrally contracted (NSWRU/RA, just not SRU/SS Clubs), then players from the country could represent the Eagles, even if they’re playing for Eastwood/Randwick/Manly/Uni/whoever. Then base it on current geography (i.e. the team you represent in SS).
          But it’s interesting to see how all of us supporters are on the same page on the need for geographically based NRC teams – plural – based out of Sydney and run by a higher authority than the clubs. I haven’t seen any dissenting comments on that position.
          It’s interesting to note that the Spirit, Vikings and Rising have done well, but of the four NRC’s held so far (it’s four, right?), Brisbane City’s won two and Qld Country’s won another. The Spirit won the other one..? So whilst there’s a relative advantage for the single team cities, perhaps the bigger thing to note is the off field advantages shown by the teams who are well integrated into their state bodies. The QRU teams both trained at Ballymore the first year, and I think Qld Country then moved to Bond Uni as a base..? The Gold Coast has always been part of the Qld Country Rugby Union. But regardless of any relocation, all the resources of the QRU – coaching, analytical, etc – have been shared across the two teams. That’s a big advantage, it means you effectively have one group of teams with professional off field staff competing against teams who have basically amateur, club off field support staff, teams backed only by SS clubs who simply can’t provide the same resources.
          OH, and I forgot to mention this other places, but as you say about young up and coming front rowers…
          Chibba Hanson was 24, almost 25 when he scrummed against the B&I Lions for the Reds. He told me that he’d never felt anything like the force of the hit on the engagement from 1m away of that Lions team. It took him a year to recover from injuries from that game. Just another example where age is a good thing there.

        • Charcoal

          I concur that a NSW Country team could work if it was based on Country origin, but that hasn’t so far been spelt out. I’d still prefer regionally based Sydney teams initially with the addition of regional NSW teams, such as Newcastle and Illawarra, as the competition matures.

        • Who?

          The big issue with a Newcastle team is that, even if they could tap into Tahs back field assets (analysis, coaching), which isn’t always easy when you’re talking about crossing the bridge/tunnel and heading up the F3 (maybe not analysts, but skills coaching, etc), you’re talking about players from a competition a level below Shute Shield/Premier Rugby coming into a competition a level above Shute Shield/Premier Rugby. It’s too big a step, and that’s when you see injuries and teams that are perennially uncompetitive.
          It’s the reason why Queensland Country is Country Origin. Almost every one of those players is connected to a Brisbane club. With no disrespect to GCDRU, SCRU, DR, etc, the level of those competitions just isn’t close enough to Premier Rugby for the players there to be viable selections. And then factor in travelling around to places like Townsville and Cairns for recruitment… It’s too hard.
          Effectively, a Newcastle team based on a smattering of Tahs players and then surrounded with selected players taken from the HRU competition placed into the NRC would be the same as having a Super team with 50% of the players selected from Shute Shield, when the other teams are picked from players with 100% NRC representation. It’s a structural disadvantage. Hence the Country Origin concept.

  • Huw Tindall

    I wonder how profitable Curry Cup and ITM are. Surely they can’t be that profitable if they pay players like Pete Same 50K AUD and have little international coverage and pacific peso gate takings. NRC is probably less profitable (for now) but 100% agree with Nutta that it’s one of the best investments in Aussie Rugby after proper grass roots engagement.

  • Groucho Jones

    Yeah, nah. Here’s the debut ages of the current AB starting XV [per Wikipedia, so grain of salt]:

    15-Jordie Barrett 20
    14-Ben Smith 23
    13-Anton Lienert-Brown 19
    12-Ryan Crotty 24
    11-Rieko Ioane 19
    10-Beauden Barrett 20
    9-Aaron Smith 23
    8-Luke Whitelock 19
    7-Sam Cane 19
    6-Liam Squire 25
    5-Scott Barrett 22
    4-Sam Whitelock 21
    3-Owen Franks 19
    2-Codie Taylor 24
    1-Joe Moody 25

    So half of them were younger than Tupou, and five under 20.


Underfed front-rower with no speed or ball skills. Started playing footy in the 70's and still going. Can't remember the last time I passed on a ball, beer or karaoke mike. Motto - "Meat and potatoes first. Then gravy. And you don't put gravy on the plate first Boy."

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