The NRC Draw: Our Five Key Takeaways - Green and Gold Rugby
National Rugby Championship

The NRC Draw: Our Five Key Takeaways

The NRC Draw: Our Five Key Takeaways
The NRC is back in 2019, and has come with some interesting changes; from earlier games to rule changes and more.
With the draw now out, the news team cobbled together some key thoughts how things are shaping up for NRC19!

What’s the law again?

(Words: Nick Wasiliev)

New year, new laws. It was announced back in June of this year that the NRC would again be used as the guinea pig for a whole bunch of new law trials by World Rugby, and a few of those rules did see some eyebrows raised by both fans and coaches alike.

While the controversial ‘High Tackle Technique’ laws (the laws that saw a whole bunch of cards handed out like candy at the recent U20s World Championships) will be under consideration, that’s far from the only changes. The other recommendations include:

Law: 50:22 kick proposal. If the team in possession kicks the ball from inside their own half indirectly into touch inside their opponents’ 22 or from inside their own 22 into their opponents’ half, they will throw in to the resultant lineout. Recommendation: To approve for closed trials.

Law: Reducing the tackle height to the waist. Recommendation: To approve for closed trials.

Law: Ability to review a yellow card when a player is in the sin-bin for dangerous foul play. To ensure players who are guilty of serious foul play do not escape with a yellow card when they deserved red. Recommendation: To approve for closed trials.

Law: The introduction of an infringement (penalty and free-kick) limit for teams. Once a team has reached the limit, a mandatory yellow card is given to the last offending player as a team sanction. Recommendation: To approve for closed trials at NRC in Australia.

Law: The awarding of a goal line drop-out to the defending team when an attacking player, who brings the ball into in-goal, is held up. Recommendation: To approve for closed trials at NRC in Australia.

It’s clear that World Rugby are aiming to promote a free flowing game, however what is interesting is that there will be a few laws that will reward good defence. It will be interesting to see how it affects the traditionally fast-paced nature of NRC games going forward. With the new 50:22 rule, expect there to be a lot more kicking going on!

Isi Naisarani

Isi Naisarani in action last year

Writings in the Draw

(Words: Nick Wasiliev) 

With seven matches for each side, the draw that many of the teams get will be crucial in determining how their run will be in their race for the Toast Rack, and this year, three of the strongest teams look set to have a favourable run.

Following on from last year where they received only three home games, two-time Grand finalists the Canberra Vikings, two-time winners Brisbane City and 2016 winners the Western Force will each enjoy four games at home this season, while everyone else will only have three home games.

Traditionally, in the past an unfavourable draw still hasn’t stopped the likes of the Force and Vikings making it into the semi-finals. But hey, having a favourable one helps.

If we’re going off purely on the draw and their last history, I’d say the Vikings and the Force will be string contenders.

The Vikings have come close many times in pursuit of the best Toast Rack in Aussie rugby, and off the back of the Brumbies success, a win on the domestic front would be a massive boon for Rugby in the capital. The Force will be looking to make a big statement as well, having gone undefeated throughout their entire Global Rapid Rugby campaign. They will take confidence out of the fact that knocked over the Fijian Latui in Fiji, which was comprised of a lot of the Drua squad of 2018.

Despite only having three games, grand finalists QLD Country will enjoy a couple of weeks at home, including two home games back-to-back near the end of the season, and they will still be strong contenders this year. For NSW teams anything goes, but Nick H has a bit more to add on that front (see below). And lastly, Melbourne looks to have the toughest draw, with one game based in Melbourne, one in Adelaide and Ballarat. However, as Nick H points out below, there might be a good reason for that.

It will be a particularly interesting season for the Fijian Drua, who after breaking through and winning last year will have two extra challenges in the way of them going back-to-back: having only three home games and the fact their strongest players will be over in Japan. Regardless, with adversity comes opportunity, and there is no shortage of good players in the island nation. This year will be a real test of their depth.

NSW NRC 2019 Coaches Pauli Taumoepeau & Chris Whitaker (Rays) Robert Taylor & Ben McCormack (Eagles)

The New NSW Coaches for 2019

Sydney Still Changing

(Words: Nick Hartman)

The New South Wales component of the NRC has always been in a mood to change. From four teams in the first edition – North Harbour Rays, Sydney Stars, Western/Greater Sydney Rams, and NSW Country – to the Sydney Rays shortening their name to just “Sydney” this year, the NSWRU just haven’t quite figured out what to do.

This year, the Shute Shield and NRC have put their differences aside, and there will be no clash between grand final and opening round of yesteryears. Sydney vs NSW Country will be the headline clash of round 1 out in Dubbo.

This is a genius move, in more ways than one. The lack of NSW success at NRC level has been noteworthy, but it’s in no small part due to the constant clash with the end of the Shute Shield, effectively meaning the NRC coaches barely get any time with their full squads. This year, despite there no longer being a clash, the two NSW teams will only have one week with their full squads before the NRC starts, so starting out with a hitout against each other gives both sides some much needed prep time before they take on the rest of the competition, something they previously haven’t had compared to the likes of their other national counterparts.

However, the lingering sense of the landed gentry of Australian rugby union still remains, with all three of Sydney’s games to be played at Woollahra Oval, home of Eastern Suburbs, and also about 10 minutes drive from Malcolm Turnbull’s house.

I’m sure there’s many functional reasons to placing all Sydney games at the same home ground. Logistics is easier for one.

But it may point to another strategy – are the NSWRU more concerned about the developmental aspect of the game rather than using the NRC to grow it?

ForceEagles15

Force with the Horan-Little Shield

The NRC – what is it?

(Words: Nick Hartman)

The “Melbourne” Rising will take their game against the NSW Country to Adelaide on 7 September, and two weeks later take QLD Country to Ballarat.

Looking at when these fixtures take place, it’s easy to see why the Rising want to escape the city.

It’s AFL finals time.

With the main codes at their peak, it’s hard for the NRC to find itself a niche as a product. Hardcore rugby fans will love it, but otherwise it’s a hard ask to get others to watch a mish-mash of guys not good enough for the Wallabies and the best of club rugby to play for 8 weeks.

There is confusion about what the NRC is meant to be. This is an easy line from Rugby Australia – there’s not much we can do in September, and advertising is expensive. The NRC is a player development league.

Toeing that, and see what grows naturally, is the best bet for the NRC’s future.

Lausii Taliauli runs in a try.

Lausii Taliauli runs in a try.

Scheduling around the World Cup

(Words: Nathan Williamson)

The efforts by the competition to schedule games around the World Cup is a nice touch for us rugby fans. The ability to have non stop rugby for 7 hours is an exciting prospect, and is one that will definitely get people to want to watch.

The scheduling of the Fiji Drua vs Sydney as the curtain raiser for the Wallabies vs Fiji game is a great initiative and should help build anticipation before the first game.

Also, they’ve done a brilliant job at avoiding clashes for marquee matches such as New Zealand vs South Africa will prevent fans from having to make the agonising decision.

Hopefully, it will bring more eyes to the competition and raise the profile of the NRC in Australia. Tip of the hat.


Rays v Fiji Drua 2018 sml-9555

Drua set the scrum

That’s our thoughts! What are you looking forward to for season six of the NRC?

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    Force has a tough draw playing the finalist from last year in the first two rounds. With a lot of Force and Fiji players committed to the RWC this will be a big equaliser. I still hope the Force will have a good season to build towards next year’s GRR.

    • AllyOz

      There should have some advantage in terms of preparation as they have been playing together all season. Who do the Force lose for the RWC?

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        Henry Stowers, AJ Alatimu and Henry Taefu should be playing for Samoa and Marcel Brache for the US Eagles. We will have many teams to support in the RWC.
        When Scott Johnson visited the Superugby franchises earlier this year, he thought it was not worth his time to even visit the Force so I do not expect any Force players to be considered for the Wallabies. Then we complain about a lack of depth….
        I wonder how many RA officials will visit Perth for the Bleddisloe next week after WA taxpayers had to bribe RA with $5 million to host a test in our new stadium. Soccer, NRL and AFL embraced the new stadium with NRL planning several games next year and even considering to host the final in the stadium. Rugby however is just useless and still have not realised that the stadium sold out within 3 days and that this was the first time a rugby test sold out since 2016. You would expect that other test matches might have been scheduled already – nope!

        • nmpcart

          You don’t think that the NRL are getting ‘bribed’ by the WA government to host games in Perth? It’s sport tourism, same as holding Origin matches in Melbourne – state governments pay for the matches so they get the tourism spend.

          What Force players do you think should be considered for the Wallabies? It might sound good to say they are overlooked but realistically the Force players are mainly imports, developing players like Deegan, or players who were overlooked by SR sides. I want GRR to do well but the teams that they have been playing are lower quality so not exactly an argument to suggest that they should be in RWC reckoning.

        • Brumby Runner

          Andrew Deegan would be in the top three No 10s in the country, and knowing that both Lealiifano and Foley are off o/s next year, it wouldn’t be too much to expect the national coaches might show a bit of interest and at least have him along to some of the Wallaby training sessions if not in the squad.

          And the interest in the test match is compelling evidence to say that RA ought to be more connected with rugby in WA. Maybe still too embarrassed about the recent past.

        • Max Graham

          He stars against make-believe teams that were invented just so the Force had someone to play against. Every super rugby team has had multiple chances to sign him. They can sign him still. Is everyone just really stupid or is he perhaps not as good as you claim?

        • Forceright

          Andrew Deegan Kieran Longbottom, Isaac Fines to name a few. The Force are doing quite well bringing through the local talent. It bears complete hypocrisy of Castle confirming the Force were eligible for selection and yet sweet FA in any action. Yet more lip service.

        • Max Graham

          Longbottom should definitely be starting to the Wallabies. Alalaatoa to the bench and Thor stays at home. Definitely.

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          If RA was fair and equitable you may have a case that they should maximise the commercial value of the more significant games. However, they offered Victoria a Lions test, “several” Bleddisloe tests and other test to help finance the Rebels for 2019-2020 seasons without any other state having the ability to compete for these games. The cost to finance the Rebels for this period will not work out close to $5 million per game, but that was what WA had to pay to get RA to notice that there is a new stadium (that is not new anymore) in Perth.

        • Max Graham

          I love Perth, but in my experience, Western Australians would whinge about free beer. The 2019 Force team is shite. Why the hell would anyone think any of the players are at test standard? I hope the Force come back into the fold, but I doubt the newfound passion their fans have found will last. The dumbest, quietest rugby crowd I’ve ever witnessed.

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          Didn’t the Rebels gave tickets away and the crowd didn’t turn up? Who is giving free stuff away and how quiet is an empty stand? No other Australian city attracted the bigger crowds than Perth did in 2019 – not for a test or a “make believe” game. I enjoy the GRR games, it is an entertaining and fantastic night out. If you are in Perth for the weekend come to nib stadium and enjoy the experience and see what you have missed

        • Max Graham

          I lived in Perth for 10 years and watched plenty of games – some in the shed, some in the stands and even a few with the players’ families. Don’t get me wrong, I’m furious that RA booted them and kept the Rebels – big mistake!! But I don’t accept that the average Perth punter was a ‘knowledgeable’ or passionate fan. This might have changed since they were booted – actually think they would get more support if they were re-admitted and genuinely hope they are.
          My belief is that the Force blew an opportunity in the early years. Poor club culture had them underachieve and lose plenty of supporters who seemed willing to get on board. Shepherd nailing that conversion after the bell against the Canes in their second year was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve witnessed at a sporting field – I was one of 35000 fans going wild! I hope RA packs up the Rebels and sends them across the Nulibor. But still, I would expect half the Force fans to be yelling out ‘ball’ and ‘kick it’ during games, which they have little understanding of.

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          I was part of the core group of about 10,000 loyal Force supporters that went to every single game week after week even when it rained or Richard Graham coached. It took just over a decade for a rugby culture in Perth to emerge, for traditions to develop and a consistent stream of local talent to progress to the senior side. The last Force game was the game they demolished a star studded Waratah sides with Hodgson becoming a Force legend when he kicked a penalty goal. The Force also connect well with the clubs and supporters and the quality of the club competitions improved to a level that was comparable to what is played in NSW and WLD, The Future Force grew from only 3 players in the first year to about a dozen players that was financed by local supporters and delivered a stream of Superugby players. Just when a decade of hard work at club level started to pay off, RA pulled the rug from under all of us. The number of o/20 teams dropped from 26 teams to only 6 at the start of 2018 and Rugby WA is bankrupt as they cannot service the lease agreements for Rugby WA headquarters or nib-stadium signed on assurance from RA that hey will continue to support the Force.

  • Brumby Runner

    What exactly is meant by being a player development league? If that is NSW-speak for saying they won’t be using all their available Super rugby players, then I’m afraid they will have missed the point again.

    The standard of the competition needs to be high enough to really be effective in one of its aims, that being to give those better than average club players a chance to play against and judge themselves against Super standard players. There still needs to be a good presence of non-Wallaby Super players to raise the standard of play to the required levels. Otherwise. it is not much more than a club championship style of competition and that certainly won’t realise part of its raison d’etre.

    We might expect that the state teams who have lost most players to the Wallabies will be struggling most to stay competitive this year. Qld and NSW might be further behind the 8 ball by having to support two NRC teams. However, it will hopefully allow for a few more young talent to get a chance and provide for an equalised competition across the teams.

    Looking forward now to seeing the team lists as they are established.

    • LBJ

      There are still two teams too many from NSW in the NRC. But thankfully with fox pulling out, this will be last year we have to endure these awful, manufactured trial matches that do nothing other than detract from genuine club competitions.
      I applaud NSW for giving the NRC precisely the respect it deserves – none.

  • Max Graham

    The NRC is third tier rugby. It’s a place to develop players for super rugby. Quade would have been in the 2019 Walllabies had his Super form been good enough. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

    • GO THE Q REDS

      Beg to differ…… and so does fox stats, GAGR weekly stats added up over the WHOLE season and just about anyone who actually watches rugby and appreciates a legitimate playmaker and the opportunities and threat they provide!
      But it’s OK I understand….. It is rocket science…..

      • Max Graham

        Cooper is one of my favourite players. But his form in 2019 wasn’t nearly his best. He had some good games but had a few shockers too. His stats weren’t clearly better than the incumbents, which they needed to be if he wanted to break back in. I’m happy to see stats that prove me wrong. As I said, he is a favourite of mine.

        • GO THE Q REDS

          Well considering he became a
          “untouchable” as the Aus 10 who had the most best rounds for a 10 for the “overall” season I think that says it all. And the fact he didn’t have a single “shocker” game also says alot. The incumbent Foley barely even featured in the best 10s of each round all season!
          By FORM and REASON the Wallaby 10s should be Cooper and Christian. 100%
          And Foleys form in that 1st test match proved it again. There’s just NO defence of that line of thought……

        • Max Graham

          I think I’d have more luck debating politics with a Trump supporter.

        • GO THE Q REDS

          I doubt it either way. You seem both I’ll informed and sadly swayed by the anti Quade bias in commentating and certain media that gets around!
          All season just about every single person on this site was happy too root for Quade as a Garunteed Wallaby squad member…..even when the Rebels went on a loosing streak and missd the finals….the astute rugby brains on here made it well known those Rebels losses were in no meaningful way Quades fault! Quite the opposite! He stuck religiously to the(questionable at times) coaches plan while still doing HIS job of being a 10 and creating opportunities! He was not even close to perfect…… no-one is….. but alas he is always held to a far higher standard than others! Even you yourself said his “2019 form wasn’t nearly his best”…….as if that means jack squat…….

        • Who?

          I think that a better argument about Cooper’s responsibility for the Rebels’ end of season drop off was made by Hoiles and Mitchell, particularly Hoiles, who laid it all at the feet of the forwards and Wessels’ forwards-oriented game plan.
          .
          Cooper’s best this year was clearly the best of our 10’s. Cooper’s poorest was average amongst our 10’s (they all had quieter games). But the reality is that the Rebels could’ve won the title and the man dubbed by Fox Sports as ‘long time Cooper supporter’ Michael Cheika still wouldn’t have picked him. Schnoz said the 10 had to be able to defend in the front line. Both Cooper and Foley changed and did that (and Cooper hit rucks, too), yet one started at 10 in our first Test, the other didn’t make the squad.

        • GO THE Q REDS

          EXACTLY…..on all accounts! Just irks me when professed “fans” claim a balanced view on these things, when in fact it’s nothing more than a regurgitation of Fox commentator dribble……

        • Max Graham

          You use capitals and spell like Trump. Are you Russian?!

        • Max Graham

          LOCK HER UP!! LOCK HER UP!!! I’m getting the hang of this.

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@Nick_Wasiliev

Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician, second rower. Still trying to make sense of the 21st century. About to drop a book...

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