The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
National Rugby Championship

The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

In this week’s edition of the Top 5 we talk NRC, more NRC, a bit more NRC, check out some videos … from the NRC … and quickly hop on over to Europe for a check in on who’s where.

Welcome Back NRC

This weekend saw the opening round of the 2017 NRC, and what a round it was. We saw a nail biter in Canberra, an (alleged) ear biter in Brisbane and tries a plenty! Seriously … there were LOADS of tries!

I really enjoyed the opening round of NRC, and don’t want to get negative about it, but the crowds looked a little on the small side (though it’s always hard to tell from TV depending on where the cameras and crowds are). Based on the Super Rugby crowds I wasn’t expecting huge numbers, but was hopeful that the crowds would come.

I’m not sure about other states, but I know that here in Canberra there was little to no publicity for the match. The Vikings and Brumbies Facebook and Twitter pages plugged it, but outside of that there really didn’t seem to be much in the media at all. It’s a real shame, because the match we watched on Saturday had it all, 13 tries, both teams getting decent leads only to be dragged back and a close finish. If we want to attract non-rugby people to the matches, it would have been the perfect game to get them coming back.

The Perth crowd looked the biggest, I’ve heard estimates of around 5000 on the hill, which looked pretty packed.

FilledHill

We know that there are rugby fans in Australia, the Shute Shield and Queensland Finals showed that, so … where are they? Is club allegiance so strong that they will not support any club other than their own? Sadly I know this is the case for many in Canberra, they are fans of a different club, for example Royals, and will never support a Vikings branded club. Is it the same in Sydney for, say the Rats? Will Warringah fans ONLY support Warringah?

Or is it just that people don’t know about the NRC?

Either way, I hope we see some big crowds this year, if the opening round is anything to go by, those who go to the games will be treated to some wonderful rugby like these 2 blokes were.

Laurie Fisher and Dan Mckellar watch on as the Vikings take on Qld Country

Laurie Fisher and Dan Mckellar watch on as the Vikings take on Qld Country – Photo Sue T

Tries, tries and more tries (and some other stuff)

This year the scoring system reverted back to the standard 7 points for a converted try and 3 points for a penalty, after last season 8 point tries and 2 point penalties were trialled. Last year we saw a lot of tries scored, teams were shunning penalty shots in favour of going to the line. We assumed this attacking rugby came from tries being worth more points. But in the first round of this season, 47 tries were scored compared to 32 in round 1 last season. So dropping the number of points back to 7 definitely hasn’t stifled the attack. In fact, let’s do a quick comparison of the opening rounds of last season and this season.

NRC Stats

Apart from the number of tries scored, all of the other stats actually look pretty close, except for the cards handed out. One of the draw backs of making penalties only worth 2 points last season was that teams were much quicker to give away penalties in the red zone, feeling pretty safe in knowing their opposition wouldn’t take the points. This in turn led to a number of cards for cynical or repeated infringements. This year we saw fewer penalties and fewer cards.

There were more penalty kicks taken in this round than all of last season. In some cases, going for a try may have been a better option (I’m looking at you Eagles!), but in at least one case it was a smart move, when Hawera stepped up to take a kick at goal to put the Vikings 8 points in the clear with minutes left on the clock and all but securing the win.

Un-surprisingly the only stat which really isn’t better this year than last is the missed tackle stat. Here’s how the individual teams fared.

Qld Country (Missed 14 made 90 – 86.5%)
Rams (Missed 24 made 135 – 85%)
Vikings (Missed 27 made 141 – 84%)
Rising (Missed 28 made 97 – 77.6%)
Fijian Drua (Missed 35 made 119 – 77%)
Eagles (Missed 30 made 98 – 76.5%)
Brisbane City (Missed 30 made 88 – 75%)
Spirit (Missed 30 made 85 – 74%)

Plenty of room for improvement from all teams!

Bula Fiji!

The Fijians made their highly anticipated NRC debut against Brisbane City on Saturday. While they didn’t get the win, there were signs there that when they get it right they will be tough to beat. They have some flying backs, fullback Peceli Nacebe showed with his opening try that he is pretty darn quick (see highlights video below). Discipline let them down a bit, with a couple of yellow cards, and defensively they had a round high missed tackle count of 35, but their attack definitely looked threatening and they ran in some very good tries. As the season goes on they will be a team to watch out for.

Frank Lomani had a good game for the Drua

Frank Lomani had a good game for the Drua

 NRC Match Highlights and top tries

In case you missed any of the matches, here are the best bits.

Canberra Vikings v Queensland Country

Brisbane City v Fijian Drua

Greater Sydney Rams v NSW Country Eagles

Perth Spirit v Melbourne Rising

Top Tries from Round 1

Northern Hemisphere Rugby

The Guinness Pro 14 and Aviva Premiership kicked off this weekend up in the North, while the French Top 14 had its second round of competition. Many rugby fans were interested in seeing how the new additions to the Pro 14, the Kings and the Cheetahs would go in their new competition. It was never going to be easy for the two South African teams, with a short turnaround from Super Rugby, the Currie Cup still being played in South Africa and delays in bringing together squads all working against them. Both teams went down in their opening games, the Cheetahs losing to Ulster 42-19 and Scarlets getting over the Kings 57-10.
Apart from the South African teams, it’s always interesting to see how the Aussies who have headed north or moved teams fare in the competitions. For those interested, here is a list of the most recent Aussie additions to the European teams (including players who have moved from one NH team to another).

Pro 14
Jarrad Butler (Brumbies) Andrew Deegan (Waratahs) – Connacht
Scott Fardy (Brumbies) – Leinster
Paul Asquith (Rams) – Scarlets
Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies) – Ulster

Embed from Getty Images       

Aviva Premiership
Nic White (Montpellier) – Exeter Chiefs
Nick Malouf (Aussie 7’s) – Leicester Tigers
Ben Meehan (Rebels) Jake Shatz (Rebels) Saia Fainga’a (Brumbies) – London Irish
Rob Horne (Waratahs) – Northampton Saints
James O’Connor (Toulon) – Sale Sharks
Will Skelton (Waratahs) Kieran Longbottom (Sale) – Saracens
Michael Dowsett (Southland Stags) – Worcester Warriors

French Top 14
Jake McIntyre (Reds) – Agen
Leroy Houston (Reds) – Bordeaux Begles
Peter Betham (Leicester Tigers) – Clermont
Liam Gill (Toulon) – Lyon
Phoenix Battye (Béziers) Mitch Inman (Rebels) – Oyonnax
Jonah Placid (Rebels) – Toulon
Zack Holmes (La Rochelle) – Toulouse

Embed from Getty Images

  • Nutta

    Look at that snapshot of the breadth of Oz talent playing OS. Yep, sure-as we couldn’t support a 5th Super team could we? We just don’t have the cattle do we? Can we simply take 30sec to ponder all that talent, investment, skill, what-ever-you-want-to-call-it and accept that our failures to perform/win consistently are nowt to do with cattle and a shit-ton more to do with fractured & self-servicing administration lording over an incestuous coaching & selection cess-pool?

    • Steve

      I love ARU-bashing as much as any rational adult Nutta, but I think we would be remiss if we didn’t admit money was the major contributing factor here.

      Fact is, if you aren’t going to be a regular in the 23, you don’t have much incentive at all to keep playing in Aus.

      It’s very depressing to see the players we so badly needed in the Wallabies this year running around in Europe (Liam Gill, Scott Fardy, Matt Toomua I’m looking at you), but I just can’t see how it’s going to change.

      • onlinesideline

        Matt Toomua was a major loss… he was really hitting his straps as a run on Wallaby and other teams considered him a real handful. Tough tackler, good grubberer and attacker too.

        • Bobas

          He did his ACL in his second game last season after being carded in his first.
          I’m sure some of his team’s fans were wishing last year they hadn’t brought him over.

          Let’s hope he stays fit and comes back.

      • Nutta

        I completely get that a professional footballer has every right to maximise their value OS.

        But that’s not my point.

        We have been repeatedly told by powers that be that a major underlying reason for the cut was our lack of boots-on-ground talent to make a 5th squad competitive. I believe that claim holds no water and for it to be continually purported and not called for the bullshit that it is speaks poorly of us in accepting it.

        However, to the point of the talent leaving, there are only 2 things that may be consistently relied on to keep athletes local (all things being equal): cash and quality competition. If we can’t offer the cash of France or Japan etc then we must offer ‘good enough’ plus the quality competition or else we simply lose. So how are we offering quality competition by cutting back on the availability of such? Again we come back to shit administration and leadership…

        • Steve

          That was going to be the second part of my point actually! I agree, was just making the point that the presence of players in Europe doesn’t necessarily indicate failings on the ARU’s part (which I now get is not what you meant anyway).

          I think the ARU has to accept that we will always have a certain loss rate to Europe/Japan.
          We agree that the tools they have to keep players local is 1) provide opportunities to play for as many people as possible at as high a standard as possible (ie 5 teams w/NRC), and 2) make Super and National teams successful so players might actually be inclined to stay in that system.

          The NZ system is like teeth on a Great White, rows and rows ready to replace any losses. We will never have that, but I definitely agree that is the ideal we should be working towards, instead of accepting our mediocrity and going back into our shells (what I like to call the Brexit solution).

          A National accountability system for our Super coaching teams would have been my first port of call.

        • Nutta

          Could not agree more on the national accountability bit. But we need to take it further with national coordination of the game as a whole, an end to the myriad of personal fiefdoms within the various state unions and certainly get away from this idiotic idea that the only person who can be a good coach is someone who played 20 tests or more – “She was a good teacher so we made her the principal”.

        • paul

          Can I throw the cat amongst the pigeons and suggest that we
          are still missing the biggest problem facing the code here?

          And that is relying on a top down strategy of the Wallabies to grow the code, the biggest issue we have is domestically the inability of Super rugby to create a bigger audience/fan base and ultimately player base

          With only 4/5 teams and a competition that is essentially
          just a feeder for the national team we have not grown a successful professional
          arm of the game. Any player that is not in contention for the Wallabies very quickly gains unwanted status.

          We push them overseas but whinge the minute they go. My
          point is any player that is not a potential Wallaby does not see Australia as a long-term option professionally.

          There was an article on the Roar the other day that spruiked
          Kurtley Beale coming home was a coup for the game here,
          I would argue the opposite, the ARU have always found money for the top players, it is the other
          100 or so that do not see coming home as any sort of alternative.

          I believe Super rugby is an unsustainable model for this
          country, we are 3-4 professional teams short of a workable model regardless of the level of money in those teams.

          I don’t think the game here can survive with the current
          model of a National team and 4 supply teams, put simply it is to top heavy, take the roof of and there are not enough support beams to hold it up.

        • onlinesideline

          so what you are saying is that we need a NRL national style comp with 8 teams minimum. ( I agree I agree I agree)

          Additionally if we turfed Super rugby and explored a trans tasman comp that couldnt work either because the kiwis wouldnt allow us having 8 teams or 7 teams or 6 teams. Secondly they wouldnt agree to it because there is no logic starting a comp with half the teams unable to compete (in their eyes) Zero from 26 and 4 from 26 year before against kiwis is not attractive for kiwis.

          My point is trans tasman is not realistic and therefore we shoud go it alone and make a totally national comp with teams built around regions, not states, or even cities so as to foster organic support from locals. The ITM and Currie Cup and NRC (all as new versions full of super players) should all feed the national sides. Then you would have, as far as OZ is concerned a much bigger feeder pool for spots in Wallas and more competion for spots too.

          The only way to survive in this code is to take NRL on head on. I have said a zillion times and I really believe it.Its a situation unique to OZ.

          PS – having a Fijian team in NRC is not only great but feels like there has been some respect shown towards Fijians as a rugby community and people and I like that – its overdue.

        • paul

          I agree as well, however with one caveat. That is the code here needs to accept the reality of the market.

          The problem is they are slave to the Super rugby money, everyone has there heads in the trough.

          A domestic league of 8 teams, and you can also explore the options of champion leagues style comps with overseas markets.
          But they have to accept that to grow you must first have a budget that is sustainable.

          But the ARU model is all about the Wallabies though.

        • paul

          It highlights the dilemma the game faces here, we want the Super rugby millions, but the minute there is talk of going it alone and everyone cries poor.

          We go from a million $ to sausage sizzle fundraisers.

          But at some stage you have to meet in the middle, for there to be any chance of genuine growth.

        • onlinesideline

          Well there wont be Super rugby money if no one goes to the games. Eventually the people writing the checks will start to question ther investment.

        • paul

          And 2020 will probably be when reality hits. The Super rugby brand has taken a massive hit lately.

          Curious to see how keen the broadcasters are with a competition that less and less people are interested in.

        • Sevenwithasixonmyback

          What I see as the issue is the wealth of players taken from Club rugby into “development” and “extended” squads that, by rights offer good opportunity for higher-level action, but in reality take future top-tier players from any competitive play. They end up glorified tackle bags, never actually feeling the win or loss.
          As competitors, they NEED to play, not simply train and aid in the training of others.
          The adrenaline is why they play. There is little adrenaline in always putting on a training strip and sitting on a bench in warm-up wear…
          So they seek playing positions elsewhere. We “develop” them out of our game simply by not letting them win and lose.

        • Nutta

          By the way – full balls to you for having a decent chat without it degenerating into mudslinging garbage.

        • Steve

          I do come here to learn from those more knowledgeable than myself…not (always) just to flog my own dead horses…

        • Andrew Luscombe

          European teams have a much longer season that enables them to generate the money to attract the players. There are some rich guys also, but mostly it’s the longer season. The SH could arrange their comps differently to match the north.

      • Waz_dog

        I think most players bar Mowen tried for several seasons to crack/stay in the Wallabies squad. As soon as it dawned on them that they were never going to get a look in/stay in the team their hand was forced unfortunately.

        • Pedro

          but even Mowen wasn’t given a top up (IIRC) even though he was arguably our best captain post Morty.

    • onlinesideline

      If one is cynical one could argue that SOME players not all obvioulsy but some have in mind to use the aussie system to get x far and then once they have reached a certain level of marketabllity “discretely” put their feelers out for a UK contract.

      Knowing they are never going to be Wallabies or even consistent run on team for a Super team, they are just happy to reach Super rugby level, only be involved with a Super rugby team for 1 maybe 2 years and then bang there off.

      I suppose this is pretty obvious but the difference between this year and say 3 years ago is that its more of an intentional strategy, more open and accepted as less “treasonous”, for lack of a better word, yeah its a problem.

      65 Boks playing overseas ? I see this getting to point that it wont be acceptable by Sanzaar eventually. How long it takes, depends on how many brunches they discuss it over, could take years. They only way to compete is allow each state to be owned and run by a Twiggy Forest, to reinvente the sport, Packer style.

      Something will happen – maybe the seed of change will be in the Force saga and maybe if Supreme court rules against Force it will be a blessing in disguise … long termmmm – I know the force fans dont want to hear that and I also am gunning for them but…….

    • Waz_dog

      In a nut(ta) shell!!!!!!!!

  • Brisneyland Local

    Well GAGR’s I must admit I am still ona bit of an NRC high after that weekend. went to one game (Bris City vs Fiji) and watched the Vikings Vs Qld Country (yep watched it next door as I still having my personal protest against getting a foxtel subscription).
    Just really good games and really enoyable to watch, it helped relieve a lot of the bad mood hungover from super Rugby and our terrible Wallabies. There appears to be some good talent developing out there, so will be glad to watch it come through in time and restore our faith in the rugby world. I just hope the current detritous that has infected the wallabies is long gone by then.
    I agree with Nutta that I think there is enough talent across the country and in our overseas players to fully man 5 franchises.

  • Greg

    The individual brilliance of the Fijian players is just outstanding!

    Lucky they have different jersey’s as I reckon the drua’s have a lot of cousins in most NRC teams.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Yeah was thinking that. You should have seen the warm up game before this match. It was the QLD Fijian Team versus the QLD Samoan team. Was great to watch!

  • Alister Smith

    I would be interested in others thoughts on transfer fees for rugby players going to overseas clubs (or other super clubs for that matter). Obvioulsy its used in soccer at the highest level but I haven’t heard anyone talking about it for rugby and I am just wondering why. At the moment, a player (and his agent) are the sole beneficiaries of an overseas contract. However, over the course of their career, those players have benefitted from coaching and development from their junior clubs, senior clubs, state/provincial bodies and in some cases, the Wallabies themselves. A lot of that coaching and development would have been provided on a volunteer basis and as a former volunteer coach i personally wouldn’t want anything for my time but if my club was to receive funds or assistance in development that would be great. The overseas clubs in Top 14 and other European leagues benefit from the training and effort of the clubs that develop all these players and they obviously dont do enough development work themselves in their own local areas (otherwise they wouldnt need to bring in foreign players). It would also be particularly helpful to countries like Fiji, Samoa, Tonga etc who face constant demands on their players. It might also raise the price of imported foreign players, making it more economical for the overseas clubs to develop their own players and reducing the flow of imported players. At the highest level (international rep players) it would still probably be worth the OS clubs paying big money plus a transfer fee because its reflected in their brand etc. However, for players that are fringe Wallabies or Super players who don’t have a lot of international standing the value for the OS club might not be there. Perhaps the players unions etc would object but given that the system functions in other sports where there is a similar stream of players going from all regions through to Europe I’m not sure why it wouldn’t work in the rugby system.
    Keen to here anyones thoughts on why this wouldn’t work.

    • Bobas

      I see your point but when you think about Mooy’s transfer to the PL from city group’s teams more than paid for their own investment melbourne city, it’s not Mooy’s home nation making a dime out of it.

      It’s a tricky thing and unfortunately it needs real leadership.
      We’ve gotta get the oxygen mask on ourselves first before assisting others. Fiji in the NRC is best thing we’ve done in years.

      • BigNickHartman

        the club that trains the player in Europe gets 2.5% of the transfer fee or something. Didier Drogba’s child hood club built a new stand from his transfer fees and called their ground the Didier Drogba stadium

      • Alister Smith

        Yes I see that certainly makes sense. But even if for instance, if the Rebels or the Force developed a player and they went to Europe then they would get some benefit and it might be an additional incentive to develop more players or at least provide funds to develop new players (or build a Didier Drogba stadium)

  • hasto

    I stayed up late saturday night and watch the Agen v Racing 92 game (super stoked to see McIntyre have a good game, kinda shows the reds may have been over coaching him/bottlenecking his game). I get its only the second round, but I didn’t think the quality of rugby was particularly high. which leads to my agreement with Nutta’s comments and the resulting thread in that the ARU is waaaay too top heavy, and we need to start over with a bottom up model. We have clearly seen the support for local rugby over the last month is alive and well, lets utilise this and make a truly national comp. I think we definitely have the cattle and talent to make it work.
    it would be more business savvy from the ARU to invest money into local clubs to grow the game around the country. a few thousand dollars at a local club will go a hell of a lot further than if it went in to Pulver/Clyne/Eales/etc bank account.

    • onlinesideline

      the idea of having some of the waratahs matches played at local surburban grounds is the most common sense idea I have seen floated this century – apparantely it will happen too.

      • hasto

        nothing would make me happier than seeing the reds play every game ballymore! my hope is that they can renovate/reinvigorate ballymore so it can host games again

  • Nicholas Wasiliev

    Crowds for the NRC have always been an Achilles heel for the competition. Steve L told me that he thought about 1,500 attended the Vikings game, which was pretty average. I was at the Rams-Eagles game, and from my guesstimate they got about 1,000. Pretty disappointing crowds in Canberra, but it was kinda understandable for the Rams: they are playing out of a new ground, and have re branded themselves, which has opened up a whole new can of worms for many fans here in Sydney. The Rams played well though, so I hope more come back for their next home game.
    But the Spirit-Rising game was awesome! 4,000 in the gate! That’s great for an NRC match! I worry that not as many may come after the decision today. The WA rugby fans have put the rest of us to shame, and it’s such a pity that the ARU doesn’t recognise passion when they see it. How great would it be if the Spirit win it again? That would shove it right back in the ARU’s faces! Hope the fans stick around though.
    As for the City-Drua match, from the TV cameras I was guessing between 2,500-3,000, which is alright for a city match. Everyone there said that while the game was fantastic, there weren’t enough facilities open to keep up the numbers. I hope the City and Spirit matches are better sign of things to come for NRC crowds.

  • Guest

    Is Nathan Grey the defence coach for all the NRC team?
    Lots of trys is good, but I much prefer a 17-14 game than 48-40.

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