Wallaby Fullback of the Decade - Green and Gold Rugby
ACT Brumbies

Wallaby Fullback of the Decade

Wallaby Fullback of the Decade

From the period 2000-2009, ten different men (perhaps nine men and a boy) have worn the Wallaby Number Fifteen jersey in a test match.

They are:

Chris Latham (57 starts at fullback); Adam Ashley-Cooper (17); Matt Burke (14); Matt Rogers (9); James O’Connor (7); Drew Mitchell (6); Julian Huxley (6); Joe Roff (4); Cameron Shepherd (2); Stirling Mortlock (1)

Now our task at G&GR was to come up with the three leading candidates for the Wallaby Team of the Decade.  How do we do this? Well we did it as simply by looking at their performances in this position and how dominant it was.  So now, our top three fullbacks of the decade:


Matthew Burke

Surprisingly, arguably Australia’s greatest ever fullback, played relatively little rugby in that position for the Wallabies in the noughties. Injury deprived him of a full 2000, with three games at the end of the season on the wing his only game time. 2001 started slowly too, picked on the bench behind Chris Latham in the first test against the Lions. A bit of Jason Robinson magic soon saw Latho replaced and Burke would see out the rest of the year and scoring a massive 157 points.

2001 would be the last time that Burke had the gold 15 jersey pretty much to himself however as not only was he sharing it with the likes of Chris Latham, Matty Rogers and Joe Roff, but his versatility had him spending time at wing and at outside centre, as well as on the bench. A subdued appearance off the bench in an away game against the Boks in 2004 would be his last Wallaby appearance, but the memories of his Lions series in particular would long remain.


Chris Latham

Looking purely at the stats, then Chris Latham had a fairly impressive decade.  Four tries in the first test of the 2000’s, against Argentina, set him on his way to 38 tries for the decade. More than any other Wallaby has scored in any decade. But it was far from easy for the NSW-born Queensland legend.

After a solid full season in the Wallaby jersey in 2000, Latho was dropped after a defensive error in the first Lions test of 2001.  Such was his attacking value that he was recalled into the starting line-up, this time on the wing, before the season was out.  Latham would score a Wallaby record five tries in a game against Namibia during the 2003 Rugby World Cup, but it was not enough to force him into the starting line-up come the business end of the tournament, with Matt Rogers preferred.

But Latham would soon turn all that around securing, not only a consistent spot in the number 15 jersey, but also the acclaim of the global rugby community as one of the premier players in the world.

Joe Roff

Now remember, this is for his time in the Wallaby fullback jersey. This does not take into account his Brumby form, nor his Wallaby games on the wing.  Just the four lone games he wore the golden 15 jersey.  Just two games against Scotland, one against England and then another, his final, against the Pacific Islanders.

But what those four games showed was perhaps how wasted Roff had been on the wing all career. This is not to dispute his contribution from the wing, nor the abilities of other first choice fullbacks such as Burke and Latham. It is just that Roff managed to show in his four 2004 appearances sublime timing and skills that should have been seen more on the international stage.

So they are our choices. But who are yours? Does Roff deserve his spot for just four tests? Are we discounting too readily the form of the current man for the job, Adam Ashley-Cooper? What about the undoubted brilliance of Matt Rogers? Should we be granting special consideration to Cameron Shepherd due to injury? Make sure you let us know in the comments below, and on the forum, as well as on the poll. We will be announcing our G&GR Wallaby Team of the Decade in just a few weeks, and we need to hear your argument as to who should be in that custodian position.

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  • Bobas

    Where’s Gerrard?

    • Noddy

      Japan I believe.

      Oh, in the list? Well he never played fullback for Australia.

      • Really?… Never ?..

      • http://wwos.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=805624&rss=yes

        Apparently Channel 9 reckons he did..
        “Former Wallabies fullback Mark Gerrard still holds ambitions of playing at the 2011 World Cup despite ditching the Brumbies for club rugby in Japan”

        • Noddy

          he never started a test at fullback for the Wallabies.

        • Ian

          And realistically, does anyone think he could be considered for the best fullback of the decade?

        • El Dommo

          mayb the best fullback, never to play fullback for the wallabies…HA

          poor bugger…i would have pissed in JONs coffee on the way to the airport…upstart JOC being rumoured as the man, not gerrard…fucking horrible

  • Scarfman

    You’ve got there the best ever Wallaby fullback, the best of the decade, and my favourite ever player.

    In order.

  • Sully

    I wouldn’t let him shine Burke or Lathos shoes!

  • Seb V

    latham is the legend. Burke was good, great goal kicker but latham was an amazing attacking fullback. I loved the way he played. What ever happened to Julian Huxley?… I thought he was a decent replacement for latham (scored an awesome chip n chase try vs wales i think, plus could torpedo bloody good).

    • Davey

      Hoaxley, I mean Huxley, got pole axed and the subsequent scans revealed a brain tumor.

      • El Dommo

        he is on the comeback trail they say.

  • D J

    Would have been best fullback,if given the games in this position. Is the best winger.

  • sambobly

    Chris Latham was the best wallaby fullback of the decade. The way he could break a game open was phenomenal.

    • dsan

      big running game, HUGE boot- i felt at ease when he was at 15.

  • Massive Burke fan, but due to his limited time in the position, I am giving it to Latham.

  • Unfortunate that Burke had his career split over 2 different decades for the sake of these surveys. But given that I don’t make the rules, I don’t see how anyone could not vote for Latham.

    Mortlock.. -1%.. Amazing

  • Newb

    that’s some interesting math… as i look at this stirlo has 0 votes for -1% of the tally. hmmm.

    • Newb

      dammit eddo! didn’t see your post.

      • Bobas

        Still living up to your name. Looking forward to the new fantasy season?

        • Newb

          i do what i can bobas. and yes, looking forward to the start of the super14. seems like we have ages to go. but no fears, lightning never strikes twice.

  • happy hooker

    Can’t go past Burke, the guy was as a rock at the back and despite the fact he may not have played for as much of the decade as Latham, he was amazing and the results of the teams he played in speak volumes of his abilities, plus the fact he was picked ahead of Roff and Latham at 15 shows how much class he had. As much as I liked Latho who was also world class, I can’t get past the fact that the team wasn’t as solid with him in it… and look at the stats – Burke was so prolific in points scoring (goal kicking), which, in rugby, is supremely important, esp in the era.

  • Conor

    for me burke was the fullback of LAST decade. Latham is the man

  • Seb V

    who the hell voted for JOC? u must be delusional!

    • El Dommo

      here here. these sorts of people need to be removed from the gene pool. does that mean deans and JON have to go?

      • Lance Free

        Gee, it’s taken you a long time to get over that Tokyo trip El Dommo?

        • El Dommo

          I lost my mind for a while, in a bowl of noodles and a bottle of saki.

          It will happen to you too when you get to Tokyo.

  • Chris

    Latham first. Burke second. Burke may have been a more talented athlete and all round player but his best days were in 99… Latham was the most dangerous and creative of the pair in the 00’s. Personally if both were at their peak on an even footing – I’d pick burke anyday (goal kicker, better defender, safer hands etc and up there in pace and attack)… but if the team is the best of the 00’s then in fairness to Latham he played better rugby and was a better player than Burke in the 00’s.

  • Ian

    Who voted for JOC????

    Come on Fess up… Who did it???

    Whoever it was, Go sit in the corner and have a long hard look at yourself.

  • Gumby

    Burke for me and always will be. His defence was outstanding and he was the incumbent at the start of the decade. Add to that his point scoring ability with the boot and he still was of more value to the Wallabies than Latham.

    Though it wasn’t in the noughties the try he scored against the All Blacks from a dropped ball deep in Wallaby territory was a cracker, one of the very best. He stood up three or four AB’s on the way to the try line and left Cullen grasping at thin air looking foolish. How many can claim to have done that? Probably only Burke. It can be found on Youtube.

    Even with his best attacking days behind him he still had Latham warming the bench until injured. Along with Eales my favourite player of all time.

    • Noddy
      • Gumby

        That’s the one Noddy. I have watched that try probably 50 times over time and it still astounds me and places Burke atop the heap in my view. Have it amongst the links on my BBC 606 profile.

        It wasn’t as important in the scheme of things as the try he scored when he shattered his shoulder and won us the Bledisloe but it was a great try.

        One player, under pressure, takes on and beats a whole All Black team. Class, just sheer class. Matt Burke, you Champion.

  • I think, as a few have indicated already, that Burkey is by far the best Fullback of the pro era but Latho is by far the best Fullback for the Wallabies this decade.
    His ability to turn the match for under performing Australian sides helped keep some respectability through the decade.

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