Wallaby Inside Centre of the Decade - Green and Gold Rugby
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Wallaby Inside Centre of the Decade

Wallaby Inside Centre of the Decade

In trying to find the ‘next Tim Horan’, seventeen different men have worn the Wallaby Number Twelve jersey in a test match from 2000-2009.  They are:

Matt Giteau (29),Berrick Barnes (14),Nathan Grey (11), Elton Flatley (11), Stirling Mortlock (9),Daniel Herbert (9), Morgan Turinui (9), ), Adam Ashley-Cooper (5), Quade Cooper (5), Jason Little (4), Steve Kefu (4), Matt Rogers (4) Rod Kafer (2), Steve Larkham (2), Scott Staniforth (2), Timana Tahu (2), Tim Horan (1).

We lounge room experts from G&GR fought long and hard about this one, with a number of names considered. In the end, I am the one who ended up writing this piece, so I get final say.  So, the top three inside centres of the decade are:

 

Elton Flatley

Flats is an interesting footballer. Thrown into professional rugby straight from school in 1996, the man needed shoulders as broad as his chin to carry the weight of expectations.  One golden haired flyhalf from QLD had retired in Michael Lynagh and the Reds wanted Flats to fill his shoes. Perhaps it was the experience of meeting these expectations that prepared Flatley for his grandest moment.

The Rugby World Cup has a tendency to throw forward some big names who star at their tournament. 87 had John Kirwin, 91 had Campo, 95 had Lomu and 99 had Timmy Horan.  Now I am not suggested that Flats in 03 had the same impact as any of these players, but there is no denying his status grew through the tournament.

In the final Flatley went toe-to-toe with the games kicking Heavy Weight in Jonny Wilkinson, and he didn’t flinch.  Rugby fans and non-fans alike could do nothing but admire his resilience and composure as he almost single handedly kept Australia in the game.

While he spent most of his Wallaby time as either and understudy, or apprentice, to the great Steve Larkham, Flatley’s efforts in 2003 are a perfect example of seizing your moment whenever they arrive.

 

Jason Little

Little only played four games at inside centre for the Wallabies during the decade, all in his last season of rugby – 2000. With his old buddy Tim Horan injured in the first test of the season, the Wallabies originally tried the tugboat, Rod Kafer, in this key position keeping Jason Little on the bench.

However the combination wasn’t clicking and Little was promoted to the starting team to partner Dan Herbert. What would follow would be four of the most memorable Wallaby test matches to played consecutively. It started with the “Game of the Century” in Sydney and culminated in the last minute win over the Springboks in Durban. In between would be wins over New Zealand in Wellington and South Africa in Sydney with Jason Little providing invaluable experience and resoluteness in each game.

The Durban game would be a real end of an era with Little retiring alongside fellow 1999 World Cup alum Richard Harry and David Wilson. And while Little retired as one of our greatest outside centres, there was no doubting his contribution as an inside centre in Australia’s trophy winning spree late in 20000.

Nathan Grey

Grey had been there and there abouts for the Wallabies for a couple of years since his debut in 1998.  But being ‘there’ usually meant being on the bench and being a, highly effective, impact player. 2001 would be his watershed however.  Exceptional Waratah form finally saw him a first choice player and, with Dan Herbert, he formed one of the most physically intimidating centre combinations ever to pull on the green and gold of Australia.

Some argue his physical intimidation bordered on the illegal as evidenced by his elbow on Lions forward leader Richard Hill.  The incident is often considered a turning point of the series and Grey is held as a pariah in parts of the UK for it.  But to label him as such from a single incident is unfair. There is no doubting Grey’s intensity on the playing field and it was a characteristic that set him apart from many players. But to focus solely on his physical presence is to underplay his skill set.  Whilst not a natural ball player like some, Grey had the skills to kick start his backline and a handy enough boot to match.

“But…but…but…where’s Matt Giteau?” I hear you say. “Don’t let his recent time at 10 dull your memories of his time at 12!” you insist. We haven’t. We didn’t.  Well I didn’t. But decisions have to be made, and they can’t please everyone all the time.  There were other able candidates too, none least being Berrick Barnes. Plus we tend to forget how ably Mortlock and Herbet filled in at 12 because of their domination of the 13 jersey.  And yes, I know you’re out there too, the Scott Staniforth supporters.  I would have loved to see him in that jersey more for the Wallabies, but what can I do?

So let us have it. Who should have been there. Who shouldn’t have. Why does Gits deserve to be there? And tell us why. Vote in the poll and then hit us up in the comments or the Blog to really get your argument going.  There’s still time to convince us that we need to make changes to our Green & Gold Rugby Wallaby Team of the Decade!

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  • Scotty

    Alright, own up, who voted for Quade Cooper?

    • Epi

      Maybe that’s what he needed the laptop for…

      • Bobas

        that is classic.

  • Who Needs Melon

    Look at all the votes for Tim Horan! I loved the guy as much as the next man but you can’t vote him inside centre of the decade when he only played one game in the decade.

    I’ve got a soft spot for Flats but my vote went to Giteau. He was a very, very, VERY good 12 – and still is! For mine he’s like someone in business that has been ‘promoted to his level of incompetence’- a great 12 doesn’t necessarily make a good 10. But I and others have done this topic to death, haven’t we?

  • I agree with Melon. Tim is my all-time best centre in the world but you can’t really claim he played in the last era.

    However all the other candidates you couldnt say they were true true inside centres’s like Tim was.

    Everyone these days is getting swapped around between 10,12 or 12,13.

    Hard to pick, I guess Gits get my nod even though he plays 10 (pretty much now).

  • Gumby

    Flats for me. What he achieved in the RWC 2003 was outstanding and few have been able to match the impact Wilkinson had in big games during that period but he could and did.

    Wilkinson won the 03 final in the end because the England Pack was able to make that drive deep into the Wallabies territory setting it up for him to slot the field goal. Flats had no such luxury. The pressure that was on him during that final was immense and he didn’t flinch.

    For me the jury is still out as to whether Gits is a Centre or Flyhalf and I think he is still not fullfilling his potential which I believe is even greater than Carter’s. Still a wonderful player though.

    • Bobas

      I agree Flatley was a great goal kicker but he should hardly make a team of the decade.
      He played well in 12 in the 03 world cup and was the only player to ever really successfully cover for Larkham. But 11 starts at inside centre is hardly anything in 10 years of rugby.

      Giteau is the man for me in 12 as he should be playing there in the current team and in the past excelled there next to Larkham.

      Flately would be the best player to have in the current team as our tight 5 is finally up to scratch after 7 years of letting the backs down.

      • Gumby

        Bobas. Flats wasn’t just in the team for his kicking. He was the best Inside we had.

        Yes his career was short comparitively but he more than anyone ensured that the backline was a brick wall and he was adept at setting those outside him up to do some damage.

        Gits has yet to show us what he can really do whether he plays in the centres or at flyhalf. Respect your point of view but for his composure and reliability Flats is the man in my view.

  • Ryan

    Grey for me. Had just too many memories growing up where all I can remember is screaming his name in a fit of joy as he lit someone up or made a break or something… But Gits is also an awesome choice… Especially now; since he’ll be up against Larkham and Gregan in the next two rounds.

  • Ishmael

    The voting looks just about right at the moment for mine. Gits way out ahead with Grey and Flats duking it out for second.

  • CliffyTahTah

    Which jerk voted for Tahu?

    • Bobas

      with that user-name, i’m guessing you.

      • CliffyTahTah

        Its all about Derrick Buns now Bobas

  • chief

    I think without a doubt its Flatley. His composure ensured success in the game. No doubt Gits is a quality player but Flatley had the collection about him, and never and I mean never cracked under pressure.

    Tahu is a joke right now, and personally I would like to have Tahu’s name taken off there because its trash like him who just can’t handle missing out on a international spot.

  • Ozrugbynut

    Horan and Giteau without doubt the two front runners for top 12, although Grey personifies the attitude required in a wallaby.

    The results just highlight the mystery in retaining Gits at 10 considering how Barnes and (gulp) Cooper have stoop up at first receiver over the past two years.

    I would be very interested to hear the arguments from fellow gaggers against Gits at 12.

  • Joe Blow

    Giteau hands down with Horan being the king of the previous decade and possibly king of the all time mountain.
    It’s pretty straight forward from here on in to Gregan at 1/2.
    Giteau is a great 12 but many forget in his last couple of seasons there he really didn’t see much ball. Many Australians were complaining because our highest paid player was continually skipped out by Larkham in his attempts to get the ball wide in a hurry.
    I am still not sold on the idea of him moving back to 12, even though it appears to be a foregone conclusion at the Brumbies. He was the best 10 in last years S14 and is still relatively new at the job at test level.

  • D

    How can you say flats had a great game in the world cup final of 03? You have got to be kidding me. Are we talking about the same game here? You know the one where he missed a couple of conversions and penalty kicks to put the final into overtime and eventually lose. If flats made one of those kicks, we would have 3 world cups. I think he sucks!!!!!!

    I think the rest of your positions have been on the money, but your top 3 are way off here. Back to the drawing board I say

    • Bobas

      he had a better goal kicking % than wilko.

      albeit wilko had to take them from 60m out on the touch line cos england never played excitingly.

      If Burke was a great goal kicker Flately was a God.

      If we come 2nd in our pool in the soccer WC and England top theirs we meet in a QF again.
      Revenge time.
      Lets hope this time we win 9-6 this time round.

    • Searsy

      Finally!!! Someone has the balls to say it. I don’t remember him kicking us back into the game. I remember his kicking putting us behind in the first place!

    • El Dommo

      defensively he was extremely strong in the WC final..with powehouse midfield combo Greenwood and Tindall and Wilkinson not short on pace, bulk or the deisre to attack the line,, Flatley was the key to the Backline defence.

      Similarly to what Berrick tries to do for the current wobbly backline.

      in attack he was instrumental in setting up field position for the wallabies, which alas the game didnt allow them to take advantage of, since it was well and truly a game won on defence.

      sure he missed a kick…

      so did Gitau against the scots.

      so did you in under 7’s that could have won you some trophy that you still harp on about.

      so actually watch rugby, rather than the highlights and you will see Flats for a majority of purists, was Best on Ground for the wobblies, in the RWC 03 final

      • D

        I disagree with you on that. There was no way on this planet that he was the best player on the day.

        Yes Gits missed the kick against Scotland. It wasn’t a WC final though. Flats’ mistakes were Unforgivable. Flats’ kicks were easier than Gits too. They were also on the preferred side of the field for Flats.

        Anyway, I’m going to go back and wank to the thought of me putting over the match winning drop goal in my under 8 D side from 15 meters out!!!!!!!!! Flats would have missed that one too!!!!! Ooooohhhh Yeah Baby!!!!!!

  • El Dommo

    Flats for mine. A career cut short, which allowed Giteau to become the wobbly 12.

    Flats had some great partners, Larkham, Herbert, Morty…Roff, Burke…in that backline it might be difficult to shine, but he definitely settled arguemnts on who should be the 12 for Aus from his performances

    defensively staunch, and able to organise his backline on the D line, a skill Giteau far from commands when he was at 12 or even now at 10 (hence as to why Berrick is integral to the defesive efforts of the wobblies).

    But also able to attack, very strong runner, with Bernie putting the defence in 20 minds about whether he wold run, give to roff, give to herbie, kick, run himself, find a forward…or hit Flats…flats did some major damage to backlines running good lines and creating from the next phase if bernie was caught up. not just setting up next phase, creating from next phase.

    Nathan grey, the unluckiest centre in Australia…first choice selection at any provincial team i would say, but alas, not so in gold colours.

    Littel will always be a 13 to me…despite his ability across the park in any midfield spot and even on the sting for his last tests…his play at 13 it takes away from examining his play at 12.

  • Patrick

    I am amazed at how much support there is for flats. I said on the 13 thread that I assumed that 12 10 and 9 (and 8 and 7 while we are at it) were foregone conclusions.

  • Horan is the king of the #12 jumper, for all time, but I guess it was mainly during the previous decade. Giteau was amaizig at #12 with Larkham inside and a ‘still got it’ (at the time) Mortlock outside

  • If you could balance Giteau’s attack with Grey’s defence you would have the perfect #12, or Staniforth if given the opportunity as seen for the Force in ’06.
    Giteau should never have been moved from #12 and am looking forward to Barnes ensuring he goes back to his world class position for the rest of his days, as he is an average, if not selfish, #10.
    In any case, the vote still has to go to Giteau for this decade I believe.

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The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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