Wallaby Outside Centre of the Decade

RugbyReg December 8, 2009 11

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The Rat

Great 13 on an ok 13?

Are we getting the hang of these now? Good, let’s keep them coming.  From the period 2000-2009, eleven different men have worn the Wallaby Number Thirteen jersey in a test match. They are:

Stirling Mortlock (52); Daniel Herbert (20); Matt Burke (11); Ryan Cross (9); Lote Tuqiri (8); Morgan Turinui (6); Adam Ashley-Cooper (6); Mat Rogers (4); Digby Ioane (3); Graeme Bond (2); Clyde Rathbone (2).

As we return to a specialist position, its back to picking the top three candidates for our Wallaby Team of the Decade.

Burke

Matthew Burke

Matthew Burke

As the Wallaby selectors still tried to fill the gap left by Timmy Horan, and with the emergence of Chris Latham as a fullback option, Matty Burke found himself in the 13 Wallaby jersey come the start of the 2002 year. Dan Herbert had moved in one spot to inside centre allowing Burke to slide in next to him.  There’s no denying Burke had all the qualities of a top level 13. He was strong in defence, ran the angles well, was a good communicator and had a decent kick to boot.

He was capable enough to hold down the position for the first seven tests of the domestic season that year, including wins over France, South Africa and New Zealand. However he would end the season back in his preferred position at the back of the team.

With an injury to Stirling Mortlock, and neither Morgan Turinui nor Matt Rogers capable of making the position their own, Burke found his way back to Outside Centre during the Rugby World Cup year of 2003. Eventually Morty would come back, reclaim his spot and that was effectively that for Matty Burke.  His Wallaby career would finish off the bench in Durban, before moving to the UK and showing his legs still had a few more years in them.

Herbie

Dan Herbert


Daniel Herbert

Herbert began the decade as the premier outside centre in global rugby, thanks to his performances at the 1999 RWC.  He would hold onto that title, at least arguably, for another couple of years as the Wallabies continued to win trophy after trophy. Herbert was a key component of memorable wins against the Springboks, All Blacks and Lions over that period.

His resolute defence was often tested (as he marked Brian O’Driscoll in the 2001 Lions series) but it was his leadership and strong running game, as well as his ability to recycle ball, that were perhaps undervalued by Wallaby supporters.  He was simply put, a dominant presence in the toughest of defensive channels.

Like Burke he would be shuffled around a bit by the Wallaby selectors, between inside centre and outside.  Whilst many doubted his ability to handle to greater ball handling required at 12, he did so well enough to play most of his last season in that position.  In fact his last test was as an inside centre against Italy in Genova.  A relatively inconsequential match played in relative obscurity. Quite apart from the world stage that Herbert played most of his career.

SM

Stirling Mortlock


Stirling Mortlock

This picture just typifies Mortlock to me. He just looks unstoppable.  I don’t know what it is about him. Sure he has size, and at least used to have a little bit of speed. But why was (is?) he so good? He obviously has the commitment and motivation. He just seems ‘up’ for the big games. Any man that seems to always perform against the mighty All Blacks is worth recognition.

He seemed to have this innate ability to run the right line or angle.  When he got the ball the Wallaby backline would look like someone had pressed the fast forward button.  Mortlock would just barge it straight, pinballing defenders as he went.  So many memorable moments of him this decade.  His kick against the Boks, albeit as a winger, was just the start.  The two stand outs are obvious.  His intercept of the Carlos Spencer pass in the RWC03 Semi Final and the run to set up Scott Staniforth for a crucial try back in 2007 are regulars on any highlights reel.

As a captain he lead from the front, not as the Captain Insano his nickname would suggest.  The results rarely came for him however, and his missed penalty against England at the 2007 RWC will long be etched in his memory.  But hopefully right at the back. Behind all those wonderful charges, tackles, tries and kicks.

And so we come to the end of another position. How’d we do? Should have we considered a couple of the current lads in Ashley-Cooper or Ioane?  What about Lote’s time in 13? Was he worth consideration?  Let us know and keep coming back as we count down the days until we reveal the G&GR Wallaby Team of the Decade.

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Discussion

  • Pedro

    Mortlock, no brainer.

  • http://www.chrismorton.com mortpig

    agree. mortlock followed by herbert. poll was spot on imo

  • Ed

    Hard to go pass mortlock, but i really did like herbert was definetly one of my more favourite players.

    Perhaps a spot on the bench for herbert?

  • Patrick

    Nope because with Burke Roff Tuquiri Mortlock so far, it would seem that Latham gets a bench spot. Then Giteau, Larkham and Gregan wrapping up the rest, it would seem that someone like Barnes and Genia has to complete the bench.

    • Epi

      Latham is fullback. Maybe Burke for the bench spot…

      • Patrick

        Oops, Epi, good call – I had forgotten that.

        I do agree with Gumby but on the voting for this decade the GGR crowd went with Latham and fair enough.

        Particularly harsh on AAC as Seb notes but that’s life – he is probably the first emergency back.

  • Seb V

    i recon AAC has the goods to be a great 13. Should stick him there from now on and watch him barge through defenders, run good lines, smash attackers to the ground just like good old morty did!

    • El Dommo

      im tired of seeing AAC get moved around.
      I agree, put him in the positon he will be best at, and leave him there.

      I would like to see him persist at 15 as now with gerrard gone, there is an absence of anyone who is identified as a dangerman (JOC i consider more of a wart than a dangerman)..

      but you are right 13 is the position for him.

  • Gumby

    Morty over Herbert for his longevity and consistent excellence. In the previous decade it would be Herbert just over Little.

    Seb. For Fullback it has to be Burke. Latham for all his brilliance won us the odd game. Burke won us Bledisloe Cups and RWC’s scoring tries as well as slotting goals.

    He was in my opinion the best of the best and in an International side I would have picked him over Cullen such was his all round value to the team. Just a brilliant, outstanding player.

  • El Dommo

    Herbie…well above Morty.

    the dominance Aus expereinced at the start of the decade was resting on a few peoples shoulders…not elast of which Herbies.

    Mortlock was wing to Herbie’s centre…and when Herbie called it quits, Morty moved in…

    I attribute most of what Morty is, to being close to Herbie…

    Sure, it might mean morty has been about now longer in this deaced than herbie was….but…for herbie to be the centre he was…PLUS…shape the way Morty plays the game to give us anohter world class out centre….makes herbie the top shelf pick for this decade.

    Morty is very very close though.
    perhaps his inability to be shuffled around is putting me off the number one spot.

  • happy hooker

    tough choice, El Dommo makes a good point, Herbert played in winning sides and was a huge contributor the “Golden Era” at 13. I went for Burke over Latham on that rationale, but I think Morty gets the nod here. He was world’s best for too long to go past.

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