Wallaby Winger of the Decade - Green and Gold Rugby
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Wallaby Winger of the Decade

Wallaby Winger of the Decade

From the period 2000-2009, eighteen different men have worn either the Wallaby Number Eleven or Fourteen jerseys in a test match. Interestingly eight of these were  also on the fullback list (Julian Huxley and James O’Connor being the only two fullbacks NOT to start a test on the wing).

So, our noughty wingers were:

Lote Tuqiri (51 starts on the wing); Wendell Sailor (29); Joe Roff (28); Drew Mitchell (20); Mark Gerrard (17); Clyde Rathbone (16); Peter Hynes (15); Stirling Mortlock            (14); Lachlan Turner (11); Ben Tune (6); Andrew Walker (5); Chris Latham (5); Digby Ione (4); Adam Ashley-Cooper (4); Matt Burke (3); Matt Rogers (3); Cameron Shepherd (3); Scott Staniforth (2).

Whereas previously we normally pick a top three for each position, we are not differentiating between right or left wing, so we are going to pick the top six wingers of the decade. Again this is based on their performance at test level, this decade, in the wing position.

And our top wingers (in no particular order, well in the particular order of the alphabet in fact):

Peter Hynes

Hynes has only featured for the Wallabies in the last two years of the decade, but already has more starts on the wing than the likes of Paul Carozza, Paddy Batch, Rob Egerton, Laurie Monaghan or Jeff McLean.  It’s a sign of the age of professionalism as much as anything, but also a sign of the type of player that Queensland flyer is.

Hynes is very much a Robbie Deans style player. Whilst not quite as speedy as his schoolboy sprinter days, he has the balance and composure required to be a finisher at the highest level. But it is his work off the ball, as much as with it, that is most impressive. Forever on the go, Hynes loves to get his hands dirty in the ruck and has no fear in charging into an oncoming pack. Just the four tries scored so far, but how much of that can be put down to a struggling inside backs is a reasonable question.

The Wallaby Rookie of the Year in 2008, it is only fair to consider him one of the premier Wallaby wingers of the decade.


Stirling Mortlock

It is easy to forget that Mortlock first burst onto the international rugby scene as a winger.  It’s not surprising when you consider that team he played in had the likes of Roff, Larkham, Gregan, Wilson and Eales in its line-up.  Even less surprising when you realise that Daniel Herbert had the coveted 13 jersey to himself. But what a debut by Mortlock!

After not getting much of a shot in his first test, against the Pumas in Brisbane, Mortlock rectified things in the 2nd test with a try, a conversion and 5 penalties for 22 personal points. This would begin a run of point scoring which included 29 points against the Boks in Melbourne, 20 v the All Blacks in Sydney, 21 v the Boks in Sydney, 16 v the All Blacks in Wellington and 14 (including the trophy winning kick) against the Boks in Durban. This points spree would power Mortlock to reach the 100 point mark quicker than any Wallaby ever before.

Joe Roff

Roff started the decade with 21 consecutive tests for the Wallabies on the wing. This included both the incredible Tri-Nations of 2000 as well as memorable British Lions tour of 2001.  It was the Lions tour that would pretty much end up capping a wonderful career for Roff.  Whilst he would go on to play another just another seven more games on the wing after that 2001 season, playing off the bench in the Rugby World Cup finals of 2003 behind league recruits Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri, before finishing his career at fullback in 2004.

But what a performance in the Lions series.  His two tries in the second test in Melbourne not only won the match but pretty much put rugby on the map in Australia.  The series win against the Lions provided rugby a tremendous profile boost in non-traditional areas, and Roff’s performances were at the heart of it. A canny player, he knew the way to the try line, yet relied on his nous as much as his speed and size to get across the line.


Wendell Sailor

Wendell arrived in rugby as perhaps the biggest signing it had ever made.  Having just finished the Rugby League World Cup as its best player Sailor, ever the shrinking violet, saw rugby as a chance to take his game (and face) to the global market. Some will debate whether Dell was worth the money.  Putting aside the pure marketing aspect of him (which is almost undeniable), Dell was a key player this decade.

Now it took Sailor a fair while to adjust to the finer points of rugby. He was never a naturally instinctive player and the increased analysis in rugby battled his natural desire to just bash and barge.  He was probably thrown into the Wallaby team, prematurely, in 2002. Scott Staniforth for one being unlucky to be overlooked. But he worked hard, as he always has, and scored some ripper tries in 2003 against the likes of Wales, England and New Zealand.

His game against the All Blacks that same year, in the RWC semi-final in Sydney was perhaps his best ever in the code. His intensity was high and his work rate and ball retention fitted perfectly with the Eddie Jones chosen game plan. Unfortunately, a week later the same intensity wasn’t there and the World Cup was lost.

Injury would curtail is 2004, memorable giving Clyde Rathbone an unbelievable opportunity against England in Brisbane. 2005 however was building as an impressive year, with a move from the Reds to the Waratahs providing more opportunities.  However Dell would end his career with rugby, the same way he came in, on the front pages. How he will be remembered long term will unfortunately be more for his off-field exploits than his on-field.

Lote Tuqiri

Coming across the rugby a year after Sailor (and Matt Rogers) Tuqiri would find his feet seemingly a great deal quicker.  Perhaps he was eased into it better, but come the business end of a big season, the 2003 RWC, Tuqiri had forced his way into the starting side and sent Australia into hysterics with a brilliant try in the final.

Ten tries the following year would set a Wallaby Record for the most tries in a single season.  Harking back to the RWC final of the previous year, Tuqiri would twice score tries in four consecutive tests, an achievement only the great David Campese had previously managed.

His try scoring percentage would dry up however and the questions would begin to be raised as to his worth.  Perhaps it was a clash between playing styles at provincial and international level?  It seemed the Waratahs wanted his power game whereas the Wallabies wanted a finisher.  In the end Lote’s career, like Sailors, would end in controversy, which is a shame for a man who currently sits in equal 3rd spot on the Wallabies all time try scorers list.

Andrew Walker

Yet another league convert on the list of the best of the decade. Is it a sign of their quality or the ARU’s pre-occupation with them? Either way it’s hard to deny the sublime that was Andrew Walker. In yet another career that was cut short dramatically and, from a rugby perspective, unfortunately, Walker had it all.  A Wallaby career of a little over 12 months was not enough to satisfy the appetites of his fans.

He debuted, off the bench, in “The Match of the Century” and would play his last test, also off the bench, in John Eales’s last game “the one with Kef’s try”.  Two more dramatic games you would struggle to find, and thus a fitting bookend to Walks’ career.  In between he played all three tests against the British Lions combining brilliantly with fellow Brumby Joe Roff to send Dan Herbert away on a crucial try in the third test. Walker scored one himself, an unbelievable effort, in the first test that lives long in the memory.

Still running around in Brisbane Club Rugby, Walker just loves playing rugby which always seemed to come across in his play. It is just a shame other external pressures deprived us all from seeing more of him at the highest level.

And there we are. How’d we do? This one will cause some discussion I am sure. How could we leave out Ben Tune?  Did we even consider Mark Gerrard and Clyde Rathbone? Do we not remember Drew Mitchell’s try scoring feats at the 2007 RWC? So let us know your thoughts, again via the comments or the forum. And don’t forget to vote for your preference, in fact both of them, as we count down to our G&GR Wallaby Team of the Decade.

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  • Pedro

    There are lots of players I like more but Tuqiri I think did the most for the wallabies on the wing in the naughties.

    • Bobas

      yeah, I think Tuqiri did the most.

      If if it was 95-05 though it’d be tune and roff and no Tuqiri

      I dont know who gets the 2nd vote out of tune and roff in 00-10.

      Roff played more recently, but Tune was unstoppable in some games in the late nineties and really early noughties.

  • Henry

    Tune is Australia’s best winger ever i think. Lomu was quoted he was the one person he didn’t like playing. He was awesome. But yeah, he is nineties rather than noughties.

  • Cam178

    There is a dark thought reoccuring in my mind. That is that Drew Mitchel has’t got the full tool box (You’ll all laugh i know) it is a nagging thought. I want him to excell but time again he shows delicacy at the point of adversity. If he is around for the RWC good luck to him if he’s not then the Wallabies will be a little stronger. A winger needs to go, pin the ears back and go relying on speed footwork. They need to have dash and daring,(ala Campese, Habana and Roff) it is for the rest of the team to back them up, those that do, will end the day with more tries…

    • Funnily enough Mitchell had a good show of toe in the try he set up for Habana yesterday against the All Blicks.

      • Seb V

        haha i saw that try, and my first thought was: that doesnt look like the mitchell i saw in the wallabies plus he’s faster then what i remember.

        • Henry

          I dont know why everyone thinks mitchell is so slow, he is heaps quick! And can’t forget his showing in the 07 rugby world cup. Seven tries. Pretty hectic…

    • Cam178

      I agree but I still think he shows hesitance under pressure

      • Henry

        He just needs to work on it… Give him time.

  • I have a soft spot for Staniforth.. I’d love to select him, but there’s no way to justify it with only two starts … And with Stirls in with a solid shot of 13… Can we have him at 13 and 14 ?? Maybe a young Stirling on the wing and the older – harder – wiser Stirls at centre?

    • Noddy

      yeah, that takes the selections to another era. A 2001 Burke v a 2006/07 Latho.

      That way you could pick a 2000 Morty on the wing and a 2003-6 Morty at 13.

      • Bobas

        Was watching some old footage of the wallabies with Larkham replacing Burke in fullback in the late 90’s.

        Burke was a great player, but people kept stealing his fullback position.

        4 me the back line would be: (and the year of peaks of their powers.)

        9 Gregan (2002)
        10 Larkham (2004)
        11 Roff (2001)
        12 Giteau (2008)
        13 Mortlock (2003)
        14 Tuqiri (2004)
        15 Latham (2006)

        6 players from the 49-0 2006 game v south africa. The first match under connelly, since what a terrible coach from that point on.

        • MD


  • Bobas

    where’s beale, he loves the wing, only position he’s played for the wallabies and averages two tries a game.

  • Ian

    It is a bit disgusting that Roff was benching for Lote and Ding Dong at the 2003 world cup.

    Just shows how stupid the ARU were at that stage, was all about selling the big names instead of the big talents.

    • Noddy

      not really. Roffy wasn’t in best form back then. Something about World Cups. He was dropped in the lead up to 99 as well.

    • Pedro

      Roff could cover more positions too, having a guy on the bench that could only play wing would be a waste. Also Dell and Tuqiri were pretty good in that tournament.

  • Gumby

    Good as Lote was in his early days it is Tune and Roff for me. Tuney had a bad run with injuries but he was a power runner and fantastic finisher.

    I will never forget his try in the RWC final where the French Fullback tried to stop him scoring. It was as if he had been hit by a truck being catapulted backwards about three meters with a broken arm. Absolutely awesome.

    • Bobas

      the 99 WC?

      Not really part of the noughties.

      For me its now Tuqiri and Sailor.

      Then Roff/Rathbone.

  • Ryan

    Don’t forget… Wendell had ALSO had a try against Argentina in 03’… If I recall the camera angle was just perfect and ran alongside him as he charged through and over and around a few guys to score in the corner… Great feat of strength.. So just remember this moment I’m trying to paint in your minds, and reconsider exactly who you vote for :D… (aka Wendell!!)

  • El Dommo

    Roff and Tune…

    sheer class

    a class above in fact.

    The wingers of next decade i hope are Hynes and Ioane.

    • Henry

      Hynes is a bit old…

  • Clearly Roff and then I have had to block out the last three seasons or so to allow myself to vote for Tuqiri.
    In terms of history, he may well of been done a favour before his on field career became the same train wreck as his off field career was developing into.
    Some great memories of Tuqiri in flight unfortunately balanced with some horrible memories of his turnovers and penalties.
    Tuney suffers by being a split decad player though Roffy did enough in this decade to take the scones.

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