Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at DHP firing shots at the Reds, the Force contemplating joining the Kiwis, the Brumbies re-signing a promising star and James O’Connor opening up on his remarkable transformation.
DHP fires shots
The Rebels are entering their qualifying final against the Reds full of confidence after last week’s ‘do or die match’.
This was reinforced by Rebels captain Dane Haylett Petty, who reportedly pointing out they had already played a ‘do or die’ match against the Force three times during his press conference.
DHP believes that the Rebels will be free to play their natural style of rugby as they enter the contest as serious underdogs.
“That was probably one of the highlights of the last couple of weeks, we haven’t played our best footy but we have shown a lot of resilience and stuck at it for the full 80 minutes and never given up,” Haylett-Petty said.
“It sets us up well. We’ve had to play a do-or-die game already, the Reds haven’t.
“I think we’re in a really good position now, we can play free. The Reds are favourites playing at home, we’ve got nothing to lose.”
He then turned his attention to the Reds young squad, noting their lack of experience on the big stage.
“Experience is important but to be honest, looking at the Reds team, I can’t imagine many of them have played any finals footy, they have a lot of young guys,” he said.
“And having to play in a pressure game, a do-or-die game already suits us quite well.”
Along with this, Haylett-Perry is taking comfort in the multiple times that they crossed the Reds line (despite been held up on every attempt) during their previous encounter.
“We got over the (try) line five times last time but were held up, so we definitely take a lot of confidence in,” he said.
“We enjoy playing the Reds. In recent history, we have won more than we have lost. I’d say for large parts of both games this season we have dominated.
“We know that at our best we are good enough to beat them. We don’t feel like we have fired yet, and haven’t clicked in the last couple of weeks. we are one game away from really clicking.”
Exploring their options
The Western Force have conceded that they may look to join the NZ competition in 2021, potentially relocating across the ditch in the process.
With the future of the Trans-Tasman tournament still up in the air, former Force captain and head of GRR Matt Hodgson told The Australian that they will weigh up their options overseas.
“There are many things to go through,” Hodgson said.
“Obviously if we are in NZ we’ve probably got to be based in there because the trans-Tasman travel budget will be up by the time you start planning these things. It’s an interesting one.”
Having been unceremoniously dumped from Super Rugby, the Force are naturally looking to cement and secure their future long term.
“Whatever we are presented with, we will take the best option for the Western Force, that’s for sure,” Hodgson said.
“We can’t just look at what 2021 is going to present but what does the future hold. That’s where we need to look at it. Align ourselves to make sure that the Western Force is secure in whatever path we take.
“I just think we have to weigh up everything. I think we were very pleased to be back this year and playing football. At the start of the year there might have been the option of not playing any football.
“We are just waiting to be presented with what it looks like from multiple different avenues. I think everyone is waiting to see what the proposal from Rugby Australia is and the like.”
Regardless of where they play, it seems that they will look to raid and recruit some of Australia’s finest, with Waratahs prop Tom Robertson reportedly signing a letter of intent whilst Hodgson also admitted that they are interested in the trio of players that departed the Reds.
“You only have to look at the ability of the player and the status of that position in Australia at the moment, we’d be silly not to look at someone like (Rodda),” said Hodgson.
“Yeah and you’d look at Will Skelton, you’d look at multiple players over there.
“We are definitely in the market for those kinds of players and we would work closely with Rugby Australia if they wanted those players to come back and play for the Wallabies.”
Return of the Mack
The Brumbies have continued their quest to re-sign their promising young talent for the foreseeable future, locking up Mack Hansen for the 2021 season.
Hansen has come through the Brumbies system since heading down from Sydney at a young age, coming through the John I Dent Cup (Gungahlin) and the NRC (Canberra Vikings).
Having played six games for the Brumbies, including slotting a last-gasp penalty to win the game against the Reds in round five, coach Dan McKellar was pleased to have the 22-year-old on board for another season at least.
“It’s great to be able to have Mack around the club for 2021,” he said in a statement.
“He’s been in the system for a long time and is another example of the Brumbies pathway supporting local talents and developing them into professional footballers.
“He’s the type of character you want around the group, he’s very well-liked by the team and the organisation and we’re all looking forward to seeing him continue to improve next year.”
Hansen was equally ecstatic to recommit to his boyhood club, looking to build off his breakout season as the Brumbies prepare for the Super Rugby final.
“To be able to continue playing for the team I grew up supporting is a great feeling,” Hansen said.
“The group here at the moment is building something special and I want to continue to be a part of that.
“To be able to work with world-class coaches and staff is a real positive and I’m looking forward to continuing to improve as a player and a person here in Canberra.”
The news comes just a week after Bayley Kuenzle re-signed for the 2021 season alongside wingers Andy Muirhead and Tom Wright.
Reds and Wallabies star James O’Connor has opened up on his remarkable career transformation as he looks to lead the Reds to the Super Rugby Australia title, starting with their qualifying final against the Rebels on Saturday.
Having exploded onto the scene as an 18-year-old, O’Connor experienced all the highs of professional sport before undergoing a rapid fall from grace after a series of injuries and off the field issues plagued his life.
Since then, O’Connor has turned around his life both on and off the field, telling Radio TAB that he has been able to work out his priorities and put rugby first.
“The biggest thing is I just have the priorities in my life the right way around now,” he said.
“I’ve put rugby first, that’s my passion and my purpose for being here.
“I lost the ability to move, I have a lot of ankle injuries and I physically broke down so I had to develop my mind a lot on and off the field so that’s put me in a great place now that I’m back moving again and able to do what I love.”
O’Connor conceded that the added attention and privileges of superstardom came too early in his career, leaving him ‘bored’ and looking for pleasures off the field.
“Yeah possibly, I guess everything happens the way it should happen,” he admitted.
“A lot of guys feel down early in the career so I got to that elite level pretty young.
“I guess one of the pitfalls for me was at 21, I felt that I couldn’t improve my game, I hit a wall where I couldn’t see any improvements.
“I was sort of getting bored and you then start chasing the wrong things and that’s when other doors started opening for me and I started enjoying my life outside of rugby probably more than I should of.”