Throughout last week we ran a poll asking “Who can the Wallabies LEAST afford to lose?”. The results (from 86 discerning rugby officianados) and how they unfolded over the week, were pretty interesting.
At the time, it wasn’t a clear cut exercise. A flux of injuries and variable performances meant that all of a sudden you could make arguments for a number of players being lynch-pins.
With Australia’s usual playmeister Bernie Larkham injured, the greenhorn Barnes was suddenly a lynch pin. Add to this his stellar debut vs Wales and Fuxley’s no show against Canada and all of a sudden the cotton wool balls were out.
Similarly, Vanilla Gregan (Cordingly) had a shocker against the Canucks and all of sudden ol’ Georgie’s skills didn’t look too shabby at all. With Larkham missing, Gregan’s wealth of test experience would also be key.
The Wales and Canada tests had also reminded us of St Latho’s deserved divinity with his booming boot and boys-own try scoring ability. Against the Poms, you also figured the breakdown would be important and as such George Smith would be key. As for Giteau, Larkham and Mortlock being rested through injury had given him the chance to show some of his twinkle toe skills in the pool games. Tuqiri, tryless to that point, was pretty much in the mix just for completeness.
After the poll opened, the early runners in the voting were Giteau, Latham and Mortlock, all with a close number of votes. But as time went on, and we got to the business end of the week, a clear winner started to emerge; Captain Insano, with 34% of the vote.
I’ve got to say that despite all the other good arguments, this rang true to me. Mortlock has become arguably the world best centre, vying with the out of sorts O’Driscoll for the outright crown. His rampaging bursts through opposition lines, smashing aside the ABs at the G and the Poms on Saturday, have become the key line-breaking weapon in the Wallaby arsenal.
This raises some pretty interesting questions of “value”. I don’t have to hand the salaries of all the Wallabies (would be interesting to see if anyone does out there), but what we do know is that Gits (third) and LT (sixth!) are paid by far the most, both being celebrated millionaires.
Whereas the two guys the Wallabies need the most (Mortlock & Latham), are both at the pinnacle of their careers and both wondering whether they’ll keep slumming it in Oz or make some bucks in Europe. Seems pretty crazy considering they are the only Wallabies who would walk into a world 15. These two really need to be the bedrock of the developing backline that we’ll have from now, with the Holmes’, Barnes, Beales and Turners coming into the side. Stop chasing the leaguies and get your hands in your pocket ARU.
On a related matter, spare a thought for poor old Bernie Larkham. I lost track of the latest in his sorry tale, but with Edinburgh having gone tits up, which club is going to want to bust the budget (big signings already made) on a guy who’s obviously falling apart as demonstrated in the RWC? It’s a long way to come for a pay for play contract, if he can get one.