Australian Super 14 Team of the Year

Rugby is ultimately about enjoyment. Success on the field isn't necessarily relevant, and given the form of Australia's teams this year that can only be a good thing. So with that in mind The Rolling Maul presents the true Australian Super 14 team of the year – those players and coaches who made the season as memorable as last year’s when, um, err.

On with the team…

Matthew Burke – Burke’s influence on this year’s Super 14 was immense. After the injury to Chris Latham it wasn’t enough for the nation’s fullbacks (and wingers and centres and five-eighths) to compete against each other for a Wallaby spot but they also had to compete against a guy who hadn’t been seen publicly in the country for three years.

Clyde Rathbone
– With the departure of Matt Rogers from Rugby Union someone had to take up the mantle of most injury prone and Rathbone passed with distinction. Rathbone barely survived more than one match intact but will probably make the Wallaby squad anyway as selectors are on the lookout for a replacement for Rogers to unsuccessfully substitute for every spot in the backline.

Ben Tune – Eddie Jones convinced Ben Tune to delay his retirement by a year to go round one more time with the Reds and what an inspired choice that turned out to be. With no tries until round 12 and a team that redefined languishing, Tune must wonder what he was thinking.

Ryan Cross
– In what can only be applauded as superb timing, Cross made the switch to Rugby Union just in time to see his former League team – the Sydney Roosters, start the season with five straight losses and they still sit on the bottom of the ladder. By making a success of his transition and proving that even moderately successful Leaguies can play Rugby Union, he’s provided more ammunition for League types who claim that their sport produces the better players. Fortunately Clinton Schicofske is not being considered for the vacant Wallabies fullback spot as his positional play and defence is considered ordinary. Let the argument continue.

Timana Tahu – With more sleight of hand, jinks and dummy passes than the Waratahs displayed on the field all season, Timana Tahu, currently in contention for a New South Wales State of Origin spot, signed with the Waratahs after telling the world that he didn’t like Rugby Union because you only got to touch the ball once a game. Lote Tuquiri also played a role by playing obstruction, leading the media, the ARU and Rugby League heavyweights on an annual dance. If you can believe Tuquri then he had an extra role convincing Tahu to sign, or maybe it was the other way round, or maybe the money had something to do with it.

Five-Eighth / Fly-Half
Quade Cooper
– Blond tips are really yesterday’s hairstyle but no one seems to have told Matt Giteau and Matt Henjak. So it was left to Cooper to take up the mantle, not only as most over-hyped young player but also as having the worst hair. Part Mohawk, part mullet, part crew cut, Cooper was last seen cutting his own hair with garden shears.

Halfback / Scrum Half
Josh Valentine / Brett Sheehan / Josh Holmes
– It wasn’t enough that the Waratahs five-eighth position was the revolving door of Australian Rugby, but with the departure of Chris Whittaker just about every spot in the backline, but especially halfback, seemed to cry out for someone who could last at least a few games. Valentine, Sheehan and Holmes must have got dizzy waiting to see if they’d be lining up for the Waratahs or their club. By season-end Holmes seemed to have a mortgage on the position and just in time – he’s signed with the Brumbies.

Number 8
Scott Fava’s sideburns – Fava has had ridiculous sideburns since even before they were popular the first time and that was in the 18th century. Indeed for some time they were leading him astray as after each overseas win Fava would be found the next morning either in a gutter or a police lock-up. Fortunately he had the sideburns under control (or maybe it was the other way round) by the time the Force started winning at home, otherwise the Force would be facing Ben Cousins like damage control and Perth would be flattened.

Breakaways / Flankers
Phil Waugh
- For a team that only won three games, Waugh's contribution of captaining the first round win, a stirring speech before the victory over the Reds, and playing only the first half of the victory over the Highlanders in the final round is revealing. Here's hoping Waugh gets injured early in the first test against Wales before coming back from injury in tine for the World Cup final and playing only 10 minutes before being rested.

Daniel Heenan - Five years ago Daniel Heenan was touted as not only the next Big Thing in Australian Rugby but the next John Eales (which is a little strange considering he's a backrower). So highly regarded was the Queenslander he played for the Wallabies in 2003 (one test). But by 2005, when he signed for the Brumbies, he was already well entrenched in the 'injury prone' category and sure enough injured a shoulder playing his second and most recent Wallaby test in 2006, from which he still hasn't recovered, but he is still on the Brumbies' books so qualifies for Team of the Year.

Second Row / Locks
David Lyons - Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so desperate was Ewen Mackenzie that he even started a game with David Lyons as one of the nominated line out jumpers. The only problem is that, relatively speaking, Lyons is a short fat guy (although he's no doubt taller, fitter and with an ability to pass skin fold tests that exceeds normal humans). The experiment lasted all of one week.

Nathan Sharpe - The captain of the Western Force looks more and more like his coach John Mitchell every day. He got sent off a few times and may have scored a try or two and given the occasional rousing speech, but I just like his head.

Front Row
Waratah Beards
- If there's one thing that's becomes apparent in this article, if you want to get noticed by The Rolling Maul for an Australian Team of the Year then do something weird to your head (or get injured). With this in mind, the Waratahs' front row of Al Baxter, Adam Freier and Matt Dunning, no doubt inspired by Lote Tuquiri's new luxuriant growth, all grew beards. Sure they were all pretty scraggly and Dunning's did nothing to make him look less like an overgrown newborn, but it worked for Ray Price and Greg Cornelson 30 years ago, so much so that Cornelson scored four tries in one memorable Bledisloe Cup match. It didn't work for the Waratahs though.

Eddie Jones - It what can only be called an inspired choice, the Queensland Rugby Union pulled off a stunning coup in signing Eddie Jones. Within weeks he was calling his own team gutless, blamed and almost threatened referees and commenced feuds with ARU officials and Wallaby coaching staff. Extraordinarily, so impressed with his performance was the QRU they fought tooth and nail against rival offers from Japan, Fiji and a number of European clubs to resign him. Given Queensland's last match resulted in the Reds losing 92-3 expect Jones to be offered the job of Premier of Queensland any day now.


Tim G said…
I think it's a disgrace you have chosen the Waratah Front row over the most unique front row ever from the Reds.

Even since the ARU in their outstanding myopia ruled non-Australian players ineligible for their S12 sides have we seen the likes of this:

Herman Hunt and Tama Turiarangi [insert comment here that won't get me in hospital] and then that poor U21 bloke who got stretchered off after 1 scrum...

I guess that's why Eddie's the coach..
Was Hunt the one who Eddie pulled out of Subbies, the one who Eddie pulled out of retirement, or the Kiwi who they had to bend the rules for?