The Australian Rugby Championship - What You Missed

While you were looking the other way, the Australian Rugby Championship continued to make its mark on the Australian sporting landscape, dominating headlines and unearthing a rich vein of talent that will ensure Australian Rugby sporting success for generations to come.

Or not. It's a question of perspective, and the Rolling Maul's has only been slightly skewed by events in France over the weekend.

That said, the ARC has given a bunch of players who should have gone to France with the Wallabies (Kurtley Beale, Rodney Blake, Lachlan Turner and Josh Holmes especially) and two who ultimately did (Cameron Shepard and Morgan Turinui) a chance to show off their skills. And despite the promotion of the competition 'Come and see the Wallabies of tomorrow today' sort of nonsense, it has been some of the old stagers (Peter Hewat and David Croft in particular) who have shown the young-uns a thing or two.

Even the forgotten five-eighth of Australian Rugby Sam Norton-Knight is the competition's leading try scorer. Norton-Knight started the international season at five-eighth for the Wallabies but was quickly shown to be out of his depth. Evidently the ARC is the perfect depth for him.

Peter Hewat is the leading pointscorer in the competition, before he went to France Cameron Shepard had scored about two-thirds of the Perth Spirit's points while Clinton Shifcofske scored about half the points for the Ballymore Tornadoes. It's mere fantasy to speculate how the Wallabies would have fared against England with any of these dead-eye target shooters on the field, but unquestionably they wouldn't have kicked worse than Stirling Mortlock on the day and it's not like Hewat could have stuffed things up with Chris Latham barely getting his hands on the ball. Whether they would have beaten Wales with Hewat at fullback is another question.

Of course the pressure of a World-Cup quarter-final can't compare to playing before 3,000 fans at Gosford, or up to 5,000 in Melbourne and Perth to the pleasant surprise of the ARU.

So to get you up to speed before the weekend's final here's a quick summary:

The Queensland teams were predictably woeful. Something is rotten in the state of Queensland and given the Wallaby failure and South African success it's beginning to look more and more like we can't blame Eddie Jones anymore for our Rugby problems.

Canberra, the pre-season favourite with an almost Brumby strength backline struggled badly and never found their groove.

The Sydney Fleet superstars were more hot and cold than Finnish recreational activities. Gavin Debartolo typified their season with outrageous spectacular tries, knock ons and missed tackles. Were coming good as Morgan Turinui picked up tries and man-of-the-match awards but was missed badly when he went to France. Missed the semis.

Perth started slowly but ironically didn't string together multiple wins until Cameron Shepard left for France. Made the semis. Good crowds.

Western Sydney were the darlings of the competition with Kurtley Beale leading a team that was essentially the Australin Schoolboys outfit that won the World Cup a couple of years back. The future of the Wallabies (remember the name Ben Alexander) they were all showy class and crowd favourites but melted in the semi when the pressure was on. The future looks the same as the present. Sob.

Using the Brumby patented 'everyone hates us and don't want us in their team' chip on the shoulder as motivation tactic the Melbourne Rebels (also known as the Fleet second grade) surprised everyone early on including their fans - up to 5,000 at a time by winning some matches and topping the table for much of the season. Made the final but lost by about 50 to Central Coast last time they met and that was in Melbourne. Don't expect to see the Hume Highway and the F3 clogged with traffic on Friday.

Central Coast snuck up on the competition. Very ordinary early on but clicked big time with some massive victories when it counted and host the final. Home ground advantage will count for nothing as all the players come from Northern Sydney.

Predictions: Central Coast to win the final by 8, crowd of 4,000, John O'Neill declares competition a great success - Wallabies of tomorrow blah blah blah, everyone else waits for him to gut it next season.

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