Australian Super 14 Team of the Year 2010

2010 has proved to be yet another forgettable experience for most Australian Rugby players and spectators as teams played ugly or pretty but ultimately disappointingly (Waratahs), fizzed then fumbled and ultimately failed (Reds), slogged and struggled and sucked (Brumbies) or never really got started (Force).

Yet amongst the manure some flowers grew. But who cares about them? This team of the year is about the moss and mould and mushrooms which grew in the swamps of another Australian Super Rugby landscape:

Matt Dunning  
It wouldn't be a Super Rugby season in Australia without the bouncy castle of Australian Rugby Matt Dunning warming the bench of an Australian province. In-between on-field stints of cardio distress induced heavy breathing and face redness Dunning could be found doing likewise on the physio's couch. Still, if the Force were interested in paying top dollar for a cult figure they got more than their money's worth.

Al Baxter 
It took a hundred matches for Al Baxter to score his first Super Rugby try and that was just the start of his problems. He may have only needed to move 12 centimetres to score his try and let gravity do all the work but that was enough to convince Robbie Deans that Baxter's priorities were now out of whack. If you want try scoring props get Ben Alexander. In a season where any prop who could last more than two matches in a row uninjured made the Wallabies, Baxter played every match of the season and still missed out.

The other Al - Iowa wrestling hall of famer Al Baxter

Saia Faingaa 
The missus still thinks that Faingaa is the prettiest Rugby player on the planet so insists that he goes in the team of the year. Success though has slightly diminished the attraction and with three brothers (if you include Sydney Club Rugby) going around she is thinking of upgrading to newer models.

A Faingaa brother - Bit hard to tell which from this angle but doesn't matter as they all look the same anyway

Dan Vickerman 
Vickerman may have been playing in Cambridge but he was still the most influential lock in the competition by way of his absence. No other lock came near his influence on games and instead a bunch of no names, rookies and veterans struggled to make a name for themselves. That Nathan Sharpe who played in the 2003 World Cup final should still be in the Wallabies squad is a poor indictment of the depth of talent in that position. If the ARU has ever considered changing their "must be playing in Australia" rule now is the time to do it.

Justin Harrison 
The fairy tale that wasn't. Leave Australia at peak of career, playing for Bath, done for snorting coke and fighting a teammate and an after-season party, retiring in ignominy, serving a suspension, out of retirement and drafted back into the Brumbies with a host of other legends, injuries, poor form, dropped. Oh well.

Hendrik Roodt
South African schoolboy Rugby star Roodt got injured before the season started and didn't play a match. While that might normally qualify him for this Team of the Year, in this instance he qualifies because he has the best nickname in the game. Within days of his first training session for the 'Tahs they gave him the moniker 'Dud'. The real question is why no-one in South Africa thought to give him that nickname.

Ted Postal
Who is Ted Postal? If you believe the Western Force he is a former schoolboy Rugby star who played alongside James O'Connor, yet why is he the only Western Force player who doesn't have his photograph in his player profile? He even supposedly earned his one and only Super 14 cap this year yet no-one noticed. While the Rolling Maul always celebrates anonymity (and bench warming) this is ridiculous.

Poutasi Vaiofiso Tuasivi Luafutu 
Only because he has the best (real) name in Rugby (apart from Israel Dagg).

Patrick Phibbs 
For years and years Phibbs was understudy to George Gregan. He knew that one day his time would come. Last year it seemed his time had come, Gregan had retired, but the Brumbies signed Josh Homes and the two of them fought for the Brumbies halfback spot all season with neither ever getting a firm grip on the spot. Then prior to the 2010 season Holmes left to the Waratahs, and the prize was finally Phibbs', until the Brumbies signed Josh Valentine who was following Matt Giteau across the Nullabor. But Valentine got injured, Phibbs started a few matches and did quite well, but by seasons' end Valentine had once again got top spot and a Wallabies squad spot to boot. The closest Phibbs will ever come to higher representative honours is this Team of the Year (note - no photos found).

Andre Pretorius
(Technically not Australian but nominally a West Australian for about five minutes) 
The ARU showed a lot of foresight bringing in their marquee player allowance, certainly more than the Force did when they leaped at the opportunity to sign former Springbok Pretorius. One training session later and Pretorius was out injured for the season, his main contribution to the season being an appearance on The Rugby Club's Piggies and Princesses playing beach volleyball with some nubile semi-clad female beach volleyballers. In the history of Rugby this will go down as the one of the most highly paid and easiest season for any player ever.

The highlight of Andre Pretorius' season

Sam Harris
With Pretorius' injury the poisoned chalice of Force Rugby (admittedly one of many) fell to Sam Harris. One time Waratah and one-time Sea Eagle, Harris' first ever match in the position (hence why he's listed here as a centre) was about as bad a match as they come, with missed tackles, multiple balls kicked out on the full and numerous handling errors. Despite the pleas for James O'Connor to be moved to five-eighth coach John Mitchell persevered with Harris for two more matches with similar disastrous results. Harris was finally dropped, Mitchell announced he was leaving. A few more matches on the bench was the extent of the Harris experiment.

Stirling Mortlock
It was meant to be a big year for the Brumbies with an already star-studded team reinforced by even more stars like Matt Giteau, Rocky Elson and Justin Harrison (ahem). Mortlock, Smith et al ensured the team was known as the Real Madrid (a Spanish soccer team with too much money) of Rugby, yet they turned out more like Grimsby Town. Mortlock exemplified everything that went wrong for the Brumbies - hope, early success, injury, failed and aborted comebacks, retire from the team. The only good thing to come out of it for Mortlock is that he did sign with the Melbourne Rebels for a motza in what is likely to be the most wasted sign-on fee in Australian Rugby since Andre Pretorius.

Scott Staniforth
After losing all their first-choice, second choice and most of their local juniors to injury, the Force turned to aged former Waratah and Force player Scott Staniforth to make up the numbers. Staniforth was only available because his Japanese employer went broke, so signed up for four matches. They went quite well, so the Force offered him a contract for the rest of the season which he signed, promptly got injured, and missed nearly all of it. Only in Perth.  

Cameron Shepherd
There's a real Force flavour to this Team of the Year and it continues with another tale of woe. Cameron Shepherd missed most of 2009 and Wallabies selection because of injury. Cameron Shepherd missed most of 2010 and Wallabies selection because of injury.

Western Force training session

Sosene Anesi
Clearly when it comes to marquee players Rugby teams roll dice. The Reds came up sixes (Daniel Braid), the Force and Waratahs threw snake eyes. While for the Force it was injury for the Waratahs it was form. Why the Waratahs thought a one-match All Black should be considered of international class is a mystery, but unsurprisingly a player that struggled to hold his place in the Chiefs also struggled to hold his place in the Waratahs and by season end Kurtley Beale had made fullback his own. Anesi owned a spot on the bench.

Sosene Anesi's residence when in Sydney


can they play soccer also?