2011 Super Rugby Australian Team of the Year

It's that time of the year again when the Rolling Maul recognises those Australian Rugby players that deserve no recognition, whose feeble efforts, injuries and misfortune have contributed to them being mere post-it notes on the monitor of Rugby excellence (not the good kind though but the ones that curl up at the edges and don't stick too well except to the bottom of your shoe when they fall off the monitor after 10 minutes and you step on them).

So here it is, the 2011 Super Rugby Australian Team of the Year:

PROPS
Matt Dunning
Of course. It wouldn't be a Super Rugby team of the year without Dunning leaning against the side of a scrum much like he does at the front bar of the Leederville Hotel or whatever establishment it his that he frequents in Perth. Dunning started the season for the Force injured, then on the bench, then injured, the bench, injured, club Rugby, the starting line up, injured and the bench. He's heading for France now where he'll be paid in baguettes and croissants. Even better news is Jake White is rumoured to be trying to secure his services for the Brumbies in 2012, though how Dunning could manage hobnobbing witht he Public Service suit and tie crowd is a mystery.

Rodney Blake
Rodzilla was signed up by Rod Macqueen to provide bulk in the scrum. He probably got more than he bargained for. Blake arrived after a stint in Japan disproving the theory that sushi helps you reduce weight. He ended up spending most of the season either testing the stress limits of the bench or recovering from ankle or knee damage which was the inevitable result of trying to propel his massive frame around the Rugby field. While another Wallabies call up never occurred he did regain some of his cult status with kids in Melbourne, but only as he was an adequate back-up for the AAMI Park bouncy castle.

HOOKER
Adam Freier
Being out injured for all but the final two rounds of the season certainly gave Adam Freier plenty of time to work on his media profile. With stints on Fox and SBS, the Sun Herald and radio, it's a surprise he found any time to train for his comeback, let along last more than 10 minutes on the field. At least his two appearances proved that not only does he have a good face for radio but that his form off the field is better than than on it.

SECOND ROWERS (LOCKS)
Adam Byrnes
Byrnes was signed to the Rebels from Queensland because they were in need of some 'hard heads' and 'tough nuts' to provide the 'mongrel' at scrum time. Byrnes certainly provided this in spades, being in the middle of any fisticuffs that erupted from the set pieces and protecting the little guys with borderline aggression. Alas he lacked any other characteristic required by Rugby players, such as an ability to pass, tackle or catch, and within weeks he was consigned to be the only Melbourne player wearing a suit on the sidelines that didn't have a career-threatening injury (not including Danny Cipriani unless you can call Lara Bingle an injury).

Dan Vickerman
Vickerman was to be the knight in shining armour, racing to the rescue of the ailing Waratahs to provide them with glory and so much needed second-row grunt. In the end he played all of 20 minutes in the last match of the season and was propelled straight into the Wallabies squad. Meanwhile he was prevented from playing for the Tahs in their semi-final despite other teams being allowed to field players that hadn't played a match all season, so long as they were out of position. If only Vickerman had some speed they could have played him on the wing.

NUMBER 8
Wycliff Palu
Some players just need to accept that there comes a time when the body isn't up to it. When just getting out of bed in the morning without rupturing a cruciate ligament should be considered a triumph. Cliffy Palu is one of those players, at least from this year onwards. Almost every match the Waratahs played Palu was a 50/50 of returning from injury, and on those rare occasions when he did play he was a 50/50 of not lasting till the final siren. His final tally was something like 5 matches played and three injuries.

BREAKAWAYS (FLANKERS)
Rocky Elsom
Speaking of injury prone loose forwards, Rocky Elsom isn't a spring chicken Wallaby bolter anymore, but the grizzled veteran held together by tape, bandages and the last few microns of his tendons that are on the verge of snapping. The Wallaby captain spent the vast majority of 2011 on the sidelines supposedly injured as his team lost everything, including their composure and their discipline (on and off the field). Good planning or good luck, either way at least he can claim to have had nothing to do with it.

HALFBACK
Patrick Phibbs
The perennial bridesmaid of Brumbies Rugby has played second string to every Brumbies halfback over the last decade, but it seemed to have finally come good this season when he got only his second run-on match when selected over Josh Valentine mid season. It didn't help the Brumbies though. They lost heavily again, the Phibbs experiment lasted all of one match, and Phibbs found himself again on the bench.

FIVE-EIGHTH
Danny Cipriani
In a season generally devoid of scandal or controversy (and all the more poorer for it) Danny Cipriani was a one-man tabloid headline and about the only thing adding interest to what was generally a promising but ultimately flat first season for the Rebels. His punishment for enjoying himself rather than licking his wounds after another thrashing was an extended stint on the sidelines. He returned with the promise of curbing his wicked ways, so of course was next seen 'with' Lara Bingle who knows a thing or two about bad boys (and wankers). Read more about Cipriani the legend, dickhead and wanker here.

CENTRES
Gene Fairbanks
Fairbanks is one of those players like Tom Carter who are destined to only ever play Super Rugby. Without the flair, natural athleticism or ability to ever make the Wallabies they hold a borderline spot in their provincial team, manage to keep it and do the job for a couple of years, then gradually fade back into oblivion (also known as club footy). Fairbanks moved from the Brumbies to the Force to try to break the mold, cement a starting a spot and further his career. He failed. He's still marginal as 2011 has proved.

Rob Horne
While for some players like Cliffy Palu, Phil Waugh and Rocky Elsom injuries are a fact of the twilight of their career, for others they define their career. Rob Horne has spent more time getting MRT scans than he has on the field for the Waratahs. Indeed type '"Rob Horne" injured' into google and you get 76,500 results. This was going to be the year Horne finally paid back all the good wishes, medical advice and patience of Tahs fans, coaches and support staff. It started promisingly enough. Horne actually got through two trial games and two regular season games before yet another elbow injury ended his season.

WINGERS
Dom Shipperley
The Queensland Reds showed class across the field in their championship season. In every position players excelled, and when injuries struck their replacements stepped up to the mark and in some cases proved so outstanding they held onto their starting spots. Dom Shipperley was not one of them. A handful of games as an injury sub and back to reserve grade each time the regular came back. It's not even known if Shipperley was invited to Suncorp Stadium last weekend.

Cameron Shepherd
See Palu, Waugh, Elsom...

FULLBACK
Peter Hynes
The find of 2010, Peter Hynes was set to capitalise in 2011 and ultimately take a Wallabies spot in their World Cup squad. It didn't quite go to plan, and in round 2 an already dodgy knee gave up the ghost and he hasn't been seen since.

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